Sunday, August 30, 2009

Connecting with Friends

How do you connect with friends these days? Do you call them up on the phone, text message them on your cell phone, write an old-fashioned snail mail letter or a modern e-mail? Do you go out on the web searching for old friends on Facebook? Maybe you tweet for friends? Ten years ago if you'd said you tweet for friends, people might have thought you were losing it.

The electronic age is certainly changing the way we communicate. And that's not all it's changing. We have hundreds of stations on the t.v. to flip through before we decide there's nothing worth watching instead of the three or four that used to come across the air waves. We have remotes to turn on our ceiling fans and lights. We can start our cars by pushing a button before we get halfway across the parking lot. We download music off the internet on these tiny electronic gizmos and carry hundreds of i-tunes around with us without the bother of CDs. We take pictures with our phones no less and post them on the internet. We even download books onto these electronic book readers. Well, I don't, but a lot of people do. Personally I want the feel of that book in my hands. I want to turn pages. But even those people who agree with me about that say the Kindles are very travel friendly and easier than carrying around a pile of books.

So there's is no doubt the way we communicate and share our lives with friends and family is changing. I do a lot of historical research and when I read about the pioneers setting out on the Wilderness Trail to Kentucky I can easily imagine how hard it must have been to leave behind all that was familiar and loved. They couldn't call back home and check on Mom and Dad. When they left, they knew they probably would never see their family back in the east ever again. There must have been a lot of tears on those trails. And now we can't even seem to go to the grocery store without calling home on our cell phones.

Another way to connect these days is through Facebook. I've been facebooking (is Webster going to decide that's a word?) for a few weeks now. It's been fun connecting with family members I don't see very often and getting a glimpse into their lives. I've gotten reacquainted with old friends I'd lost contact with as well as made connections with new friends I only know through electronic means as we share reading and writing interests.

On a whim, my daughter jumped on the Facebook wagon after I did. She's touched base with a number of old friends from her highschool and college days even though she doesn't do the status bit. She says she likes the ease of contacting friends without having to remember everybody's e-mail addresses. And my daughter-in-law is enjoying finding friends and sharing photos of their kids.

One thing sure, we can reach out and touch somebody these days. And it's great to have so many ways to stay in contact, but I still think it's extra fun when I open the mailbox and see a letter in there. As long as it's not a bill and fact is a bunch of those are electronic these days, too. E-mails are good and I've been glad enough to get many of them, but a letter, a personal letter, that's still special.

You might be able to open your mailbox and find a couple of my autographed books in there if you send me an e-mail from my website or make a comment on my blog. I'm doing the drawing on my birthday in a couple of weeks. Gotta celebrate getting older. Don't plan to do much counting of the years, but I love celebrating birthdays and the gift of another year to live and learn and write. And make friends in old and new ways.

Hope you had a great Sunday reaching out and connecting with all your friends and loved ones.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Life Well Lived

I just got back from visitation time at the funeral home for a dear church friend. He was 96 years old and one of those men who was always ready to share a funny story about something he'd done in the past. He was a good storyteller. He used to tell me I was his favorite piano player. He obviously didn't have a good ear for music, but love made him not notice all those sour notes I hit.

He and his wife were married 76 years. He was twenty when they married and she was almost 17. They made it through the Depression years together. They made it through wars together. They always had enough to take care of their children. They always believed. They read their Bible through many times and wrote down questions to ask the pastor when he came to call. She still cooked for him. She still smiled at his stories and the way he'd sometimes gently make jokes about their long life together. Now he's gone on ahead of her. And she's sad. But she's trusting in the Lord to see her through.

Loretta is one of those wonderful prayer warriors we need more of in our churches. She prays for people. She doesn't just say she will. She doesn't just aim to pray and then forget. She prays. And I always imagine the Lord leaning down to hear her just a little bit better and saying if Loretta wants it to happen, then it needs to happen. She prays for me. And I am honored and blessed. Tomorrow I will pray for her as will the dozens, perhaps hundreds of people who have been influenced by Earl and Loretta and two lives well lived. They have numerous direct descendants. Loretta's told me how many grandbabies and great grandbabies and great great grandbabies, but her memory is better than mine and I've forgotten the number. But the best blessing, way more important than the number, is how well they both are loved by all those family members. And church family members.

So with all these people Loretta and Earl have prayed for over the years lifting her up in prayer, then she will be able to bear this sadness. For sure, he's up there in heaven sitting under a tree telling about that time he got the tractor stuck in the creek and for sure the people around him are smiling.

Prayers can make a difference. I'm also praying for a barely one-year-old twin boy who's having a bone marrow transplant (I think that's the treatment) for a rare disorder. Evan is his name. I've not met him, but I've met his mother. She believes in prayer. Evan starts the chemo tomorrow. If you believe prayer makes a difference, lift his name up in the coming weeks.

Here's a couple of quotes to keep us thinking and praying.

* The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.

* THE POWER OF PRAYER -- Peter Kreeft
"I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives."

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Celebrating The Believer

I celebrated my new book, The Believer, with friends at my local library Saturday. A new book is a good reason for a writer to celebrate because for most of us it doesn't happen all that often. Some writers put out two or three books a year, but many of us writers feel fortunate to see one new book hit the bookstore shelves in a year's time. Generally speaking, publishing a book is not a fast process. If the topic is particularly timely, a book might be rushed through the process to get it on the market to catch the height of the public's interest. But most fiction books take a year and sometimes longer to reach the market. That's a long time to a writer who is so anxious for the story to be out there for people to read.

I've said this before but a book is not really complete until a reader picks it up and starts reading the writer's words so the story can spring to life in his or her imagination. Readers are always asking me what happened to this or that character. Were they happy? Did life treat them well after the story ended? Won't I write more about them so they'll be able to read what happened after the final scene in whatever book they read?

I'm always pleased to hear that my characters came to life for them and that they worry about them and want them to be happy even after they lay the book down. I feel the same way. About characters in other writers' books as well as those who people my own stories. I get very attached to my characters. I missed Jocie and her family and friends for months after I wrote Summer of Joy and knew the publishers weren't interested in more Hollyhill books. I would try to think about my new characters and Jocie and Wes would pop up in my thoughts chatting away, laughing over some new Jupiter story. I had to keep pushing them back until I finally got to know my new people well enough that they were coming to life in my head.

And so when you finally have brought those characters to life in your head and you've got their story down in words and some editor somewhere has said yes and you've gone through all the hoops of getting a manuscript turned into a real book with a title and cover and back cover blurb and chapter headings, etc. and it starts showing up on bookstore shelves, then it for sure is time to celebrate. That's what I did yesterday with my reading friends and family in my hometown as I shared with them how I came to write this new Shaker book. We talked about using history in fiction and I shared with them some of my New Year's journal entries across the years that revealed some of the ups and downs in my writing career.

Last New Year's I put those same journal entries here on my blog in hopes that some of my blogging friends might be encouraged as they chased after their goals and dreams when they read how often I've faced discouragement while chasing after my dream of writing books that find their way into readers' hands. I've published nineteen books, but there would be many more out there if everything I'd written was on a bookshelf somewhere. But perseverance trumps discouragement. And once that perseverance has helped you accomplish your goals, then it's celebration time.

Thanks to everyone who came and those of you who had already read my books or have plans to. I dedicated this book to my sisters and my sisters-in-law and four of them were there to celebrate with me. That meant a lot to me. Next summer I hope to have another celebration when The Seeker is published. Meanwhile I'll keep celebrating readers bringing my characters' story in The Believer to life as they read my words.

Oh, yes, one more thing. I'm doing a new book giveaway. Another copy of my new book, The Believer along with a choice of one of my other books. Since this is so soon after the other giveaway, those of you who won in July and August won't be eligible to win this time. So if you aren't already a winner this summer, send me an e-mail or comment here on my blog and I'll put you in the drawing that I'll do on my birthday in September. Might as well have some fun while I'm getting older.

Thanks for being a reading friend. And a special thanks to my blog followers. I appreciate you all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Modern Blog Tours and Old Shaker Buildings

It's been an interesting week so far for me with my new book, The Believer, making a blog tour. That's where lots of bloggers agree to read and then post reviews of a new book. Most of the reviewers have been kind. While one or two haven't embraced the Shaker background, others have been fascinated and have enjoyed learning about the Shakers. And while I've researched and read and tried to keep in my head lots of Shaker traditions, etc., I'm still learning too.

Wendy, Lonnie and I went to the Shaker Village near here on Monday to eat lunch and get a bit of the Shaker atmosphere. And then we talked and chatted so much, we really didn't have a lot of time to look around. But we were fortunate enough to hear a young woman with a beautiful voice give a demonstration of many of the Shaker songs while she gave a brief history of how they worshiped. We also got to take a good look at the Meeting House that figures prominently in all my books. I even climbed up in the attic. It was very hot up there, but seeing the huge beams and rafters was worth a little sweat.

The architecture is amazing. The Shakers cut and prepared those huge beams and rafters about three miles from where the Meeting House now stands. They assembled them there and then marked each beam or rafter with Roman numerals and took the building apart. They hauled the finished logs to the Meeting House's present location and put them back together by numbers the way some log houses are done today. But this was in 1825.

They had to figure out a way to support the wide expanse of roof without support beams in the middle of the floor where they labored their dances. If they'd had support beams in the middle of the floor the way most buildings that size did then, a lot of Shakers would have been banging into those posts when they were taken over by the spirit and began their free spirited whirls and shaking dances. Also the acoustics are amazing. The lady telling us about the songs said you could get on opposite sides of the room and whisper and the sound would carry clearly.

Anyway I enjoyed walking the paths and being in the Meeting House and feeling my characters peeking over my shoulder to see if I'd gotten it right. While I may have taken a bit of poetic license here and there, most of the historical background of my books is very authentic. I took a bunch of pictures and will try to do a page on my website soon so you can share in seeing what I'm seeing when I'm imagining my characters and where they are living and working. I have a few photos of buildings on my gallery of photos on the website now, but I hope to add more soon.
One reason we didn't get to see as much as we would have liked is that we went on the riverboat ride down the river. It was hot and humid, but a breeze blowing off the river kept us from completely melting. We did enjoy seeing the palisades and the birds and turtles. Wendy was a little worried about the winding road down to Shaker Landing, but we made it fine. She might have had reason to worry since a policeman had pulled us over before we got there to warn me that I might have "axle" trouble. Not exactly what you want to hear. Speeding might have been better. More expensive, but less worrisome - especially for my passengers. But we didn't have any trouble. Other than Wendy wanting to bash me on the head after she mentioned the scraped looking lines in the middle of the winding road, and I told her that was probably where somebody's wheel had fallen off. Next time she'll want to drive her car.

But back to the blogging tour - I did a guest blog at if any of you are interested in going out to read it. I asked "Do you dare?" Then I talked about having the courage to write. If you make a comment, you'll get to be in a drawing to win my book.

I'm off tomorrow to talk to about eighty fifth-graders. That should be interesting. I used to do a lot of school visits, but haven't done one for years. But I love talking to kids and seeing their fresh faces. That is as long as the teachers are there to keep them sitting still.

And then Saturday is my local book event for The Believer at the Anderson Public Library here in town at 1 p.m. If you're in the area, come on down and we'll talk. I'll be giving away some doorprizes and a few books. And I'm trying to think of something interesting to say. Maybe I will before then.

As always, thanks for reading. Hope you have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Down on the Farm with Friends

It's been a busy Sunday. My editor and agent came to visit me and we must be kindred spirits because we talked non-stop all day long. I've been looking forward to their visit for several weeks. I even cleaned up my desk! Now that was really something. I should do it more often because I really don't like working at a messy desk, but paper just seems to accumulate. Any of you guys have that problem? I think it must breed and reproduce and grow. Quickly. Especially for a writer like me who is always hanging on to this or that quote or note or letter or whatever. I like having stuff written down on paper and not just in my head. That's because I'm not as young as I used to be. Sometimes when I try to record stuff just in my head, I must use invisible ink because it often as not disappears and I don't get what needs to be remembered remembered. At least not when it should be remembered.

So the desk is moderately straightened. A lot of stuff went into File 13. That's the round file or trash can for you people who have never worked in an office setting. I need to file a lot of other stuff there, but I'm always worried that I'll end up wanting to chase down the garbage truck to retrieve that very important note I pitched that I should have hung on to.

Anyway, I'm sure my guests were suitably impressed with my almost neat working space. I do have a great office with windows looking out over the outside world. I love windows and have always wanted a window by my desk although I worked for years in my kitchen without a window close by. Now I am blessed with four windows. But my agent made a wise comment after she admired my view of the birdfeeders in the tree and the hayfield where deer sometimes come sneaking along to steal my apples and eat my rosebushes. She said that I probably don't see any of it once I get into my story. And she's right. Once a writer gets into her scene, then her setting, her stage if you will, suddenly replaces everything else. I remember once writing a scene where my character was in a terrible rainstorm and when I came up for air it was odd seeing the sunshine. I felt like my hair should be wet from all the rain.

We all went to hear Darrell and the guys (the Patriot Quartet) sing tonight and they enjoyed hearing Darrell hit those low-down notes. They will have his head so swelled he won't be able to get through the door. He does do a great job singing and the quartet sounded fabulous tonight. I hadn't planned to have my new book on the product table tonight because I'm doing my book event at the Anderson Public Library next Saturday. I was planning to wait until then to have my book available. But they announced it and people wanted it. So I had some in the car and no writer wants to disappoint an eager reader. It was great seeing so many wonderful friends and laughing and talking with them. Not to mention signing a few books. Some of them even said they might still come to my library event next Saturday. It's at one p.m. if you are in the area and would like to come hear me talking about writing The Believer. There will be door prizes and Q & A time and maybe we'll do some sort of fun writing game. We came up with a character at my last event at the library. That's always a fun exercise with a group. But this time we may talk about how we can find a story in history - ours or our nation's.

I'm taking my guests to Shaker Village tomorrow. I'm hoping we won't have to dodge showers there. But even if we do, I know we'll find a spot under the roof and keep having a good time. I hope all of you can look forward to some good times next week and that you know joy in your hearts.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The News of the Day - Publishing, Editing and Reviews

Hi, guys. Wednesday rolls around quickly for somebody like me who's always a couple days behind on chores - both writing and household. Never enough days in the week to do all I want to do. Of course that might be because number one I'm not as organized as I should be and number two because I want to be at my desk writing or at least pretending to be writing all the time. Except of course when the grandbabies come to visit.

I want to be writing, but sometimes - like now - when I'm between books, I do a million other things that make me think I'm working, that almost satisfy that itch to be writing, but don't do a thing to get a new story started on my computer screen. You know, stuff like blogging or Facebook or sending out cards about The Believer or editing already written novels. I suppose the editing is not really writing time wasted. Editing is a necessary part of the process of getting that book ready to go out and find readers. That's what I've been doing this week. I got my editor's suggestions of ways to improve my upcoming book, The Seeker. I agreed with most of them and so I'm trying to do a few tweaks here and there to improve the story.

Since I had to race to find The End before my deadline in July, I didn't rework this book as much as I usually do. So I'm sure I'll see lots of places I can improve my writing. I don't want any of my scenes to be so rough that they might bump readers right out of the story and make them realize they're reading and not really living that story as they'd thought they were before they hit the pothole I'd left in my writing.

A lot of people are really surprised when they find out it usually takes at least a year after a publishing company gets a writer's finished novel before it actually makes it out onto a bookstore shelf. They think once it's written that the process is almost over, but really it's just getting started at the publisher's end. First your editor gives advice on improving the story. Other people are working on a cover that will catch readers' eyes. The marketing people are working on a plan to pitch this particular book to the most likely readers. Some of that's going on right now for The Seeker - a whole year before the book will be released. Later a copy editor will be going over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb to check for all the little hard to read or plain wrong things the writer missed. Here's where you hope you have a sharp-eyed editor who won't let your mess-ups such as changing a character's name mid-book get by. I've done that, but so far I've always caught it myself. That's why I keep a list of every character I name in a book no matter how minor the character might be so I can go back and see if it was Roy or Ray in that earlier scene. But eventually with a lot of people's help and input the book does get published - a couple of years or more after the author fired up her computer and began filling up page one with words.

And that's where I am with The Believer. Published. Hearing about people spotting it in stores. Beginning to get feedback from readers. Seeing reviews. I wish I could be like one writer I heard speak and not read reviews - ever. But I can't. My problem and I think it's a problem most writers - most people - share is that one or two negative words can sort of spoil the whole review even if the majority of the comments are favorable. That's like when somebody is talking to you and telling you what a great job you may have done on something and then they throw in that "but." That's when you groan because you know they're about to lower the boom and tell you something you don't want to hear. You end up forgetting all the good words before that but.

Of course constructive criticism can help us all if we're open to it, but I don't think of reviews as constructive criticism. They are simply somebody's opinions. And it's better for me as a writer not to get too excited about great reviews or too down about not so great reviews. The same book can get both according to the mood of the reader and what the reader likes in a story. I wrote the best story I could at the time. I liked it. I liked my characters, Elizabeth and Ethan, and the readers I'm hearing from say they like them too. And now I have to make my new story the best I can.

So have a great rest of the week. I'll be in Frankfort Saturday 10 till 2 or maybe 4 at the Paul Sawyier Library for a Book Fair. If you're in the area, come by to see me. And then I'm looking forward to a visit from my agent and editor. I'm going to show them how far out in the boonies I live. They'll think they've come to the end of nowhere when they get here. Oh yeah, and my blog tour is next week. I'll tell you more about it Sunday.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Weekend on the Singing Trail

Just got home from a weekend with Darrell and the guys as they went to California - California, Kentucky that is. I had no idea there was a California, Kentucky until Darrell started singing with the Patriot Quartet. That's where the lead singer grew up. It's up in Northern Kentucky close to Alexandria. Actually we were at Beech Grove and Silver Springs this weekend.

In Kentucky we like to give every broad place in the road a name and then start up a couple of churches on opposite sides of the road. Makes for a lot of good places for the guys to sing and fun place names for me to try to remember. Here in my county we have Stringtown, Birdie, Rutherford, Alton, Glensboro, Avenstoke, Sinai, Ripyville - just to name a few. There are a lot of very interesting place names in the state. I used Grundy in my Hollyhill books just because I liked thinking about somebody from Grundy. The newspaper has been running a series of articles where they go out to a neat sounding community name and try to dig up the roots of the name. Sometimes they have a challenge just digging up the community because the one general store, church and perhaps one-room schoolhouse have long disappeared from the memory of most of the people who live in the area now. But they still have their dot on the map. What names of towns make you smile? Maybe you grew up in a community with an unusual name.

Anyway the quartet had a good singing weekend. They sang right here at home on Friday night outside for a church who had rented out lots for the 127 Yard sale and were giving everybody a free supper and entertainment. The Yard Sale had loads of cars all along the roads and most of us homebodies are glad they've all gone home. It makes driving very interesting when people slam on their brakes to make a sudden yard sale turn or decide your yard is the best place to park or turn around whether you're actually having a yard sale or not. I'm too far off the beaten path to have that problem, but I've heard others complaining.

Saturday the guys went north to sing at Beech Grove - again outside for a camp meeting gathering of churches in the area. This morning they were at the Silver Springs Church and boy, can those people cook. That's one of the advantages of riding along with the quartet. I get to eat those delicious church dinners right along with them without cooking a thing. Tonight the guys sang at Crestwood in Frankfort. Had a great reception to their new release "American Christian" everywhere they sang. Hope if you hear it on the radio you'll enjoy it too.

Some kind people have already bought my new book, The Believer, and read it. And the sweet comments have warmed this writer's heart. Thank you. Don't forget. If you're in the area and want to hear some writer stories, come on out to the Anderson County Public Library on Saturday, August 22 at 1 p.m. I'm going to be celebrating the new book with a booktalk, maybe a reading, lots of back and forth discussion time and some door prizes. For those of you who aren't in the area, I'll post a new giveaway on that weekend so you can join in the giveaway fun.

Thanks for reading. And being reading friends.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Connecting with My Reading Friends

I know. It's not Wednesday or Sunday (that's my usual posting days), but I'm testing out some new links with's author pages. There are so many ways to connect with readers these days. Facebook. Twitter. Author pages. Blogs. Blog tours. I've tried to stick my finger into the internet pie on all of them but twitter. Still not twittering. Are any of you? The facebook has been a fun way to keep up with friends and family. And I'm hoping to have a Facebook Fan page soon. You can talk more about your books and do book giveaways, etc. on the Fan pages. Or at least that's what I've been told.

My only problem is wondering why anyone would even think about signing up to a fan page for me. I don't think about having fans. I think about having reading friends. But I have to admit I'd like to gather more reading friends, and didn't our mamas always tell us the way to have a friend is to be a friend? That's sometimes hard to do when you spend hours making up imaginary people. Coming up with new stories takes some solitary time. A lot of solitary time. That's why some writers talk so much when they get a chance to be away from their desks. And it's also why some don't. Sometimes we're still in that story. Still hearing conversations in our heads that no one else can hear, but that we hope everybody else will someday want to read. Just as soon as we write it down.

I'm hoping to get some stuff written down soon. Being between books is not my favorite place to be, but I had to catch up on all the mundane "the house will fall in if you don't take a shovel to it" chores.

Come back Sunday and we'll talk.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Celebrating Release Day

My new book, The Believer, was officially released by the publishers for sale yesterday. Actually it was already out in stores, or so I've been told. I haven't personally seen it on any store shelves yet, but then the only shelves I've been seeing are the ones where I've been setting my newly canned jars of green beans. Trust me. Bookstore shelves are more exciting. But last week was too hectic to go bookstore hopping although I do have to admit I love to browse in bookstores whether I have a new book releasing or not. Bookstores are about the only place I truly like to shop which is why my family has to like getting books as presents. Although antique malls can be fun if you have a friend along. And if they have a book section. :-)

I haven't gotten much feedback yet from the new story. I don't think the readers in my family realize how needy writers can be when we have a new book out. We need to hear positive things that we can hope are not just made up to stroke our egos. But we want to know if our story was okay. Plus a few things that maybe made it okay. Well, actually we want to hear things like "It was great." Or "I couldn't put it down." Or "I stayed up way too late to find out what happened." You know, that sort of thing. Sounds like I'm begging for ego stroking comments, doesn't it?

But it is fun having a new book out, and it is fun hearing readers' reactions. Of course it's more fun when they are good reactions, but writers can't always expect that. In fact this one writers' bunch I know even have a contest to pick the most terrible review when they have a meeting . So they all bring their bad reviews and compete to see who has the worst one. I guess the idea is that it's better to laugh about them than to cry about them. One thing sure, once the book is out there in readers' hands, there's nothing you can do to change what you wrote. Plus even if you changed things to suit one reader then another reader would probably think that change messed things up.

A writer has to trust her inner ear and tell the story as best she can. Then she has to turn it loose. Let it go out into the world and find readers. If those readers find fault or even if she herself looks over her words once they are between the covers of a book and finds fault, she just has to file that away as experience and hope to do better on the next story. That's what I try to do, but I still hope for good reviews and good comments. Everybody, no matter what they do, can use some encouraging words.

I drew for my final book winner for this giveaway yesterday on release day and it's Linda. I'll be sending her an e-mail to let her know she's a winner. And a newsletter will go out this week. If you're not signed up for my occasional newsletter and want to be, just click on the newsletter link on my webpage. Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. I'll have to think up something new to give away next month.

Hope you hear nothing but encouraging words this week. And nobody says, "The beans need picking." A bountiful harvest is a blessing, but there are only so many hours in a day. I've promised myself I'm getting back to writing next week even if all the closets aren't cleaned out and I still need to paint the back hall. I've got to remember that writing is what I do. Housekeeping chores are secondary.

Thanks for reading.