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.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In the Internet Doghouse - Again!!

No picture tonight. I'll be fortunate to get words to go since I seem to have gotten in the internet doghouse again. My grandson was here and he must have said yes to some game download when he should have said cancel or no. So groan, and double groan. I'm back to snail pace on the net for twenty-four hours. After that I may get out of the doghouse. He didn't know he was going to get me on the slow train again, but I've got to teach him to say no. That's not a bad thing to know anyway. Except to his mom and dad. Not good then.

We had Homecoming at Goshen today. Big crowd for us. Our church was full. Front pews and everything. Baptist front pews are always the last to fill. But I have been in churches where the members never sat on the back pews so that visitors coming in late could have those seats and wouldn't have to walk down front. It's funny how we want the back of the church and the front seats at ballgames. What does that say about us? But all our seat were full today.

Darrell and the guys, the Patriot Quartet, sang. Everybody really got into the spirit and liked hearing the morning message in song. Then we had an old fashioned dinner on the grounds in our new fashion fellowship hall. Our K-Hall was so full that some of the folks had to go outside and sit on the concrete yard wall just like old times. People have been sitting on that concrete retaining wall and eating homecoming meals for a hundred years, give or take a year or two. Our church is old. The sanctuary was built in 1875, but I don't think the retaining wall was added until the early nineteen hundreds. Still that's about a hundred years.

It's always great to have a homecoming at an old church like Goshen when members and friends come back to visit. Some people don't like the old traditions, but I do. I like thinking about all the people who have been faithful at our old church through its almost two hundred year history. I like thinking about all the "eating meetings" there have been and all the great pies and cakes and fried chicken people have enjoyed. Of course one tradition that's different is that we go to town and buy the chicken already fried up now instead of going out and getting a chicken out in the chicken yard to fry up ourselves. That's one old tradition I don't miss. But I do like the echo of all the old hymns ringing in the church and I'm indebted to the faithful men and women who have been my Christian brothers and sisters over the years. Their love and kindness and tolerant forgiveness whenever I messed up are treasures without price.

I'll do an extra post tomorrow (after I get out of the internet doghouse) and put on some kind of picture. I'll be going to a burgoo tomorrow night where the Patriots are singing at another church's homecoming. So who knows what picture might show up here. I also have some cute puppy and grandkid pictures. The neighbor puppies - but they seem way too at home here at my house.

Hope you have a fantastic first week of October.