Sunday, November 29, 2009

Signing Books in London -- Kentucky, that is.

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reasons for Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Story Web

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

October Sundays in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the Question Is...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Fair Smiles

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Beauty of Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Photo Shoot Adventure

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