Thursday, April 29, 2010

Be Alert for Some Good News

Here's part of the beautiful staircase at the Shaker village near me. The double staircases have a big part in my next Shaker book, The Seeker.
~~But first I got some good news about my last book, The Believer, this week. Actually it was old news, but I didn't know about it until now, so it was new news to me. The Believer was on the Library Journal Christian Fiction Bestseller list in February. The list I received included titles most in demand by libraries and bookstores nationwide from Baker & Taylor six months prior to the week ending February 13, 2010. I love libraries and I love people who love books. So whether it was old news or new news, it was definitely welcome news.
~~I do that Google Alert stuff, but all I mostly get are notices that I've put up a new post out here on this blog. Not exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for the alerts. Sometimes I get an alert about something that's been out there on the internet for weeks. Not the kind of alert you want to depend on to keep you off the train tracks when a train's coming. Alert! I used to go to a dentist who liked to tack things up to the ceiling so that when he lowered the chair until the only view you had was up, you could read whatever witty saying was up there while he worked on your teeth. One of the sayings was "Be alert. The world needs more lerts." So what do you think a lert is? That person who is first in line when they're handing our free ice cream cones? The dog who lets you know the UPS guy is bringing you a box of books? The cat who hears you get the can opener out of the drawer? The mom who knows when it gets too quiet she'd better be a lert? Or maybe a lert is a cute little furry creature with sticky feet who runs around on a dentist's ceiling when the patient has too much happy gas.
~~Oh, I know what that lert is - she's the writer who figures out what readers are going to be reading two years from now. That's about how long ahead I'd have to guess at the market. From the time I type Chapter 1 until The End and then the publisher takes those words and makes them into a book takes about two years. But I gave up trying to guess the market years ago. I'm about as good at that as I am at picking Derby winners.
~~The Derby is a big event in this area. A lot of Derby parties and fancy hats and celebrity watching. Not by me. No party, no hat, no celebrity watching. I do like to watch the race. The actual race takes about five minutes with the replay. On television. They say every Kentuckian should attend the Derby at least once in their liefetime, but that's not something I care about doing. Oh, if you were up there on Millionaires' Row and you didn't have to wear a hat, it might be okay. But I think I'd rather see the balloon race in the pre-Derby festivities. Or it might be fun to be on the Belle of Louisville when they do their Derby week competition. They used to race with the Cincinnati Delta Queen, but then the Queen got retro-fitted or something and the Belle didn't. So now the crews have tug of wars and other like contest before they steam off to pick up some special cargo. The Queen has a handicap and has to go a little farther to get her assigned cargo. I researched steamboats for a book I wrote about Louisville set during the 1850's, and now it looks as if that story is going to make it into print in the next few years. More good news for me!! I hope you'll think so too.
~~And I hope you have a great weekend. But if you're planning to be at the Derby, you'd better make that hat a rain hat and bring an umbrella. The weather forecast isn't favorable to the horses who don't like a sloppy track.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Double Fun

Almost two years ago I was rushing to get the book that became The Believer finished before these two little ones made their appearance in the world. And now here they are full of smiles for their grandma and their grandma is rushing to get yet another book finished, my fourth Shaker book, as yet nameless.
~~I've been brainstorming names for it and have a whole list but none of the names are settling down and sticking to the story. So we'll see on that. Right now I need to get the story written. I'm into my quota period. That means I'm ordering myself to write so many words or pages every weekday. I stayed with the schedule last week so we'll see how things go this week.
~~But aren't the boys cute? I am blessed with a whole baseball team of healthy grandkids. And cute ones, too.
~~I went with the Patriot Quartet to sing tonight. Well, they sang, and I listened. Got my ego boosted a little by one of the ladies there who had read a couple of my books and came back to the product table to buy all the other books I had with me. I told her I was going to take her on the road with me. That was fun, but you know a boosted ego today is likely to turn into a busted ego tomorrow. With writers it's an up and down rollercoaster ride. Tonight I was up on the top of the ride with the kind words about my book. Tomorrow I might be at the bottom with a new review that isn't as kind or maybe a letter from the publishing company saying one of my books is being taken out of print.
~~Actually I got one of those letters last week. My last Hollyhill book, Orchard of Hope is going out of print. But the good news about that is the publishing company has plans to repackage and reissue the three Hollyhill books in the next couple of years, possibly as a set. That's good news for me, but I guess it would be a higher point if the books had stayed in print because readers loved them that much. Every writer's dream.
~~So through the ups and downs I just have to hang on and not get too excited or worried about either one. Instead I need to keep pressing keyboard keys, keep putting words together and figuring out what happens next. You can be sure I'll tell you when what happens next is I write "The End." That's a few weeks away.
~~Hope you're having more ups than downs this week.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Necessary but Troublesome

~~These wildflowers aren't troublesome. Necessary for the spirit and for the bees. These are Dutchman's britches, my mom's favorite wildflower. For my favorites, I think the trilliums are hard to beat and of course the Jack in the Pulpit is fun to find in the woods. If you look really closely at this picture you can see the little spider that's spinning a web onto the middle flower. I didn't even notice that until I loaded the picture on the computer. Last fall I took my camera out and tried to find a spiderweb for a post I did on how a story line is like a spiderweb with all the interconnections and couldn't find a good web anywhere. And now here this little spider was spinning right in front of my eyes and I didn't even notice him. Or maybe her.
~~But no, the troublesome but necessary thing is my computer. It had a major glitch last night and today. Spent an hour talking to this one troubleshooting guy. He couldn't fix it. Had me punching this key and that key and going into Safe Mode and to the C:/ prompt. I don't know why something called Safe Mode makes me so nervous, but I'm sure my computer will never be safe again when I go into that program. My son would be laughing at me now if he saw that. He's a computer techie. Anyway I finally called the right guy and he had it all working in five minutes. Just goes to show you got to know what's wrong. The first guy didn't and the second guy did. Shame I didn't call the right guy first. But the best thing is I can read my e-mails again. And there was more work on there, but good news too that if I can come up with a nice blurb for my new book, The Seeker, it might get some nice pub. That's the necessary part of the computer and internet. You've got to have it these days. So you put up with the troublesome parts. And if you're like me, wish you knew more about why it gets in trouble.
~~Another necessary but troublesome thing is my titling questionnaire about my book in progress. The one I should be writing more words for right now to meet that looming deadline. Can you believe they actually want me to tell them a title when I have no idea? I mean just because it's only a couple of months until I'm supposed to have it finished. This one is my fourth Shaker book and the others have all been The something. The Outsider. The Believer. The Seeker. But I have run out of ideas to go with The. At least anything that fits with this story. I'm hoping the perfect title will pop in my head before I finish the questionnaire.
~~Then there's that place where they ask you to come up with a couple of snappy sentences to say what your book's about. Two sentences to describe a 100,000 word plus book! If I was good at snappy sentences I'd be writing ad copy. Oh. I guess that's what I'm needing to do. Write some copy that will help the publishers sell my many more words. As you can probably tell, I'm not crazy about filling these things out. I don't know if any author is, but - and here's the not only necessary part but the very welcome part of this troublesome task - but it means I have a new book coming out in the future. And that's not troublesome at all. That's exciting! So I'll keep brainstorming on that title and strain my brain to come up with those snappy sentences.
~~Hope all your necessary tasks are no trouble at all for you this week. And maybe even fun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

People Watching at Book Fests

~~Here I am with my table sharers at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, Jan Watson (Sweetwater Run) and Virginia Smith (Third Time's Charm). I'm in the middle with Jan on the left and Ginny on the right. See us smile. That's what you do when you go to a Book Festival. You smile and smile and smile some more. Mostly because we want to. We like talking to readers and we hope if we smile readers will like talking to us. And then of course sometimes we're smiling because a reading friend we made the year before comes back to our table to buy another book since she enjoyed the first read so much. The Christian market was well represented at the Book Fest with not only us but also Eric Wilson (Fireproof), Patti Lacy (What the Bayou Saw), and Travis Thrasher (Ghostwriter) and others.
~~Around one hundred fifty authors were at the Book Fest with all sorts of fiction and nonfiction books. You could find mysteries, romances, young adult books, histories, memoirs, cook books, picture books, and poetry collections. That's one of the fun things about going to a book fair - seeing the variety of books. And authors. The same as books, authors come in all sizes, styles and attitudes. Some authors smile and try to engage the readers with conversation or entice them to their tables with chocolate. The cake doctor, Anne Byrne, even had cake for people to eat along with plenty of napkins. Other writers sit quietly and wait for readers to approach them. Some writers desert their stacks of books to explore the other aisles of books. A few writers spend the time reading or writing notes. Some even bring editing work. Nearly all of us enjoy comparing writing stories with the writers sitting next to us.
~~Many of us admire with just a wee bit of envy the long lines that form for the more famous writers' autographs on their books. The longest lines this fair were for Laura Numeroff who wrote If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and for mystery writer, Lisa Scottoline. Actually it was fun seeing all the kids clutching books that had been signed especially to them. Their parents and grandparents were giving them a great gift helping them along the road to a life long love of reading.
~~Of course the readers on the other side of the tables come in all shapes and sizes and reading tastes too. I met a woman long haul truck driver pushing her grandson in a stroller and a retired doctor who used to go to church with Julia Neal. Neal wrote one of the Shaker books I use in my research. I met a little girl of about seven or eight who had written and illustrated her own little picture book and with mom's help had it published. I met a couple of young women who were writers - as yet unpublished but working toward that goal. I met school teachers and librarians and other book lovers. I remembered some faces from previous book fests who come every year to go fishing for a few good books to read. People who connect with books are easy to talk to and that makes a writer like me smile.
~~Hope you have a lovely week ahead and that sometime in the weeks and months ahead you'll have the opportunity to go book fishing at a book festival near you. Or if you're a writer that you'll get a chance to try to catch some new readers. Your best bait is a great book. And a smile.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Writer's Best Time

~~Here I am with fellow writers, Allie Pleiter and Ginny Smith practicing our smiles before the Southern Kentucky Book Fest last April. We'll be practicing again this Friday as we get ready to sign books for readers coming up Saturday. The Southern Kentucky Book Fest is always a fun event with a lot of writers and readers getting the chance to talk. The Book Fest has panels and speakers all day to give readers a chance to learn more about how the books they enjoy came into being. I'm on a panel at 2 p.m. called "Travel in Time" featuring historical fiction writers. Other authors on the panel with me are Mary Calhoun Brown, Roger Brucker, Brigid Pasulka, and Patti Lacy. Ginny and Allie are on a panel at 1 p.m. called "Valentines in April" along with Jan Watson, Teresa Medeiros and Trish Milburn. We'll all have fun answering questions and talking about our books. Of course you can come right up to our signing tables for one on one talk. The Book Fest is at the WKU Carroll Knicely Conference Center in Bowling Green, KY April 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CST) If you've got kids, you can bring them out to meet Laura Numeroff, the author of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."
~~This has been a busy week for me. Monday I was in WV for the Ohio River Festival of Books and while I was there I talked to three groups of kids at my grandkids' school. My seven-year-old granddaughter was so excited to have grandma at her school. She was better than a cockerspaniel puppy at making me feel loved. She's a sweetheart. To her class I wasn't Ann Gabhart. I was "Ashley's grandma." Her first grade class and the kindergarten class combined to listen and all the kids sat quietly and listened before eagerly asking questions. The same was true for the 2nd through 6th grade students later in the day. For me, the best part of visiting schools is always the kids' questions. One of their favorites, asked several times, was what was the longest book I ever wrote. Of course I didn't really know. I just said 375 pages. That might be close.
~~Then one of the older kids asked "What is the best moment you feel as a writer?" You know that's a great question and one I wasn't quick to answer. My first answer was the moment when you first hold that published book in your hands and open it up to see the printed words. That's a good feeling for sure. Then I thought maybe it's when I write "The End" after seeing my characters through their story. But what about when that needed extra character just sort of appears out of nowhere to make your story work? And don't forget those moments when a reader tells you he/she couldn't put your book down and sat up to the wee hours of the morn to find out what happened or that something you wrote brought tears to his eyes or made her smile. So if you're a writer, what is the best moment you feel as a writer? I think I might still have to go with the holding the printed book in my hands and knowing all that other has happened or may be going to happen.
~~So I loved the questions the kids asked and I wished I'd thought to take my camera in to snap a picture of their bright, eager faces to share with you. But instead I'll just have to share the picture in words. Just imagine two hundred or so kids waving their arms in the air to try to get their question answered. I could have answered questions until the cows came home.
~~If you're in the Bowling Green area Saturday, come out to the Book Fest and please stop by my table to say hello. And ask a question if you want to. I won't even make you hold up your hand.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Speeches, Speeches, and More Speeches

Monday I get the fun of going to my granddaughters' school and speaking to their classes. I'm nervous. Well, not really about the speaking, but about making the girls proud. I'll be all right with the young one in first grade, but the older girl is a teenager. Thank goodness, a very sweet and kind teenager so maybe she won't crawl under her desk when grandma comes in the school.

I do like to talk to young people about writing, especially the elementary age kids. They always have so many neat questions. Sometimes when I talk to adults, there's an uncomfortable silence when I ask if anyone has any questions. Stage fright for the question asker, I think. They don't want to ask something that others might think dumb. Usually if someone will break the ice and take the risk of speaking up, the question time gets rolling. But kids don't have that worry. They like to ask questions. They want to know more. As our pastor sometimes likes to say, there are no dumb questions because how are you going to find out more without asking. Now I don't know about the no dumb questions. There are probably a few. But if a kid asks me a question I don't want to answer, I can usually gracefully twist the question to something I don't mind answering. So we'll have fun.

Then tomorrow night I'll be at the Ohio River Festival of Books in Huntington, WV. I'm looking forward to talking to some readers there at the Cabell County Public Library. Darrell isn't getting to go with me this time, so he'll miss out on hearing me tell the same stuff again. Fresh ears (as in the Book Festival attendees) are always nice. It's when you go back to the same group the second or third time that you have to start wondering if you've already told them everything you have to say. Of course with a new book, that's like having a fresh topic. And the people who've heard you before can finally get up the nerve to ask that question they've been wanting to ask. You may be able to tell I like the question and answer time of a talk. I'd like to just go straight to that the way you might want to go straight to the dessert on the buffet table. The Festival people gave my speech an interesting title - "Shaker Romance: Not an Oxymoron." Guess I'd better figure out what an oxymoron is before I start talking. ;-)

Hope you all have a beautiful Sunday and enjoy the flowers of spring.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Visit to Red Scooter

I had the treat of getting to go to a book club meeting last week. One of the members contacted me and since the meeting was in a neighboring town, Taylorsville, I was able to make the drive to share their book talk. The picture is of a few of the ladies in the club. I always take my camera and I always forget to get it out until about half the people have gone home. But those still there posed with me. The club meets at The Red Scooter, an antique mall with lots of booths of neat items for sale. Not just antiques, but aprons and purses and used books and gourds and jewelry. I could go on and on. And of course, scooters. I'm not sure any of the scooters were for sale, but they were displayed all around. The owner of the store, Beverly Bentley-Ingram, said she and her brother were brainstorming a name for her business and when he suggested The Red Scooter, she knew that was it. One of the scooters is actually her red scooter that she had as a child. Beverly is the pretty lady in the black with a scarf around her neck. They also do an apron contest in May for Mother's Day. It sounded like the ladies there were always ready to do something fun.
~~And the nicest thing they thought was fun was reading my book, The Believer. They had lots of questions about the Shakers and comments about the characters in my book. It's always a fun thing for me as a writer to hear readers talking about my characters as though they are people they know. As though they could think about them continuing on living their fictional lives after the last page was read and the book was closed. That's a good thing. I've felt that about other writers' characters. I've felt that about my own characters. Sometimes those characters keep living on in my head trying to push in front of the characters I'm trying to get to know for my new story. It's like they're jumping up and down shouting "What about me? You're not going to just forget about me now, are you?" You know with all those past characters jumping around up there in my head, it's no wonder I forget things now and again. You know like how to turn the delay timer on the oven. By the way, I did actually get those dishes scrubbed clean and ready to char something new in them. =o)
~~It's not long now until The Seeker will be out. Actually that happens at the same time my work in progress is supposed to be finished. Uh-0h. I'd better get to work. Hope all of you have something fun planned for your week.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Easter Sunday

Spring is the perfect season for Easter when everything is putting out new leaves and new flowers and beginning anew. We had a fantastic Easter day here with the weather. My grandkids were all here and it was great that they were able to be outside playing. And of course the Easter egg hunt is always better when they don't have to wear winter coats the way they did a couple of years ago. Last Easter wasn't much better, windy and very chilly. But this year here in Kentucky we had one of those perfect spring days with sunshine and only a little breeze and plenty of green grass to hide the Easter eggs. But not so tall that it took long to find them. One grandkid had a meltdown because big sister kept beating her to the eggs. I'll have to have designated little kid and big kid areas in the years to come, I suppose. And one of the twins had absolutely no interest in finding eggs. He had much more interesting things to do out in the yard. He wasn't worried about missing out on the candy. He knew he could find plenty later in the big sisters' baskets. He wasn't a bit shy about helping himself. I would have posted a picture of the grandkids but my camera upload isn't working right now. It's first one thing then another with my computer.

~~We had a busy day at church starting with sunrise service. I like sunrise service but it's tough getting up and cooking for the fellowship breakfast and getting lunch ready for the kids to come home. I thought I had it worked out today. Got up really, really early and fixed three of my dishes and put them in the oven. Set it to come on about an hour before I got home. I'm so smart, I'm thinking and everything will be ready when we get home. Turns out I wasn't so smart. Turns out I hit the wrong buttons on my timer and instead of setting the oven to come on later, I turned it on right then. The bad part is I checked it before I left and didn't figure out the oven was already on. Turns out five hours cooking apples and potatoes is about four hours too long.

~~So I rush in after church, and my nose knows something's not right as soon as I walk in the door. Thank goodness there was no smoke filling the place with the smoke detector going off. No, but let me tell you those apples were charred way past eating and the potatoes had an interesting crunch. And the macaroni. I didn't know macaroni could get that black. So I had to start over on those dishes and finish some of the cooking in the microwave. But we had enough food and I managed to chisel the burnt stuff out of my dishes. Even got one of the dishes clean. The other two aren't looking too good for the future.

~~I remember one of my older church friends once telling me that she couldn't do it all (She was talking about cooking for Homecoming dinner at church) on one day the way she used to. Well, I guess I'm getting there because obviously even if I can cook it all on one day, I can't cook it right. Oh well! She who laughs at herself first can laugh longest. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself. And on Easter a person has to count her blessings. A beautiful old country church to attend. A preacher who can make the Bible come to life in his sermons. A great church family who enjoys eating and fellowshiping together. Two fantastic sons and their wonderful wives who are like daughters to me. A loving daughter and her husband who is like a son to me. Nine beautiful, healthy, intelligent grandchildren. A husband to share these blessings with me. And on top of all that the sun was warm on my shoulders today and tomorrow I'll get to write more of my story.

~~Hope you had a blessed and joyous Easter.