Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Snowy Day Down on the Farm


~The weather people talked about snow for days and it finally showed up down here on the farm. We got about four inches - a light dusting compared to what they got west and south of us. But plenty for me. I like a little snow every winter, but I'm always ready to see it go, too. This morning it was so cold when I went out that the snow squeaked and crunched underfoot and blew up little mini-puffs of snow in my wake. A good kind of walking snow. Tonight would be a good night to take a snow walk since the moon is almost full and is reflecting off the snow making a glistening light almost as bright as day out there. But it is very chilly.
~I took my camera out on Saturday afternoon and took this picture of the hay bales and cedars. It made me think of the title of the book Snow Falling on Cedars. That's a very evocative title for a book, but one that I doubt I would have ever had the nerve to suggest to a publisher. But then again, maybe I would. I did The Scent of Lilacs. I did Wish Come True and Bridge to Courage for a couple of my young adult books. Not exactly the same feel as the snow falling title, but I think interesting titles. And all fit the story. I read Snow Falling on Cedars, but it's been a while and I can't remember if the title was central to the story or not.
~I enjoy thinking about titles and wondering where the authors might have come up with them. With my Shaker books, the publishers suggested I use a The Something theme and we came up with The Outsider for the first one. The Believer fits the second story perfectly and The Seeker is right for Charlotte and Adam's story. I have absolutely no idea what The Something the next book is going to be. But then I often write the book before I come up with a title. I guess I keep hoping my subconscious will nudge a great title up into my conscious mind and I'll go bingo and know it's the perfect title. Of course, right now I'm just hoping my subconscious will push a good story up into my conscious mind. I like my new characters, but they seem to be very secretive about their stories. I need them to start whispering some of those secrets into my ear. Or they can just run them straight through my fingers if they want to.
~I'm about rested up from my grandbaby sitting, but my desk is still looking like a disaster area. Plus I can't seem to locate the book I was reading before I headed to WV. No, it's not under all the paperwork on my desk. I've already checked that out. It takes talent to lose a book in your own house, but that seems to be what I've done. I gave up on finding it. Now I'm just waiting to discover it in whatever interesting spot I last laid it down. Either that or the reading gremlins carried it away. Do you have gremlins at your house? You know those mysterious beings that run off with paperclips and scissors and all your inkpens when you most need to write something down.
~Some of you have already entered my February book drawing for two of my books and The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz, but for those of you who haven't, you still have time. I won't be doing the drawing until the end of the month. If you want to throw your name in the hat, just send me a message from my website or leave a comment here. I appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks for being reading friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Classes at the Grandbabies' Spa


~I made it through the five day "spa" vacation with my four grandkids in WV. In my last post I compared the babysitting time to being at a diet and exercise spa, but that certainly wasn't all of it. I did lose a couple of pounds according to my very unreliable scale. That's the best kind of scale to have, isn't it? That way you can always say the crazy thing must not be working right if it shows you gained three pounds over a weekend or something totally ridiculous like that. Certainly it wouldn't have anything to do with that cheesecake you ate. ;-)
~There wasn't any cheesecake eating going on this weekend for me. Just leftover hotdogs and that delicious mac and cheese. Eating that stuff you can believe I got plenty of running exercise to lose even one pound.
~But I got to thinking about other classes the grandkid sitting experience opened up. Say craft class - learning to express yourself with clay. I'm really good at making snakes and worms. Here's Katie with her turtle creation she did all by herself while I checked on the twins who were napping.
~There was the negotiation class. "If I tell you fifty eleven stories, will you go to bed?" Give or take a few stories. Or "Eat two bites of your chicken and then you can have ice cream."
~I can't forget time management. Diaper this one, diaper that one, break up a scuffle between the girls, load the dishwasher, load the washer, wash the babies, wash the girls, cook that mac and cheese, hunt sippy cups, pick up toys, straighten rugs, grab Matt off the back of the couch, put Ashley in time-out, keep Katie away from Ashley in time-out, make popcorn, take a gulp of tea, diaper this one and that one again.
~I think I may have failed the time management, but I did manage to get Ashley off to first grade both school day mornings. That surely deserves a C plus. So a passing grade.
~Now it's time to get back to work here at home. First I have to wade through my e-mails and catch up on chores. Tomorrow I plan to see if I can find a desk under all this stuff that has accumulated on my desk. It grows if you don't keep an eye on it, you know. All that has to be done, but I'm itching to be writing even though I'm a little stuck on what's next. My characters keep popping into my head and I'm hoping my subconscious is working on that what next problem. But for sure I want to be pursuing the story again with my fingers on the keyboard and my mind back in my Shaker village in the year 1845.
~Don't forget about my February giveaway - your choice of two of my last six books and Laura Frantz's The Frontiersman's Daughter. You can leave a comment here to be entered or send me an e-mail from my website, www.annhgabhart.com. Thanks to all of you who e-mailed me after you got my newsletter. I enjoy hearing from my reading friends. Hope you have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Double the Exercise!!

--No picture this Sunday since I'm in WV trying to keep up with my four little grandkids up here. Believe me, I'm finding out why the good Lord fixed things to that young people are the mamas and daddies. It's becoming more than obvious that I might have too many miles on my speedometer to keep up with four kids six and under. But right now things are good. The twins, seventeen month old boys, are taking a nap and the other grandmama came and got the four year old and six year old girls to take them to a movie. I need to send her roses.
--The boys are cute as can be and pretty good babies except that they know their grandma is a sucker for a pitiful look and reaching up hands and will pick them up at a whimper. Then the other one wants his time in too. My hip is sore from packing them around, but think of the muscles I'm building. It's just like being at one of those exclusive spas where you diet and work out. The diet because who has time to eat when you're busy keeping four little mouths fed. Although I do have to admit I'm doing the mommy thing and eating stuff leftover that I normally wouldn't think of eating. You know, leftover box mac & cheese. Cold. You mommies have been there. You understand.
--As for the spa bit, it helps that my son's house is three story. That adds a lot of good stair climbing - with weights. The twins are both little chunks. Plus there's a side advantage of honing my mediation skills since one twin pretty much likes to take everything away from the other twin. Refereeing anyway.
--Then there's the crisis management class. That includes the older kids. The oldest is a little drama queen who spent a half hour crying last night (drama queen style) because all the books she had to read were too, too easy. That included her grandma's books, the ones I wrote some years back for middle readers and young teens. She was just so misunderstood and needed something thick to read. She finally went and pulled out one of her older sister's Harry Potter books. The older sis isn't here. She's on the trip with her parents. The little drama queen who needed those hard books to read proudly told me this morning that she's on page three. I figure her parents will be back in plenty of time to convince her the book is too old for her if they don't want her to read it yet. Her big sister was a big Harry Potter fan and the six year old wants to think she's as old as her when she's eight years younger.
--I can't forget the culinary experience and challenge. You know trying to fix a peanut butter sandwich just like mama does. Or figuring out anything the four year old will eat that doesn't have as the main ingredient sugar. The twins eat hearty and just about anything you put in front of them - or that they find on the floor. Of course the peanut butter is on the top shelf since we're still not sure if that's what made John have his allergic reaction. They haven't gotten to the allergist yet.
-- So at my age I'm still learning about challenges. And doing my best to meet them. Oops! The boys are crying. Thanks for reading. You'll find out if I graduated from the spa courses with honors on Wednesday. I'll settle for a passing grade. That would mean everybody got fed and in bed at an almost reasonable time and nobody got hurt.
--Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who to Thank?


~~This is a picture of my mom and my youngest grandbaby and her youngest great grandbaby.
~~I wrote an author's note for one of my upcoming books thanking the people who had helped make the book possible. I never know for sure who I should thank first. My editor? My agent? My publisher?
~~Then I realized that person - the one I should thank first - was my mom. She never told me I couldn't be a writer although she must have thought I had big dreams for a little country girl. Dreams that might never come true, but she never discouraged those dreams. She wanted me to be happy and if that meant chasing after what seemed like an impossible dream, she didn't tell me that. Instead she wished wings for my feet. Then when I got married too young and had a couple of babies, again too young, she was probably thinking I'd do well to get the babies diapered and fed. And she was right, but I also wrote a few words here and there between diaper changes and chores. Because she loved me, she never said I was too young even when I was. She just helped me be old enough and loved my babies along with me.
~~When I spent money Darrell and I couldn't spare on a writing course I found in the back of a magazine (I was desperate for a way to learn how to go about being a writer), she never said I was crazy or foolish. She didn't even look as if she thought it. She just kept loving me and believing I could do whatever I set my mind to. The same as she had always done. And does even still.
~~She never had the writing bug except for keeping a journal of her daily life some of the time, but she lived life to the fullest. She married when she was nineteen and moved out on the farm with my dad. I was her third daughter and the baby. She saw that we grew up to be responsible adults. She taught us how to work. But best of all she taught us how to laugh and enjoy life. Now age is catching up with her, stealing some of her sparkle. But the sparkle's not completely gone as you can see in this picture. All it takes to bring it back is a sweet grandbaby beside her.
~~Since we're talking about grandbabies, I'm off this weekend to babysit the WV grandbabies while their mom and dad combine a business trip with a little rest and relaxation. Those last two aren't what I'm expecting with four kids six and under, but we'll have fun.
~~I sent out a newsletter today with a new giveaway. If you want to get in on the fun of being in a drawing for two of my books - your choice of which ones, and Laura Frantz's book The Frontiersman's Daughter (set in pioneer Kentucky days), all autographed, then leave a comment here or send an e-mail from my website, http://www.annhgabhart.com/.
~~Thanks for reading and if you don't see a post here on Sunday, you'll know I didn't get the grandbabies to bed on time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Focusing on a Dream


~~ I took this picture with Steve Ladd at the New Year's Eve Gospel Concert at Sand Spring Church. My husband's group, the Patriot Quartet, was singing that night along with several other groups and Steve. Until recently Steve was the tenor for the well known gospel group, Gold City. He gave that position up to start a solo ministry in order to be with his wife and two children more.
~~ The life of a gospel singer in a traveling group can be very difficult. The groups stay on the road much of the year and it makes family time difficult. That may be why so many of the gospel groups are family groups. Darrell didn't luck out about that when he married me. I can hum a good tune in the kitchen, but it's unlikely anybody will want to hum along with me. But Darrell has had the itch to sing gospel music all his life and has been singing with various groups for over 35 years. He and the other guys in the Patriot Quartet now are weekend warriors who travel all over for Saturday and Sunday concerts. You can check them out on their website and even listen to some of their songs. http://www.patriotquartet.com/
~~ But back to Steve Ladd and what I was planning to talk about tonight. Steve said that when he was eight years old his parents took him to hear Gold City in concert and he came home saying that someday he would sing tenor for that group. That's quite a goal for a kid of eight to focus in on. He was already singing with his family in churches. His dad was a traveling evangelist. So he knew about singing. Then he said when he was a young teen, people kept telling him that his voice was going to change, become deeper. So every night, he prayed that the Lord would let his voice stay high. Else how would he be able to do as he planned and sing tenor for Gold City. The Lord certainly honored his prayer and his dreams. He can sing some high notes and he did sing them with Gold City just as he began planning to do as a kid. You can tell by looking at him what a nice guy he is, so if you ever get a chance to go hear him, take it. You'll be blessed.
~~ His story made me think about how I had some of the same feelings when I was a kid. Not to sing for Gold City. That's for sure. Or anybody else. But to write. I knew when I was ten that I wanted to write. And not just write. I wanted to write stories that people would read. You can't imagine what a big dream that was for that little country girl who didn't know anything about anything and especially nothing about how to become a "Writer" with a captial W. Still, I never thought about it being something I couldn't do. I just took up my pen and began writing. Later I sought whatever avenues I could to figure out how to write better. That wasn't an easy thing for me as a young wife and mother with limited resources. Translation - no money for dreams. Yet I never put down my pen. At least not completely. I chiseled out time for my writing, sneaking minutes and hours when I could between my many other chores. I kept count of those hours and minutes in a writing journal. That helped keep me focused and accountable for my time.
~~ For years - even after I was published - I was hesitant to say out loud that I was a writer. It sounded presumptuous. Like I was claiming something I had no right to claim. Or maybe it simply meant so much to me to reach that goal that I didn't want to claim it too soon. Even now with nineteen books published and several more in the works to be published, I'm shy about telling people I'm a writer. And yet that's still my goal, my dream. To write books people will want to read. But in order to read your book, people have to know about your book. Nowadays, writers are supposed to do everything they can to collect reading friends. So you have to tell people about your books. I guess that's why I have this poem by Sir William Gilbert written on my desk calendar.
If you wish in this world to advance
Your merits you're bound to enhance.
You must stir it and stump it
And blow your own trumpet
Or trust me, you haven't a chance.
~~ I still don't blow a lot of trumpets. But I do talk about my writing and my books every time someone asks me to. And I talk to you. Thanks for listening. And reading.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So Many Books...

~~ How tall is your "to read" stack? Or maybe your "already read" stack is the tallest? In this stack I've got a mix. Some I've read. Some I hope to read soon and some I've had a while that keep getting pushed to the bottom of the stack by new books. There are even some I might give away in a book giveaway in the weeks ahead. How do you decide what to read next? Do you make your stack with the most favored book next in line on top or do you like to shuffle through your stacks to see which book grabs your interest on any particular day? I'm definitely a shuffler.
~~ Another question - do you read only one book at a time or do you have several going at once? I used to read only one at a time, but then I decided I could dip into more than one book and manage to keep the stories straight. Usually one of the books is nonfiction or not as compelling a page turner as the other. Right now I'm finishing up Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Somehow it got pushed aside before I got to the end and I'm just now picking it back up. I finished Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier after the Christmas madness was over and now I'm about halfway through Brother Odd by Dean Koontz. In addition I have a couple of devotional books with bookmarks holding my place. And I've got dozens more books of all types I'm anxious to read. But I also have a book I'm anxious to write. That means I've got to read a research book or two. There's always a book to read and nearly always a chore to keep you away from that book you're dying to finish.
~~ Do you keep a list of the books you read so that at the end of the year you can count them up? I've seen some amazing reports of books read on Facebook. One reader said over 400 and another said over 600. Think about it. That's more than one a day for the first reader and almost two a day for the second reader. Even if I counted every time I read A Monster at the End of This Book starring sweet, lovable Grover and didn't just count it once, I wouldn't hit 400, much less 600. As you may have guessed, my grandkids love that book almost as much as I enjoy reading it aloud. But I do admire anyone who manages to read so many books. I don't only admire them, I'm amazed by them.
~~ Do you do book reviews for fun or for pay? I've done a few book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I don't find it easy. You have to condense this several hundred page story down to a few sentences without putting in any spoilers. At least I wouldn't want to put spoilers in any review I did. Then you have to say what you liked or didn't like. Of course since any reviews I've done have been just for fun, I don't post reviews of books I don't like. Mostly because I know there are other people out there who like things I don't like, who enjoy stories I don't enjoy. I certainly wouldn't want them to be put off reading a book they would find entertaining by something I wrote. Plus since I'm a writer, I know how bad it feels to read a review that slams your book.
~~ You can get a dozen favorable, even gushing reviews and that one review that says you write like a kid who flunked kindergarten is the one that plays over and over in your head. Which is crazy. But then who ever said writers weren't crazy - at least some of the time. If we weren't crazy, we wouldn't read those reviews. We'd just trust our own instincts and bask in the loving words of our friends and relatives. Ahh, but we want the other pats on the back too. We want everybody to love our characters and their stories as much as we do. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.
~~ I'm doing edits again. This time on the book that will come out next January. It's got some great characters that surely everybody will love. You see hope is always alive in a writer's heart.
~~ One of those hopes is that you have a great rest of the week and some restful hours to make a dent in your "to read" stack.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You Know You Live in the Boonies when..

You know you live in the boonies when the only tracks on your road are from the mailman's car. You know their slogan. Neither rain nor snow, nor sleet nor dark of night or something like that will delay the mail. There have been a few times the mailman didn't make it back our road, but most of the time we can count on the mailman to show up.
~~We actually didn't have all that much snow. About three inches. Okay, you guys in the north, stop snickering. Three inches is a lot for us. Especially when it's so cold. Well, it didn't get as cold as they said it was going to, but we thought it was going to be extra cold. That the wind was going to blow and make huge drifts of our three inches.
~~That has happened around here. Not with three inches. We had maybe eighteen or twenty inches of snow that time, but our lane had drifts several feet high over it for weeks. It snowed in January and it was March before a vehicle made it up our lane. My husband pulled the car out through the field to the main road with the tractor so he could go to work. We either walked to the road or rode the tractor down if we had to go anywhere. The kids didn't go to school for a month and we took turns reading The Lord of the Rings books. Cabin fever was definitely going around that year. At that time we were the only people living back our little lane. Now there are several houses back here and one of the high banks on the side of the lane has been bulldozed away so the snow can't drift in there and stay now the way it did then. But that was a winter to remember. We had three of those type winters in a row, but lately three inches has been more the norm around here. Of course last winter it was three inches of ice. I'll take the snow and more of it any day over that ice.
~~Snowy days make good days to write. Or they should. But last week wasn't a good writing week for me. I typed words, but I think maybe all of them may give my delete key exercise. Nothing seemed to be going the way it should as I tried to get started back on my work in progress after I finished the edits for The Seeker. Or should I say work in the doldrums? And then I see on Facebook where this or that writer friend has written several thousand words in one day. Maybe before breakfast!
~~I know I'll work through this. I just have to keep on keeping on. Keep writing. Keep deleting what doesn't work and keep writing some more. I did get a little of a reprieve as I'm going to have to stop again to do some editing on my book scheduled for release next January. Maybe that will give my brain time to come up with some new exciting scenes and before you know it, I'll be the writer on Facebook saying how many words I got before breakfast. Well, probably not, but at least I'll be getting some words down and the story told. I love to tell stories, but sometimes I have to dig for the right words to do that.
~~Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday. That you're somewhere warm and if you have snow, you're enjoying the way it makes everything look so fresh and beautiful. I put this quote by that prolific Anonymous in the Sunday bulletin last week. "Kindness is like snow - it beautifies everything it covers." Wishing you much kindness. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Editing The Seeker

~~After Christmas and New Year's, it's time to get back into a working routine. Not that I wasn't working during the holidays. I was working double duty - trying to get things done for Christmas and working on the galleys for my book, The Seeker, due out this summer.
~~I like editing and trying to make my story the best it can be. I want to catch all the awkward phrasing or places that are fuzzy and might not make sense to the reader. I appreciate editors who point things out that I sometimes miss. For instance in one of my Hollyhill books, I had a character reading a mystery writer whose books weren't published until after the time of my story. I should have checked that out, but I didn't. I'm glad the editor had a sharp eye.
~~Of course that's not all an editor notices. There are always places that can be written better. New ways to describe something or better words to bring a scene to life. The editor points out some of these, but I always see more and am glad for the chance to make my writing better. My goal as an author is to somehow write so smoothly and crisply that the words will disappear and the reader will be swept up into the story and live it along with the characters without thinking about the words he or she is reading. That's the way I like the books I read to be. I want to be totally absorbed in the story.
~~And so The Seeker is off back to the publishing company to go through the next phase of making its way to the stores' shelves. It's been available on Amazon and other internet sites for pre-sale for a couple of months now. I hope readers will like the characters, one a Southern belle and the other an illustrator for newspapers during the Civil War. Some interesting history with an extra generous helping of romance - even if part of the story takes place in my Shaker village, Harmony Hill, where such romance is strictly forbidden.
~~I also had to do a titling page for my book, tentatively titled Angel Sister, that is scheduled to release early in 2011. I'm excited about the story, but those titling pages are difficult for me. They always ask for a couple of snappy sentences to describe the book. I struggle trying to condense a novel down into a couple of sentences. Snappy sentences. I finally came up with two sentences. Not sure they snapped all that much. Here they are to see what you think.
~~"Nadine and Victor Merritt's love has survived their fathers' opposition and a World War, but the Great Depression is threatening to break their hearts. Their daughter, Kate, is determined to save her family and protect the little girl she found abandoned on the church steps even if it means defying her grandfathers, befriending the village odd woman, and being in the middle of a raging forest fire."
~~My editor would probably tell me that last sentence runs on a little too long, but I had so much to say. I always have so much to say. Guess if you've been reading these blog posts, you already knew that.
~~I plan to send out a newsletter soon, so if you'd like to sign up to be sure you get one, go to my website and click on the sign up for the newsletter link or send me a message. I'm trying to come up with a new giveaway that will make some of you smile even if the weather does turn frightful wherever you live.
~~I've been dwelling on happiness this last week, so here's a happiness quote to end tonight.

"Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad." Norm Papernick

~~Well, at least we're laughing and the Bible says laughter worketh good like a medicine.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happiness is...


~~Happy New Year! That's been the greeting of choice for the people I've met the last few days. Everybody is wishing everybody else a happy year. Then I heard a radio program this afternoon where a man about to be a daddy was saying that the question he would probably ask his daughter the most was "Are you happy?" We want the people around us to be happy. We want our children to grow up happy. We want to be happy. There are even lists that say what we need for happiness.

  • Happiness is a warm puppy!

  • Happiness is a hot cup of cocoa!

  • Happiness is seeing a new book in print!

  • Happiness is finding your true love!

  • Happiness is curling up in front of a fire with a new book!

  • Happiness is a good review or two!

  • Happiness is winning the tournament - meeting a deadline - paying all the bills - gifts under the Christmas tree - a baby's laugh - going to the circus - hitting a homerun - blowing out all the candles on a birthday cake.

~~I could go on and on and I'm sure you could too. We could make lists of things that make us happy all day, but is that what happiness really is? Is that how we get happiness or do those things simply raise our happiness awareness?


~~When I researched the Shakers for my Shaker books, I came across a Shaker saying about happiness.

Happiness does not so much depend on circumstances as we think. Within our souls the foundations must abide.

~~While not all who went to the Shaker villages were able to find that happiness, many of the Shakers did seek it diligently and along the way they offered good advice on what was needed for happiness. They didn't think it was something we could bring to ourselves by getting more things, living in more comfort, or having an easy life. You know the saying - Money can't buy happiness. (Not a Shaker saying, by the way.) Few of us would argue with that although we might joke that we'd like to go shopping and give it a try. But the Shakers didn't think happiness was something we could get from other people or our individual circumstances. Not unless our own foundations of happiness are strong within us.
~~But how to go about establishing that foundation of happiness? The Shakers thought they could do it by separating themselves from the world and living as brothers and sisters with no familial stress to cause them to sin. Some people think they can do it by accumulating more things. Others think they can by getting rid of all things and living life at its most basic. There are times we look to others for our happiness and times when they look to us for the same. But I think our foundations of happiness has to be something independent of others and things. We have to build it within ourselves as we figure out who we are and what we believe. We certainly need others for happiness and a warm puppy doesn't hurt, but the foundation has to be there within us before we're able to consistently answer yes to that question, "Are you happy?"

~~Along with that warm puppy, a good review of my books always raises my happiness awareness. I was gifted with a few of those this week. You can check them out at http://virginiasmith.org/ (go to her journal and then book reviews) and http://tnchristianreader.blogspot.com/2010/01/shaker-series-by-ann-h-gabhart.html. It's such a boost to know that someone liked your book enough to share that news with others readers.
~~Hope your happiness foundation is solid and strong all through 2010. Happy New Year! Thank you for being a reading friend.