Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Questions Would You Ask?

~~I enjoyed a night with the Southeast Christian Book Club in Louisville on Monday. Here I am with a few of the ladies who got together with me for some extra book talk and fun before the meeting. I was so busy talking during the meeting that I didn't get any other pictures, but we're a happy looking bunch, aren't we? Talking about books makes me smile for sure. Especially when so many people are saying so many nice things about my book.
~~I told the book club members I was excited because I had fresh ears. I could tell all my old stories about how I got started as a writer and they'd all be new to them. It was fun giving them a glimpse of one writer's journey toward publication and beyond. And then it was even more fun when we got to the question and answer time. That's always my favorite part of any talk because I don't have to prepare for that. There's no way to prepare for that, and that's why it's fun. You never know what people might ask and you have to be ready with an answer. I usually have some kind of answer, but of course, I don't mind saying "I don't know." That's always an answer that will work.
~~A popular question is how do you work. Every day or just when you're feeling inspired? Half my books, maybe all of them would have never gotten written if I had to wait for my Muse to kick in. He's an onery sucker who most of the time refuses to show up until I make myself go on and start hitting computer keys even when I don't know what I want to write. But I have to write something. Anything. And then I hope part of it will be my story talking or happening might be a better word.
~~Somebody usually asks if I know what's going to happen in the story before I start. Some writers do, I think, but not me. I might have an idea of where my characters are going to go, by I often don't know how they're going to get there. It happens as I write. Then Monday night someone wanted to know how I knew when it was the end. A good question. And I didn't have a very good answer for her. Usually I just know. Once all the major problems are resolved, the loose ends tied up then - as I read once - it's time to get out of Dodge. When the story's over, ride off into the sunset. Don't linger describing the beautiful hues. Readers have imaginations and they enjoy using them. I want to let them.
~~At book clubs, there are usually more questions about what happens to the characters in the years ahead. Those are good questions to hear because it means my characters came to life for the readers. They want them to live on past the story. So it's sort of fun to speculate on what happens after that final page in the book.
~~That's some of the questions from the other night. What question would you like to ask your favorite author? I might think up a few dozen for a few dozen favorite writers. But first I need to ask that stubborn Muse a few questions about this story I'm writing. That's who needs to be giving me answers. So guess I'd better put my fingers on the keyboard and start working on Lacey's story. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Another Favorite Sunday

~~What's your favorite way to spend Sunday? We had a good one here with a touch of Spring after the snow last week. Got up in the fifties. Felt like it had been July since it had been that warm. Well, October anyway. The thing about Kentucky weather is that it's changeable and so it's unusual not to have some pre-season warm days in January and February. We sneaked one in here on the last and it looks as if the kids in our county might have to go to school all week long. It's been a while since that happened.

~~So today I enjoyed the sunshine on a Sunday. And I thought about how I spend Sundays. Church, of course and tonight I went to hear my husband's Southern Gospel group, the Patriot Quartet, sing at a church here in town. That's them in the picture. My husband's the one singing bass. Or since I guess it's a little hard to tell which one that is in a picture, the one on the right. I've spent a lot of Sundays at gospel music concerts.

~~When I was a little girl I spent most of my Sundays playing with my cousins as our parents took turns visiting back and forth. We had a ball and in fact that's when I started writing. I made up a story with me and my sister and my cousin as kid detectives solving a mystery out on the farm. That was fun. And started me down the writing path that I'm still going down all these years later. It's a path that's been frustrating at times but one I've never considered stepping away from. That's because I love stringing words together to tell stories. Even when it's hard. And it is hard a lot of the time. But then there are times when the characters come to life and the stories come together and then that sweet reader somewhere tells you that favorite line "I couldn't put it down."

~~But I've not spent too many Sundays writing except for a few hours doing journal entries. Another kind of writing I enjoy and one that is never hard because in a journal anything goes - as some of you who have been reading this on-line journal surely have noticed. You probably wonder what bunny rabbit I'm going to chase after next. And if you stick with me on those rabbit chases, thank you. If you don't, then you're probably not reading this. But that's another great thing to do on a Sunday - read. That's a great thing to do any time. And be with family. We did that a lot when our kids were little. They got to grow up playing with their cousins the same as I did. And now I go see my Mom on the Sunday afternoons I'm not traveling with the quartet to wherever they're singing or my own kids aren't here visiting.

~~I guess I think of Sundays as days for church and family. Good days. I hope you had a good Sunday today and that you can think back to many Sundays of good times. If you've got a minute, it might be fun to hear your favorite Sunday times.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Club Fun

~~Here I am in the beautiful Brookhaven Christian Book Store last week after a visit to the local book club. Sharon, in the middle, and her daughter, Kristi, have a great store in the London, KY area. I'm there on the right holding my book.
~~Sharon enjoys keeping handcrafted items from local artists for sale in her store. She has hand carved pieces, paintings, photography, pottery and jewelry to mention a few. But best of all she keeps those shelves of Kentucky books front and center in her store. I feel fortunate to have earned a little shelf space in her store beside other Kentucky authors.
~~Of course my books, The Believer and The Outsider are not only written by a KY author - that's right, me - they have a lot of Kentucky history as background for the story and the setting is a Shaker village based on research I've done on the Pleasant Hill Shaker village near Harrodsburg. A beautiful place if you have a chance to go by and take the tour and enjoy their restaurant. Maybe next week I'll use a Shaker picture here. There are pictures of some of the buildings on my website in the gallery.
~~Anyway it's great to have Kentucky bookstores featuring Kentucky writers. And it's extra fun when book clubs in the area read my book and let me come enjoy their meeting with them when they're not too far away to drive. The London Club, The Tea Leaves Club, knows how to have a fun meeting. They meet for lunch and then discuss the book they read that month and share what they liked or perhaps didn't like about the story. This club reads only inspirational fiction and they had some great books lined up for the next few months. Of course, with me there they got to hear the story of why I wrote about the Shakers and they were curious about how I wrote and when I started writing. General writer information, but something that seems to fascinate most readers. I know I always get a kick out of reading or hearing a writer's "how I got started" or "why I write" stories. The book club ladies were a fun group and I enjoyed sharing a couple of hours with them. What could be better than a great lunch and talking about books you've read?
~~I'm headed to Louisville for another book club on Monday night at the Southeast Christian Church. That is if Old Man Winter will quit blowing snow down on us here in Kentucky. We've had snow on the ground practically all month and some of us are ready for it to melt. The grandkids were here today and we tried to build a snowman. I told my granddaughter all we ended up building was a very small mountain, but she stuck sticks in the sides of it and declared it a snowman anyway.
~~So if more snow doesn't interfere I'll be telling a whole new bunch of people all about how I ended up a writer or maybe in my case how I started out a writer since I've been writing since I was ten. That's sure to be fun. Fresh ears for my old stories. ;-) This book club has a few more members than the London one, but that just means more people who love reading and books. I can't wait to meet them.
~~If you are in a book club I'd love to meet you and your reading friends too. I've done several book clubs by phone. Not as much fun as sitting down to lunch or tea with them, but still fun to hear their questions about my stories. And if you're in the London, KY area and want a beautiful place to shop for some unique items and maybe a Kentucky book, go by the Brookhaven Christian Book Store and enjoy.
~~Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gifts of Love

Valentine's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. A day for love. I think it moved up on my favorite list when my children were in elementary school and I was room mother for their school holiday parties. I liked it that all the kids got the same number of Valentines so they could all feel like the kid everybody liked. For years I kept a shoebox decorated with red paper hearts my oldest son made for his Valentines one year and each year he added more to it. It's probably still stuck back in a closet somewhere because I could never throw so much innocent love in the trash.

~~But I suppose the real Valentines are between sweeties. I remember when I was a teenager and my sister's boyfriend would always give her one of those fancy ribbon and silk covered heart shaped boxes of chocolates. Half the candy in those boxes wasn't fit to eat, but my young heart thought those boxes were a beautiful, extravagant expression of love. My sweetie didn't have the money for those kind of Valentines then, but I knew I wanted to stick with him anyway. And now we've been together a lot of years and he still brings me flowers. Sometimes even when it's not Valentine's Day.

~~Anyway I got to thinking about romantic gifts and which I remembered best. While I remember Valentine's Day roses and flowers and once one of those big chocolate bars, I suppose my favorite all time gift was a cockerspaniel pup. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I'm a dog lover. We'd always had dogs, but none that we'd ever had to buy. We didn't have money to buy dogs. We just got the giveaway kind and they were always great dogs. But Darrell knew I loved cockerspaniels. Not a breed you're likely to find puppies for free, so to surprise me one year on my birthday he sold his class ring and bought this little blonde cockerspaniel puppy. Jody was the cutest little puppy and had a way of making me feel loved. Any time I came home even from the shortest trip he danced and whined and yelped his happiness. As a tiny pup, he'd lay on my foot while I was standing at the counter cooking supper. He was a good dog and without a doubt the most romantic gift I ever received even if it wasn't on Valentine's Day and even if he didn't come in a ribbon covered box.

~~What about you? Have you ever gotten a romantic gift that warms your heart to even think about it now? I hope so. I hope you've had so many that you have trouble deciding on your favorite.

~~Reading friends are one of my nicest gifts now. Thank you for reading this and for reading my books. Remember to send me a message from my website or leave a comment here to get your name in the drawing for the book giveaway the end of February.

~~Happy Valentine's Day!! May love follow you around like my little cockerspaniel pup used to follow me, always ready to land in your lap every time you give it half a chance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love Letters

~~Did you ever write any love letters? Or get a love letter? Do you like to read other people's letters? My daughter has been reading the love letters her mother and father-in-law wrote each other while they were dating. She says they were so in love.
~~When my husband and I were dating, he was off at college and I was still in high school. We wrote letters back and forth all the time. My daughter won't be able to read our letters because those letters got lost over the years, but now I sort of wish they hadn't. Reading back through them would have taken me back to when I was a different person. That's what reading old letters can do. Take you back. Show what was then.
~~I have used letters in my books. Some actual letters like the ones Jerry wrote his mother in my nonfiction book, Angels at the Crossroads. Those letters were invaluable to me as I tried to get inside Jerry's head to know what he was going through during his hard times in prison so that I could write his story. And the letters I include in the book just as they were written by Jerry help the reader see how Jerry changed from a mixed up kid to a Christian man ready to accept responsibility for what he'd done and start living a better life even while he was still in prison.
~~When I was writing my upcoming book, Angel Sister, that will be published in 2011, I read a book of letters a soldier wrote home to his wife from World War I that helped me write about my character's memory of being in that war. And in my Shaker book, The Seeker, that will be released in July, I have a whole chapter of nothing but letters between the two main characters. Not exactly love letters since one of the characters is living in a Shaker village and love letters would definitely be a rule breaker for a Shaker, but the hints of love are there for the discerning reader.
~~I love letters. I love writing letters and getting letters. I probably have every letter I ever received from a reader. Guess that lets you know the mailbags weren't too full coming to my door. But I can' t say that I have all my readers' e-mails. I've had too many computer crashes that chewed up the e-mails and took them off to the computer graveyard. And while e-mails might have replaced the everyday letter and perhaps even love letters, you have to think that it's unlikely any bundles of those e-mails will be found in the attics of the future just waiting to take us back into another life. Then again, perhaps our attics will be electronic and the bundles of e-mails even more accessible to the reader who wants a glimpse of the past.
~~But there's something special about taking pen in hand and writing "I love you." Or "I loved your book." Or "I'm proud of you." Or "Roses are red. Violets are blue. Angels in heaven know I love you." Or "thank you for reading." I do, you know - thank you for reading.
~~P.S. You've still got time to get in the drawing for my book giveaway the end of the month. Just send me an e-mail from my website or leave a comment. Thank all of you who have already entered. It's always so much fun hearing from you.
~~P.P.S. I'll be at a book club in London, KY Friday. I love book clubs. I'll have to send them a letter telling them so.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Icicles and Snow Cream

~~We missed most of the snow this go around. Barely got enough snow here to think about it but they got slammed or maybe I should say buried to the north and east of us. I like snow once or twice a year but then I'm ready to move on toward sunshine and flowers. But even though we didn't get the snow, we got rain and then cold so we had plenty of icicles. I remember when I was a kid, we would have long icicles hanging down from the edges of the roof and we thought it was a treat to break them off and eat them. Then we'd go find a patch of extra clean snow and scoop up a pan full and Mom would make snow cream. Does anybody dare do that anymore? Or are we all too afraid of pollutants and acid rain and who knows what being in the snow? If I could have reached the icicles in my picture I might have tried a lick or two which doesn't make sense since I would never even consider taking a drink out of the creek even if the water looked pristine. I'd be too worried about those nasty little invisible germs. Maybe I think the freezing gets rid of those germs.
~~I've been researching the background time period for the book I'm working on. It was close to the time of one of the cholera outbreaks in Kentucky where hundreds of people died. For a long time nobody could figure out what caused cholera. They thought it might be bad air and the townspeople who could would flee to the country. Of course it was later determined that it was caused by contaminated water supplies. The Shakers worried about cholera breaking out in their village when it was raging in the nearby towns, but because the Shakers were so forward thinking in regard to cleanliness, they were spared the cholera deaths and many other epidemics of the time. Their leader, Mother Ann, had written that good spirits would not live where there was dirt. That was one of the reasons they were so adamant about keeping everything clean and orderly.
~~Thank heavens we don't have to worry about that sort of epidemic these days. But wouldn't it be nice to be able to go out and scoop up some snow and not have to worry about it being polluted? Wouldn't it be nice if we could still climb up into the mountains and see clear to yonder? Wouldn't it nice if no fishermen had to worry about the fish in the rivers being safe to eat? Wouldn't it be nice if nobody threw trash out along our country roads or on our city streets?
~~We're still living in a beautiful country with many blessings all around. Hope you're having a great Super Bowl Sunday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Wirebound Notebook and a Pen

~~A wirebound notebook and an inkpen are looking better and better to me tonight. My computer has a headache and that's giving me a bigger headache and making me think fondly back to the good old days before electronics took over our lives. When I started writing back in the olden days, I loved filling up wirebound notebooks (some of the relics are in the picture above) using fountain pens filled out of an ink bottle of blue black ink. Alas, I no longer have any of those pens, so that why there's a ballpoint pen in the photo. What is it about writers that makes us obsess over just the right pen and color ink?
~~Could be the right pen and paper wakes up the Muse inside you. I loved getting a new notebook and thinking about all the words I was going to write on its pages. You could fill up that kind of notebook. And I did. The stories inside me had to spill out somewhere and the notebooks were enticingly blank and waiting. Those blank pages never gave me the shivers. Those blank pages were begging for the words tumbling out of my head. It didn't matter all that much what the words were. I was writing for the fun of it - just a rush of story sliding from my brain down my arm and out my fingers into the pen and onto the lined page. No rewriting. No worry about what anybody was going to think. Nobody ever read those stories but me. So there was just the magic of words forming a story.
~~The desire to be published didn't come until I got a little older. With that desire came the need to improve my writing, to polish the words and sentences, but more importantly to try to tell stories other people would want to read. A good story, that's what readers want and that's what I wanted to write then. That's what I still want to write today all these years and many stories later.
~~In the process of writing my stories, I've gone from the notebooks and pen to typewriters to word processors. The computers are nice. Typos are easy to correct. Words can flow across the blank screen with nearly effortless typing. When the computer works. But when it gets a headache and maybe even gets, heaven forbid, a virus, then a writer has problems. Problems I'm having as my computer threw a little fit Monday and has been sulking ever since. The spell check has disappeared. The thesaurus won't come up. It sticks its tongue out at me and says find your own word and didn't you learn to spell in school? Thank my teachers I did.
~~But what strikes the most fear in a writer's heart is that it might just go black and not fire up again. That's because this writer doesn't really want to go back to those notebooks and pens.
The ten-cent store where I used to buy bottles of that blue black ink is long gone, replaced by Wal-Mart stores. And no editor is going to read notebook writing. They want files they can get across the internet with a few clicks of a mouse. There's no going back to the simpler times when you could look at a typewriter and see it needed a new ribbon or had a broken key. Now you look at a screen that says stuff like "fatal error" or "we need to shut down now" or "we can't find a solution to this error" or "throw the thing out the window." Oh wait, maybe that last is something I feel like saying sometimes. But I won't throw it out the window. I'll keep trying to figure out ways to keep it humming so I can keep putting words on that blank screen to tell my stories.
~~Hope all your computers are humming and clicking and doing all the things good computers are supposed to do. Thanks for reading.