Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Counting Butterflies and Editing Galleys

The butterfly counts not months, but moments, and has time enough. ... Rabindranath Tagore

We've had a beautiful summer here in Kentucky - the first one in several years where we had enough rain to keep the fields green into August. I took a walk this week through our hayfield before my husband mowed it and counted butterflies. Well, not actually how many butterflies I saw, but how many butterflies of different colors, sizes and markings. The past few dry summers, it has seemed as if butterflies were becoming scarce. But this year they have rebounded. I counted almost twenty different looking butterflies in my mile and a half walk. The one in the picture is not one of them. I didn't have my camera with me this week so this is a butterfly I captured in my lens earlier this summer on a thistle bloom. But on my walk I saw little white and yellow butterflies. I saw Monarchs and lots of black ones with yellow spots. I spotted one black with blue spots. I saw small orange butterflies with big spots and other little orange butterflies that wouldn't stay still long enough for me to see their spots. 

I didn't look up any varieties. You'll have to use your imagination or go out in the fields and see what's flying around your way. I was just having fun as I gave my mind a break from editing my book, Words Spoken True that will be out next February. I like this story. It's different from my Shaker stories and from my family stories too. It's a true historical romance. The 1855 Louisville history is a great backdrop for the romance. Suffice it to say, the setting is not my Harmony Hill Shaker village. There are no rules against romance in this story. The edits so far have been minor - mostly rewording scenes to make them read smoother and to cut out those pet words that I seem to love to overuse. 

But those of you who love that Harmony Hill Shaker Village setting, don't despair. The next thing I edit will be The Gifted, my fifth Shaker book. I saw the cover last week and all it needs is a butterfly. :-) Actually I have my heroine, Jessamine, thinking about caterpillars turning into butterflies in that story. Sometimes all the threads come together. 

Thank you so much for reading, and I do very much appreciate all of you who shared comments about what you like to see in newsletters. My birthday giveaway will be open for entries until the end of September, so if you haven't entered and would like to, either send me an e-mail or leave a comment here saying you'd like to be entered. You can check my website or the archives here to see what you might win. I'll be posting about it again too before I do the drawing for winners. 

If you want an extra chance to win a copy of The Blessed, you can go to Trish Perry's Reading, Writing and the Stuff In-Between and leave a comment in answer to my question there. It's a question my dog and animal loving friends might have fun answering. 

Last but not least, here's a quote I found about butterflies. It sounds like something my character, Jessamine might say.

" How does one become a butterfly?"  she asked. 
" You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar."   (Unknown author)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Week of Encouragement

Lynwood Montell & Ann at a Gathering of Authors

"There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend." (Katharine Butler Hathaway)

It's not been my easiest summer with Mom needing so much extra care and with that deadline I had to chase with the Shaker book I was writing that didn't seem to want to end. I did find those elusive words "the end," and The Gifted turned out to be the story I was wanting to tell. Things are still not easy as we try to arrange schedules so someone can be with Mom all the time, but we're getting it done.

But with so many things going one, it can be easy to get discouraged. I am too blessed to ever have reason to be discouraged, but that doesn't mean I don't get a little down in the dumps on occasion. Sometimes it seems I should be doing better or getting more done or something. I think I ought to be superwoman every day instead of just now and again. And the truth is, I lost my superwoman cape some years back.

Ah, but then there will be a day when good news comes knocking on your e-mail door. Nothing major. No fantastic new contracts or best-seller lists. But little things. A favorable comment from an editor. A bit of praise. A writer friend spotting a stack of my books in an airport book store in California. Lunch with a couple of writing buddies. Friends reading my newsletter. Other friends leaving comments here on my blog to let me know they're reading my books. A few hugs from my writing friends at a Gathering of Authors on Saturday.

William Lynwood Montell even took his picture with me. Lynwood is at every book event in Kentucky and he's always smiling and he always has a new book. He's a storyteller. The last few years he's been collecting stories about various professions and compiling them into wonderful books. He tells stories about doctors, lawyers, one-room school teachers, and even funeral homes, not to mention ghosts, and that's only some of the subjects he's shared in his books. But the very best thing about Lynwood is how he encourages other writers. Of course he called me "Lucille" all day, but he was smiling the whole time. I think I may try that the next time I can't remember somebody's name. You see I thought he was joking, but then who knows? Maybe not.

Next week I may not get those encouraging words. Maybe it will be my time to share encouraging words instead of receive them. To pass along the good feel of encouragement. I may have that opportunity Monday morning when I do a short interview on WBCL Radio at 10:39 with Lynne Ford. She's going to ask me about Angel Sister.  One thing sure about that story and all my stories is that I want the storylines to be an encouragement to those who read them. I want people to see my characters overcoming problems with faith and love the way my Merritt family did in Angel Sister

I hope you will be encouraged in whatever you are doing this week and that someone will give you the gift of a word of encouragement. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Newsletters - Do You Like Them?

Do you get any newsletters via e-mail on a regular basis? A lot of authors now send out newsletters or news bursts - including me. I do an occasional newsletter that might be a little more occasional now than in the past because I signed up for a newsletter service that makes it easier to send out a newsletter. Before it was a real hassle. Now I can put the newsletter together and do a few clicks and it flies out to hundreds of people. But I always wonder if some of them will want to get my news. Do they read it or simply hit the delete key? 

Of course anyone can unsubscribe at any time, but I have to admit that I get newsletters or ads from various places that I don't read but I don't unsubscribe either. I think maybe I'll read the next one when I have that extra hour in my day. There is so much out there on the net to read. Articles and blogs and Facebook and Twitter. It can make a person's head swim and sometimes make her feel like she's drowning in words. I want to read it all. I really do. And I very much appreciate people taking the time to read what I put out there to be read. But I know there have to be times when you need that extra hour in the day too. 

Just in case you do have that extra hour today, I'm wondering what you think about newsletters. I asked this on FB and had a couple of good answers. One wanted to know more about the writer's personal everyday life and not just have books pitched at her. Those are the ones I delete without reading too. The first time I get info on a book, that's good. I pay attention. The tenth time I get info on the same book and the same info, I'm losing patience. I also have to admit I lose patience if I get something every day or nearly every day from the same person. I admire his or her diligence, but nearly identical e-mails every day??

I'm sounding really cranky here, aren't I? I promise I'm not a cranky person. I love getting e-mails and comments from readers and friends. That never makes me lose patience. 

So if you get newsletters or if you think you might like to get newsletters from authors, what would you like to read in those letters? Of course, you're going to get info about new releases. That's why authors do newsletters although I have to admit I just put one together without mentioning any of my titles. Maybe I need to rethink that newsletter!! Do you like snippets of reviews in newsletters? Do you like pictures? I put pictures in mine - sometimes of me, sometimes of my family or dogs. Do you like the letters to be short and sweet, or long and newsy? What do you like? 

I suppose I could ask you the same about blogs. But then it could be that I can only do this sharing the news one way in a newsy letter to my reading friends. 

Thanks for reading my letter today and if you'd like to read my newsletter and you're not on my e-mail list, just go to Ann's Website and click on the newsletter link. I'll add you to my newsletter friends.  Then, every so often you'll get some news from down here on the farm and information about winning a book or two. Of course, you get that here too. A newsletter twice a week. Hope you're not losing patience - with me!! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Days to Celebrate in August

Did you know August was "Admit You're Happy" month? And that's not all. It's also "National Catfish Month," "National Picnic Month," and here's one for those of us who try to put a little romance into our stories "Romance Awareness Month." That's just the things we're celebrating all month. Then we have the weeks. Week 2 was National Smile Week and Week 3 Friendship Week. With all those smiles and romantic awareness, friendship week was no problem at all. 

But keep going and you can find something to celebrate every day. I liked the one on August 8. "Sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day." I have been in that spot. Way too much zucchini and no way to use it all up. I used some of that feeling in my first Hollyhill book, The Scent of Lilac when Jocie complains about all the cabbage and zucchini the church people share with her preacher dad. 

Then after you got rid of that zucchini, the next day on the 9th, you could sit down and pick up a book to enjoy Booklover's Day. Creamsickle Day was on the 14th and Relaxation Day on the 15th. The two I was really sorry I missed were the 16th - Tell a Joke Day and the 18th - Bad Poetry Day. I could have had a blast telling jokes. I know at least two - punchlines and everything. LOL. And there's nobody any better at bad poetry. I proved that in the opening scene of Angel Sister when I let Victor spout some poetry after he'd been out drinking. I'm going to mark my calendar next year and my friends better watch out in 2012. 

Tomorrow - Monday - is Be an Angel Day. I'll have to celebrate that with the way Lorena begged Kate to be "her angel" in Angel Sister. That day was first celebrated in 1993 by people doing acts of kindness and helping one another. 

Some of these days have been recognized nationally and others are just somebody's brainchild and attempt to entertain the cyberworld. So what day would you come up with if you could name something you wanted to celebrate one day in August? I'm picking "Go to the Creek Day." That's where I was in the picture up top.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to be an angel on Monday. And if you missed out on some of those other days, just catch up next week. Smile while you're eating that creamsickle and relaxing, but try not to drip the ice cream on that book you're loving. Maybe it'll be a book of funny poetry. Bad funny poetry that you can turn into a joke. And if all that's too much bother, just go to the creek and try to catch that catfish. Well, you might not catch a catfish in a creek, but you might catch some fun. Enjoy every day!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In a Pickle

" In a pickle” – To be in a pickle is to find oneself in a difficult position. It seems that in 1611, Shakespeare was the first to use the actual phrase “in a pickle” in The Tempest, although the references to “ill pickles” and “this pickle” can be traced back to the 1500s or even earlier. Some of the info I read said the word pickle first referred to the spices or concoctions that did the pickling instead of to the vegetables such as cucumbers that were pickled. 

So now you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about the origin of "in a pickle." But I enjoy finding out why we say the things we do. Plus when you're a writer of historical fiction, you need to make sure you don't use a phrase that wasn't in common usage at the time of your story. Used to be the answers were harder to find, but now the internet pops up dozens of answers to the origin of "in a pickle." Today your problem is knowing which internet site or information to believe. That can put you in a pickle.

I'm thinking about pickles because I made some pickles last weekend. Well, I finished up making the pickles. These are 21 day pickles. It never fails that when I first put my cucumbers in the brine to begin the 3 week process that the end time comes when I'm extra busy and don't have time for pickles. That's the way it was this weekend with my granddaughters visiting and then me having to go stay with Mom after they went home. So these pickles are 22 or maybe 23 day pickles. But they taste fine. I just boiled the vinegar pickling solution to pour over them a couple of extra times.

Pickles aren't the only thing I think I'll have plenty of time for when I set out to make them. Books can be that way too. I'm in a give-my-storytelling-brain-a-break time right now. But I'm going to have to jump into research and writing again very soon. First I'll have to work through the galleys of Words Spoken True and I'll be sure to have editorial fixes for The Gifted. Then I'll be looking forward to that deadline for my next story that is months away, but the older I get the more I realize how fast those months spin by. 

I am not a writer who can push out a story in a few weeks. I know writer friends who are able to do that. They can write a book over a long weekend or in a couple of weeks. My brain doesn't seem to work that way. I have to let my creative well fill and sometimes the story seeps in very slow. Of course my friends have been letting their story seep into their minds before they begin the actual writing process. But I have to dip my story out of the well and then let the story water seep back in. Very rarely do the scenes rush in at least until the last few chapters. 

So generally - because I have an obviously inflated opinion of how quickly that well will fill - I end up in a pickle and find myself wanting to add a few more months to my deadline.  

This last deadline was a rough one since I've been having to sit with Mom and don't have that alone time my creative thinking needs. My sister was sympathizing with me and said, "That sounds like work." And writing is work, but it's work I love doing even when I get myself in a deadline pickle.

Have you ever gotten yourself in a pickle? Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Changing Generations

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.” -  George Bernard Shaw

The photo is of two generations in my family - my mom and my granddaughter. Two of my granddaughters came to spend a couple of days on the farm with us this weekend. They live in a city. They only do farm when they come to see me. It's a foreign place to them - somewhat interesting as long as the bugs don't get too close to them out in the field. That's the difference in the generations. I come from a long line of people who worked the ground on my father's side of the family. On my mother's side my grandfather and great grandfather were blacksmiths. That's why the dad in Angel Sister is a blacksmith.

None of my children followed in our farming footsteps. Or blacksmithing either as far as that goes. All my kids live in towns. I can't imagine. I like having fields to walk in, woods to explore, and even weeds to pull although I haven't done a very good job of that this year. Plenty of weeds to pull. No time to do the pulling. Of course I'm sure city lovers could counter with the things that are better about the city.

Whichever way, it's fun to come visit grandma out in the county. And we came by Mom's to give her a quick look at the girls before they headed home. Both girls were extra sweet to Mom, answering her questions once and then again when Mom forgot she'd already asked the same question. And Mom certainly enjoyed her sight of them. That's one of the things people in nursing care facilities often miss. The sight of children. Just hearing or seeing a child can light up an elderly person's eyes and makes the day brighter.

That's how it was for Mom too. She probably doesn't remember now that they were ever here, but somewhere she stored the memory of their hugs and smiles in her heart. Generations apart but forever family. I like the idea in the quote above. That we get to hold the torch of life for a little while and then pass it on to the generation rising up to push us on out of the limelight.

Hope you have a great week with all your generations.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kids and Creeks and Other Summertime Fun

Summer time is a good time of year to forget what day it is. All week I've had to think twice about whether it's Monday or Thursday. And oops, it's Thursday and I totally let Wednesday slip past me without coming over to talk. I can blame it on the deadline rush to edit and pare and trim that had me totally in Shaker land. 

Or I could blame it on the grandkids who came out to spend a couple of days here. With my book off to the editor, this was supposed to be grandkid week with two here on Tuesday and Wednesday and two more tomorrow and Saturday. I finagled and figured and got Mom covered with the help of my sisters. It was all working out so well. Today is the twin's birthday and I would get to see them as they start being big three-year-olds and then bring the big sisters home for a visit. Plans don't always work out. The girls both got very sick with high temps and vomiting and blisters on throats. The doctor's verdict is a nasty virus, but it sure did throw a monkey wrench into our plans. Their mom reports that my eight year old granddaughter was throwing up and then looking up at her mom and asking if she was still going to get to go to grandma's. Guess I'd better start finagling and figuring and planning a new time, but next week is harder because school starts around here on Tuesday. That changes all the schedules. But where's there's a will there's a way. Or maybe I should say where there's a grandkid wanting to come grandma finds a way. 

The other grandkids had fun down at the creek 
on Tuesday. The water was mountain stream cool, but they jumped in anyway. They could thank all the recent rains that they had pools deep enough to wade around in. Sometimes this time of the year the creek is nothing but a rocky bed waiting for the winter rains. Here they are checking out the weird green moss on the rocks in the cave and finding fossils. The next day they got to go with their granddad to the Falls of Louisville and find out about more fossils. It was their granddad's first solo field trip with the grandkids, but I think everybody had fun. That's what visits to grandma and granddad's house is supposed to be in the summer when you're a kid. Fun. I remember going to see my aunt who was like a grandma to me and all my memories are good. And then we spent a week with our cousins. More fun. In the good old summertime.

Hoping you're having so much fun in these last weeks of summer that you're forgetting what day of the week it is too. Maybe I'll get back in the real world soon, but I don't know. There's another book waiting to be told. And I'll have to go off in to some other time and place again.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Problems, Procrastination, Patience, Persistence

Today was the day I had agreed to have my Shaker 5 novel finished. The Gifted was one of those stubborn books that got a little long winded and simply did not want to end. The characters must have been having too much fun and didn't want me to quit on their story. At times in July and June, I felt like this was the summer I was missing. At least it was summer in my book. So I got to enjoy the nice weather with my characters. 

But I did finish it. I even managed to get some editing done. Would have liked to have passed through it once more to do a little more word weeding, but I did weed out some of the worst bits of overwriting. And I'll get a chance to do more. 

It could have been that I might not have been in this deadline crunch if I hadn't done some procrastinating to get started on it back last November. On Sunday I was privileged to go visit the Connections Bookstore in Trinity World Outreach Center in Louisville. That's me and my friend, Betty Owens in the photo with my books set up for the readers in her church to check out. But in between my time in the bookstore, I went to their church service. Guess what the preacher focused his message on. You got it - procrastination. Sometimes the Lord just sets you down where you need to be. 

But these last few weeks I haven't been procrastinating. I've been working with great persistence. And I was determined to get my book sent in to my editor before the end of her work day. I was sitting with Mom today as I have most days this summer, but she knew I had to work and she was napping a lot. I was reading and cutting words and reading and fixing awkward phrasing as fast as I could. Then with the end in sight, a storm blew up. A major thunderstorm. The lights flickered. The lights went out. Oh well, that was okay. My laptop battery was charged up. I kept working. My laptop battery began to lose power. The electric power didn't come back on in the house. My laptop battery died. My sister shows up at Mom's. I rush home. We have electricity. Yay! Jubilation premature. We're in internet doghouse - a state those of us who depend on satellite access with limited download allowances suffer on a regular basis. At our house, we usually suffer it when the grandson has been playing video games. Not this time. Husband must have downloaded something. Paid my get out of the doghouse fee and finally got to hit the send button. Persistence and patience defeated problems. 

My problems today were not big problems - just minor obstacles in the way of what I wanted to get done. But sometimes we have major obstacles and boulders of troubles or discouragement that get in our way. So here's a quote for those times. 

"Defeat may test you; it need not stop you. If at first you don't succeed, try another way. For every obstacle there is a solution. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. The greatest mistake is giving up.""  (Author unknown)

May you find a solution to your every obstacle. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happiness is Another Book

"It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about." (Dale Carnegie) 

Happiness for me today is thinking about another book written. Another story told - difficult though it was to pry out of my head and onto my computer screen. 

A fellow writer in an e-mail posting today said he didn't think there was anything magical about writing a story. Perhaps not for him, but it feels a little magical to me each time I write "the end" and then start to read to see if I got the story told. I did that this week. Read my new Shaker story, The Gifted, with some trepidation since a lot of its story words had been difficult to summon out of the murky depths of my storytelling well. But the story is there. The one I wanted to tell. The one my characters lived for me in my imagination. 

So happiness is a story told. A blessing received. The first reader liked the story. That's always me - that first reader I have to please. Stephen King in his book On Writing says you should write for one reader. For him, that is his wife. But for me, well, it's me. Of course a writer can be deluded and fooled by her own words. Most writers do have critique partners and first readers other than themselves. But as that Frank Sinatra song says, I did it my way. That's the only way I can. And the story has to speak to me first. 

Now I have to finish it up, cut and polish my words in hopes that my next readers will think I've found the right story and told it in the best way I can. I need to trim away some more of those words I had such difficulty coming up with in the first place. But sometimes you just have to spill the whole bucket of words even when you only need half or three quarters of the bucket. Then you have to mop up.

On my Facebook page this week we've been talking about the University of Maryland research that found reading a book made people happier than watching t.v. I don't know if that's true of not. I think surveys can prove just about anything at times and today it could be books making people happy and tomorrow t.v. or Facebook. But reading makes me happy. And reading my book after writing the end and finding the story actually is there the way I doubted through the last hundred pages or so, now that's happiness. 

Does reading make you happy? On FB a lot of readers have shared the books that make them happy. What a gift to me that some of them mentioned my books. Hope you are finding happiness in your thoughts today.