Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gift of Enthusiasm

"Enthusiasm is contagious - and so is the lack of it." (Unknown author)

Here I am with Carlton Hughes, the teacher who brought his digital photography class to Shaker Village last Friday to practice their skills. Carlton is a college professor who does this one class for the high school in Harlan County. He also started a book club for some of his students and they were reading my book, The Outsider. I met Carlton last summer at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown.

(By the way, I'll be teaching two workshops there again in June. "Dialogue - the Fizz in Fiction" and "Facts in  Fiction - Using History in your Story" If you're interested in attending, you can check it out on their website.  Bestselling author, Cecil Murphey will be the keynote speaker. I've heard he's a fantastic and enthusiastic encourager to writers across the boards.)

Anyway, Carlton was teaching at KCWC last year too and I liked him from our first hellos. Enthusiasm fairly radiates from Carlton so it's no wonder his students do so well and pay attention when he teaches. Another quote I found was "Knowlege is power and enthusiasm the switch." (Steve Droke) That's Carlton. He has the knowledge and even better the enthusiastic switch that can make others ready to hook into that knowledge. As you can see in the photo below a lot of his students wanted to take the field trip with him to Shaker Village.

I had the opportunity to look at some of the digital shots a couple of the students had taken. Very nice. I did find it interesting that more of the pictures were of the donkeys, horses and ducks than of the buildings. But there's that enthusiasm need again. The young people took photos of what they were enthused about. When I'm there I'm always wanting to take pictures of the buildings and the brooms and things that shout Shaker to me. And of course, that beautiful double staircase in the Trustees House where the kids are all posing on in the picture below. I think they are on the Brothers' stairs. I think the brothers always used the east doors and stairways and the sisters the west. Unless I've got it backwards. I would have had to learn my directions better if I'd been a Shaker. :o) 

So now I'm working to be enthusiastic about my new Shaker novel with the approaching deadline. Not nearly enough words written yet. Unfortunately I'm still feeling my way along the story as if I'm walking in a dimly lit tunnel and having to feel the brick side walls to keep going. But I'm sure I'm going to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon. I'm really hoping when I do see it, it's not a train!! I'll just keep in mind this quote from Dale Carnegie. He knew how to find success and how to share that success enthusiastically.

"Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success."

How important do you think enthusiasm is for you? And what are you the most enthusiastic about?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Fun with the Kids and Mom

The grandkids were posing with my mom here, but Mom and the little one were more interested in the eggs she'd found out in the yard. Mom really loves watching the littlest ones. The bigger ones have too much energy sometimes for her. We had a busy Easter weekend with my daughter and her husband home to visit and one family of the grandkids here for Easter. Then there were the two services at church . We do a Sunrise Service where our pastor takes on the personna of one of the First Century witnesses to the Resurrection. This year he was Thomas. Always an enlightening message, but it keeps me moving to get something cooked for our fellowship breakfast and get dinner cooked for home. Last year all the grandkids were here and I thought I had it planned out. Put a couple of dishes in my oven and intended to set the automatic timer for it to come on before we got home from church. Uh-oh! I guess I just turned the oven on with no timer working. My macaroni, apple, and potato dishes were crispy black when I got home, but at least the house wasn't full of smoke or worse in flames. This year I just came home in between services. Gas is expensive, but so are houses!!

We did have a nice day. The kids even hid eggs and made us adults go hunting for the hard boiled eggs they had decorated. I was about as bad at finding eggs now as when I was a kid. I was always that kid who maybe found one egg at an Easter egg hunt. Just not fast enough even back then. :) But my daughter and her little weiner dog found a few. Poor little dog has arthritic joints and so gets carried around a lot. He likes being up high. I had all my dogs out of the egg hiding field. My big old chocolate lab is really good at finding eggs and crunching those plastic shells to get to the candy so he has to be banned from participating. We were glad the rain stopped long enough to do the hunt outside. The big kids are always just as happy to get the plastic eggs that rattle - coins inside - as the ones with candy. But the little one, she was after the chocolate.

Missed having all the family here. One son is away on business and the other son and his family were taking in the sights at Disney World. So they were having a great time too. But it was good that Mom felt like coming out to be part of our day.

Hope you had a beautiful Easter day with blessings hopping up all around you. I had a blessing of some great news this a.m. about Angel Sister possibly getting some print publicity. I'll be sure to let you know more about that later. My goal this week is to redo my home page on my website, write a bunch of words for my new Shaker book, and work on getting out a newsletter. I have this wonderful post from Suzanne Woods Fisher that I'm going to put here on the blog, but I want to send out a newsletter first so I can share the fun with as many people as possible. Then of course, I want to rejoice in my everyday blessings - a loving family, a beautiful place to live, the return of the hummingbirds, my dog friends, my church, a working computer, reading friends, and so many more.

How about you? Did you have a blessed Easter? Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Owls - Real and the Reading Kind

Do you like my owl? Over on my back to nature part of the farm, we have a cliff. An owl couple decided the rock ledge partway around the cliff is a good place to raise little owls. This is at least the fourth year we've seen the owls nesting there. Usually we see the young owlets already hatched, but I'm thinking the way this owl just looked at us and stayed put that she was sitting on her eggs. She didn't even worry about the dogs, or maybe she did worry and that's why she stayed put. I had some of the grandkids with me that day and they were glad to see some wildlife.

Now talking about an owl of a different sort - I got one of the nicest reviews ever from Books4Betty on a website called Night Owl Reviews. Here's the first bit of her review.


Angel Sister, the beautifully molded and eloquently crafted novel by author Ann H. Gabhart is worthy of more than five-stars. If I could give this a “priceless” or “epic” or “must read” I would, and I will.

After the first couple of pages, I was hooked completely and drawn into this powerful novel about a family; not just a family, but a family from the Depression Era. The dry, and hot, backdrop of a Kentucky summer is wonderfully and majestically written. I felt like I needed to fan myself because of the heat permeating from the pages. The summer days, long and so full of hot moisture is a surprising character in this novel. From morning until late in the evening, Gabhart does an amazing job with using the Kentucky landscape as her canvas. She beautifully painted in each aspect. I could see, smell, and feel every summery stroke.

By the time I finished reading her review, I was ready to go out and buy the book myself. LOL. Here's the link if you want to read the entire review to see if you might feel the same way - I hope, I hope. Don't worry. If you haven't read Angel Sister and do plan to someday, the reviewer was careful not to give away any spoilers.

I have gotten several really enthusiastic reviews of Angel Sister, and a few not so enthusiastic, but none as bad as one I got for Summer of Joy several years ago. That reviewer had liked my first two Hollyhill books, but thought Summer of Joy so bad that she suggested it couldn't have possibly been written by the same author. Ouch! I didn't know whether to crawl under my desk and hide or stand up and claim every word as my own - good, bad or otherwise. Of course I did stand up and claim the words. I actually liked a lot of the words in Summer of Joy. I really liked the doctor's office scene with Adrienne. Thought everybody would. But if there's one thing I've discovered in my years of living is that there are very few things that "everybody" likes. Very, very few. Even chocolate. Or dogs. And certainly books. What's that old saying? Variety is the spice of life. Wouldn't be much fun if everybody liked exactly the same thing. 

Another thing I've learned is that the bad comments linger longer, much longer in a writer's mind than the good comments. That's kind of sad, but true. And not only true for writers. That's in your children's heads, your friends' heads, and your co-workers' heads just to mention a few. So it's good to consider our words carefully as advised by James in the Bible and leave a lot of happy echoes.

So tell me. Are you a nightowl? Do you sit up late at night or rise early in the morning or try to insanely do both? I try to do both and that's why I fall asleep at my keyboard sometimes. Lots of words still to write. 

Thanks so much for reading. And a special thank you to those of you who have signed on as followers of my this and that journal. I also appreciate those of you who check out what I've written here when I post the link on Facebook or Twitter.  Hope you all have a blessed Easter and get to see some youngsters decked out in their Easter finery.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Best Thing about Book Fairs


Have you ever been to a book fair or festival or fest? If so, what did you think was the very best thing about the experience? Was it the books? Oh, we do love our books and that's what is hardest for me at book festivals. I want to buy sackfuls of books when actually I already have sackfuls of books in my to read stack. But you know of course, that I bought some more to add to my collection and wish I'd bought a couple more before I headed home. I don't know when I would have had time to read them or where I would have put them - my bookshelves are overflowing now - but I would have had them. So without books, there would be no reason for a book festival. 

Here I am with author, Travis Thrasher after buying one of his books. Travis has piles and piles of books. All with beautiful covers and enticing stories that make readers anxious to pick one of his books up to carry it home. Besides he's such fun to talk to. That's another of those very best things about a book festival. Getting to talk to the writers who penned or keyed in that favorite story! Getting to know what's going on with other writers. Travis had a busy year. His wife gave birth to twin girls who are now seven months old. They also have a four year old girl. So what did Travis do? He wrote four books last year. That's getting it done. I think he must have given up sleep.

Then I met and talked to and got my picture with Jean Auel of The Clan of the Cave Bear fame. Posted that picture on Facebook right away. She has a new book out that was an instant number one bestseller all over the world. She said it took her fourteen years to write it. Everybody writes differently. Everybody tells a different story in a different way.

Then there are the readers you meet. They have to be one of the very best things about a book festival. It's such fun to have a reader come by and say they've read all my books or they love my books or they have a sister/friend/mother/grandmother who loves my books. I sometimes want to tell them that they might like the story too if they'd give it a chance, but I don't. I smile and act pleased. Well, I don't have to act. I am pleased. I like grandmas and mothers and sisters and friends.

Now and again, a librarian will come by and say my books are in demand at their library or off their bookmobile. I love libraries and the people who work there, so that's another best thing. Of course one of the best fun things is seeing the babies. Babies who will be getting a book and loving the crackly sound of the pages when they try to put it in their mouths. And little kids and not so little kids. All there looking for a book to read. Another Harry Potter book or a Lightning Thief. And sometimes they find one. Once a long time ago at a different book fest and while I was writing Young Adult novels, a girl bought one of my books, went and found a reading nook and came back around before the end of the day to tell me she'd finished the book and liked it. I still sort of remember what she looked like. I was just happy she wasn't coming back to my table to make a return. So readers are fun. No book fest can succeed without readers.

And volunteers. Those people who give up a day or two of their lives to unpack books and pack them back up if they don't sell. Those people who make the panel presentations work. Those people who bring you lunch or a drink of tea or water to help you keep your smile going. And that doesn't even take into account the organizers and people on the book fest committee who must make the hard decisions about who to invite and where to let them sit. I saw the main lady in charge of the book fest last Saturday as I was leaving. She was still smiling. She'd probably heard a few dozen complaints and handled even more problems throughout the day, but she was smiling. Maybe because the day was over and all us authors were on the way out the door. :-)

So the very best thing about Book Festivals is that they celebrate books and give you a chance to rub shoulders with readers and writers and let you carry home some great reading material. So do you like to go to book festivals? For sure, I enjoy being on the writer's side of the table. And I always carry home some books too - in spite of my groaning bookshelves. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Festivals and Birthdays

It's a great thing to be two and have a cake that matches your dress and to blow out candles and hear everybody cheer. That has to be a great thing! And I get to help another granddaughter celebrate a birthday this weekend. I'm one blessed grandmother.

 ~~ It was a busy Saturday with birthday parties and the Redbud Festival. I always enjoy going to Barbourville and sitting on Writers' Row with so many friend writers. But the writers aren't the only creative people at the festival. There are craftsmen and women of all kinds. Dulcimer makers and players. Wood carvers. Gourd decorators. Jewelry makers. Somebody there was even making marshmallow shooters. I figured I'd be in big trouble if I got those for my grandkids. Marshmallows everywhere. Besides I always want to get the books. So many great books to entice me. But one of the highlights of the Redbud Festival is the quilts. Artists with needles. I didn't get the name of the artist below, but she had created some beautiful quilts. She told me the name of the pattern of the one on top in the middle. "Hearts and blooms." So pretty. So perfect.

 ~~ I know about quilting. When I was a little girl, my aunt made a quilt every winter. She'd set up the quilting frame in the living room by the coal burning stove and spend hours making perfect stitches. She let me make a few passes with the needle, but I'm sure she picked out my awkward stitches after I went home and did them over. I have a quilt she made for me the year I was born. I treasure it.

~~ I've never made a quilt and if I did it would just be pieces of cloth sewn in squares - on a sewing machine. Nothing to compare to the artwork you see here. Of course they do have machines that quilt now. I don't know if this lady used one of those or not, but just seeing her quilts hanging made my day at the Redbud Festival more fun.

 ~~ Spring is a busy time for book festivals. I'm going to be at Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green this weekend. They've got an impressive line-up of authors. Judith Viorst, author of many popular kids' books. Nicholas Sparks of Notebook fame. Jean Auel who wrote those Clan of the Cave Bear books. And I'm looking forward to seeing T.J. Stiles who wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book The First Tycoon about Cornelius Vanderbilt. That might be a great birthday gift for somebody. It's fun having family members who love books the way I do. Of course I have a birthday every year too. Then besides the headliners, I'll get to see writer friends. We'll get to talk about deadlines and rewrites and editing and new releases. And on top of all that fun, I generally get some reading friends who stop by my table to say hello. That's the best part of all. So if you're in the Southern Kentucky area on Saturday, come by and say hello and make me smile.

 ~~ If you were organizing a book festival, what famous writer would you want to be there? And what question would you ask him or her?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Before and After

I took some of the grandkids to the creek on Friday. It's April and won't be summer for quite a few more weeks, but the day was warm. In the seventies. The creek is spring fed from underground so the water stays chilly, but the plan was to keep on stepping stones, see the wildflowers, and maybe spot a crawdad or two or a lizard. The older kids even took cameras claiming to want to get some pictures of the wildflowers. But when you're eleven and nine and four, the lure of the water wins out over the delicate sight of wildflowers. And even if you're extra careful, there's always that first slip on one of those slippery rocks and whoops! Your shoes are wet. So there's really no need in trying to keep your feet out of the creek. You might as well do a little wading. Then maybe the next time you fall right down in the creek and after a few more slips, if you're four, you forget to even say you slipped. You just jump right in to the deeper pools. And because you're with Grammy, it turns out okay and you end up splashing in a creek way before normal creek splashing time by the calendar.

A crawdad did get caught and has ended up being named Claw. Some wildflower pictures did get taken, but Grammy pointed her camera at the little flower falling into the creek. The first picture is the before. While the creek hasn't yet pulled her in. The second picture is when all pretense of staying dry has been abandoned. Thankfully she has understanding parents who haven't banned them from going anywhere near a creek with their grandmother - yet. Of course their father remembers having those "accidental" falls into the creek himself.

In trying to come up with a title for this post, I thought of the before and after angle. That's sort of the way I have to think about my characters and their stories. I need my picture of them before they start living in my story. I have to know about them. What they were doing before the curtain rises on my story. Then I have to think about them after the story gets going. What are they going to do? What are they going to learn? How are they going to change? What will happen? That's where I am with my story now. In the middle of wondering some of those things. I know what's going to happen in a vague, dreamy kind of way. But I need to come up with a word trail to make those dreams show up in vivid scenic colors. Maybe it will help if I think about taking my characters to my story creek and letting them fall in. Then we - me and my characters - can rush along with the creek and have an adventure on the way to the end.

On Facebook last week I asked my friends what outside fun things they did as kids. How about you? What did you think was the most fun to do outside when you were a kid? Did you ever fall in a creek - accidently on purpose?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Depressed? Is it Facebook?

Are you into Facebook? I heard on the radio the other day that sixty-one percent of Americans have a Facebook account. That is pretty amazing. We can't even get sixty-one percent of Americans to go to the polls and vote on Election Day. I can hear somebody out there saying we should have elections as easy to vote in as Facebook is to sign on. You need to find the Facebook page of your representative or senator and suggest that. Of course we might not want him or her facebooking since it can be addictive. We seem to have to get on there to check what everybody is doing.

But for writers like me, it's even more. It's a way to reach out to readers. Blogging is another way. Twitter another. Then there's Shout Out, My Space, and heaven only knows how many other social networks. Writers are encouraged to have an internet presence. Some writers have such a great internet presence that they become popular even before they write a book. Then of course when they do release that first book, they have all these followers out there ready to snap up whatever they've written. You might even be asked how many Facebook followers or friends you have when you submit a book proposal. So writers do facebook and collect reading friends.

But it's not only writers. And while it is true that Facebook has taken America by storm, it's not only America, but the world. Chinese leaders made the news by shutting down Facebook for a while. Other countries have done the same when they think revolutionary thinkers are gathering followers through Facebook posts. The amazing thing is that ten years ago, if you had said facebook, people would have wondered what you were talking about. Some kid - naturally enough - came up with the idea, figured out a way to get it going and now here we are checking our Facebook walls before we eat our toast in the morning. We want to see those new baby pictures. We want to tell our friends about the double chocolate fudge cupcakes we made last night. We want to celebrate with like minded fans when our team wins and cry on each other's shoulders when they lose.

We want to have fun, get our mind off our troubles and oh yeah, let our friends know about those new books that are like our babies. New and precious and needing somebody to hold them in her hands. Of course to do that we've got to be positive, beaming, fun and engaging.

It's sort of like those Christmas newsletters. I don't mind newsletters. I like them as long as they don't go over a page. But nobody tells the bad things that happened over the year. They brag about the good happenings. Writers are the same. We're not going to brag about the reviewer that gave us one star or claimed we didn't know one end of a pen from the other. We're going to brag about the reviewer who said we had a lyrical voice and a story that enchants and keeps the reader reading way past her bedtime. We might moan a little on Facebook about this writing chore or that such as editing. But some writers post their amazing number of words for the day. They get fifty plus comments for every posting. They can probably do handstands. One-handed handstands. For fifteen minutes. Holding their breath.

And so, it's only to be expected that someone has decided we can get Facebook depression. You see everybody else with the picture perfect life. The grandma with nine grandkids. And you, you can't even get your son off the couch to go apply for a job so he'll have the money to take out a potential mother for those beautiful grandkids you need. You see your writing friend who just announced to the Facebook world that she won an award, was on the bestseller list, was featured on Oprah, had a starred review in Booklist, or whatever amazing thing that has happened to her or her book. You want to be happy for her. And you are. You really are, but you can't keep from thinking about your book. Your story. Your nonexistent interviews or booksignings. And so we get down. Depressed by Facebook good news. Other people's good news.

So what do you think? Do you sometimes feel some Facebook envy or depression? Maybe you con't even play the Facebook game. Maybe you're too busy writing that book - the one you're going to be bragging out on Facebook soon. Because you'll have to jump on Facebook after that book comes out. :o) Thanks for reading. Someday I'll get a dozen or two comments. Good comments. Good reviews. I know I will. If I can keep from getting depressed first. :)

Have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wildflowers and Edits

I met an editing deadline yesterday. Actually I was almost two weeks early, but that other deadline for my Shaker 5 book is looming out there so I wanted to get the edits done as fast as possible. That way I can get going again on the Shaker book. I reread what I've already written or most of it today. Not bad, but I'm needing a brain surge to tell me what happens next. I like my characters, so that's a good thing. Maybe they'll whisper their plans for the rest of the story in my ear tonight while I sleep.

The book I finished editing is the one set in 1855 in Louisville. It's got lots of romance and some suspense and good helping of history. I think you readers will like my hero. He's very handsome and very in love with the heroine. We've struggled a little with the title for this one. I came up with Words of Fire. I still like that, but the publishers wanted something that sounded more romantic since this story teems with romance. So we've settled on Words Spoken True. What do you think? Does it make you think romance? They tell me the ideas for the cover are going to be fabulous. Anyway, I got the editor's suggested edits finished. Now I can get back to figuring out how to sneak a little romance into my Shaker village, Harmony Hill. Not exactly the easiest place to have a romance since the Shakers did not believe in romance at all.

But as a reward for getting the edits done and since we had a beautiful, sunshiny Sunday and I had to do something to take my mind off UK losing that ballgame, I decided to take a wildflower walk. I really didn't think that many of the wildflowers would be blooming since it had been so chilly all last week, but when I got over to Panther Rock where the wildflowers abound, they were blooming all over. There were the Dutchman's Breeches in the picture above. Those flowers do great over there and they are my mom's favorites. I don't normally pick wildflowers, but since there are scads of these and Mom loves them so much, I always pick a bloom to bring to show her. It's a good thing to see her smile.

But besides the Dutchman's Breeches, there were Woods Poppy, Twin Leaf, Bloodroot, Anemone, Spring Beauty, Yellow Trout Lilly, Sweet William, and others I need to look up in the flower book. I try to remember all the names, but I lose a few from year to year. It's such a treat for me to go see the flowers and I have the bonus of the sun glinting off the creek water as it flows past me. Today I had even more bonuses. I found a nest of some kind of animal in a hollow tree. Not sure what. And I didn't linger because I was afraid my dogs would come investigate and think the little creatures were supper. They could have easily gotten to them. Then I saw a huge crawdad. And a dozen wild turkeys. It was flower and wildlife day. I took pictures, but they never turn out as good as it looks when I'm right there in the middle of it all.

I'll have to go back in a week or so and see what else is blooming out. I'm sure to hit a knotty spot in my book and need to walk a while to give my brain time to figure it out. Writing isn't only done when your fingers are on the keyboard.

Do you like wildflowers? Well, here's wishing you "May all your weeds be wildflowers." Tell me about the wildflowers you love or how you reward yourself for getting something done.