Sunday, April 29, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

"He loves me; he love me not."

Decisions, decisions! When you were a kid, did you ever pluck the petals of a daisy one by one with the "he loves me, he loves me not" chant? I did. Most of the time I didn't have anybody in mind to love me or not love me. I was too young for a real boyfriend, but even so it was fun to play the game. And an easy way to make a decision. Of course, it was also easy to just grab another daisy and give it another try if the daisy decided he didn't love you.

Then there was the eeny, meeny, miny moe, catch a monkey by the toe, my mother told me to pick this one way to decide things. Kids learned to fudge on that one pretty fast too by adding another line or two to make the decision come out the way they wanted. All that makes you wonder why you didn't just decide to begin with.

I was indecisive this morning. I wavered between attending my own church where we were having a fellowship dinner or going to the church where my husband's gospel group was singing. Had great reasons to go both places. Finally put off making the decision so long that I didn't really have a choice any longer and only time to do one of them. Guess that was my way of deciding.

A writer has to make a lot of decisions. You have to decide what you're writing. Nonfiction or fiction? Mystery or romance or a dozen other possibilities? Who are you writing about? If it's fiction, you have to decide on names, places, personalities, a zillion things about your characters. What do they look like? What do they do? What troubles are you going to thrown down in their paths? And that's just scratching the surface of the decisions you're going to have to make. 

Sometimes I waver while I'm writing. Should my character do this or do that? What would he or she really do? And that's the question I need to concentrate on when I have decisions to make while writing. What would my character really do? If my character has properly come to life in my head, then the story decision can get made and the story told. One thing I've never had to do and that's pluck a daisy to see if he loves her or loves her not. That's one thing I usually know when I start writing - even if my character isn't all that sure when he starts down the story road.

I love seeing daisies out in the field. It's like they're waving happy smiling faces at me and telling me that if I need them, they're always willing to sacrifice a few petals to help me know if he loves me or loves me not. :o)!

Did you ever pluck the petals of a daisy or make a decision with eeny, meeny, miny, moe?

Friday, April 27, 2012

More Than Gold at Ft. Knox

The closest I'll ever get to the big screen!
As every thread of gold is valuable, so is every moment of time. ~ John Mason

Can you believe I let Wednesday slip past me again? And this time I went to church and everything. But it was a busy day and not the best day for part of the day. Many of you know that my mother is suffering from dementia. Yesterday was a bad day for her. She was angry and unhappy for much of the afternoon. Some of you who have experienced this with your loved ones understand. It is difficult to see someone you love sliding into confusion. It is difficult for the loved one too. 

So that's one reason Wednesday slid past unblogged. Another reason is that I am working hard to get my goal of so many words each day on my work in progress. That means that every extra minute I'm staring at the computer screen trying to get the scenes in my head to show up there on that blank screen.

Today was better for Mom. So better for us, her daughters. It was fun for me too in a different way because I got to go to Ft. Knox. Where the gold is. I didn't get anywhere near the gold depository, but I was in a place where they had a different kind of gold - books, books and more books. The Ft. Knox Barr Library. If I had to ever make a choice between books and gold, I wouldn't have a bit of trouble choosing. Books, of course. 

The library there is hosting author events once a month through October. What fun for the authors and readers and librarians! I was the launch author and look at me up there on the big screen. Good thing I couldn't see that or I would have probably freaked. I did know they were televising it on their closed circuit out in the main  library in case the room was too full and they had an overflow crowd. When they tell me that while showing me I can't get out of this little square behind the podium, I'm going, yeah sure, but then people kept coming in. Of course, it helped when a church's book club showed up seven strong. Then a teacher at the local school gave her students extra credit for coming. That filled up the back of the room. It might have also helped that the library was offering a great incentive for their series of author visits. They had cards they were punching for the attendees and anybody who makes it to all the events will have a chance to win an e-reader. 

But whether they came for school credit or a chance to win a Nook, it was still fun to talk to a room full of people. And I didn't see anybody dozing off on me. However, it is true that I couldn't see those sitting on the floor in the back. But I didn't hear them snoring! 

Now I can say I've been to Ft. Knox. A great place to be made aware of the many soldiers ready to stand in the gap for freedom. 

Somebody poke me next week and remind me when it's Wednesday. I always enjoy hearing from you. You can tell me what you know about Ft. Knox or if you have a family member serving our country. The lady at the library said they were getting ready to send some troops off to Afghanistan very soon.  May our prayers go with them.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Smiles, Books, and Friends

Lori Copeland, me, and Virginia Smith
"Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love." ~ Mother Teresa

There was a lot of smiling going on yesterday at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green, Kentucky as authors and readers gathered to celebrate books. That's really what book fairs and festivals are all about - books.

I've had a love affair with books ever since I was a kid, and from the people I've talked to at book fairs, I know I have lots of company in this loving books fan club. That's why book fairs are so much fun, because you're in a big room with dozens, even hundreds of people who like books as much as you do. They have experienced the magic of words making stories that spring to life in the mind of a reader. And some of them, those behind the tables of books, know how it feels to be the one trying to make the magic of words and storytelling happen. They understand how much we all want readers to pick up our books and give our stories a chance.

But there are so many authors and so many choices that most readers only get to carry home a few of the books they want. Believe me, I know. I'm one of those readers. At this book fest I didn't really have time to look around so I was spared the temptation of all those wonderful books begging to go home with me.

I've been to a lot of book fairs. I attended my first one sometime in the 1980s. That was with my young adult books. Now I've been going with my Christian fiction novels for the last seven years. One thing I have found to be true in writing for the Christian book market is that the other authors are so welcoming and so ready to be friends. I don't know if I was too backward as a young author to make friends among the other writers or perhaps too busy with my young family, but until I started writing in the Christian market I couldn't really claim any other writer as a friend. I had some acquaintances but no real, let's get together for lunch and talk friends.

Now I'm blessed with many friends in the writing business. Friends ready to support me with encouraging words and helpful advice. Friends who will pray for me and friends I am ready to pray for when they have a need. Friends who seem genuinely happy when something good happens in regard to one of my books. Friends who are excited to share their good news with me. Friends who take pictures with me and their smiles light up a room. We share troubles. We share joys. We share disappointments. We share victories. We share those things with our readers too. Sometimes disguised in our stories. Sometimes in real life. It's good to have book loving friends. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for being one of those book loving friends.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Balancing Act of Writing

What happened to Wednesday? I was walking late this afternoon and I suddenly realized that uh, this is Thursday. That meant I had forgotten talking to folks here on One Writer's Journal on Wednesday. Of course, the best thing about a journal is that there are no deadlines. You can write when you want, what you want, as much or little as you want. 

However, when I started this on-line journal, I did say I'd come visiting on Sundays and Wednesdays. I picked church days to help me remember, and now, alas, I know what happened to Wednesday. I didn't go to Bible Study last night or stay at Mom's overnight. That's what I usually do on Wednesdays. But I'm beginning to feel the pressure of the deadline for my work in progress and since I am spending a lot of working hours caring for Mom, I have to scramble for working time at my desk. Even so, I had planned to go to Bible Study last night, but then an acquaintance passed away and my husband decided he needed to go early to make a visit to the funeral home. And I copped out. I decided if I was working at a store or a restaurant and needed to work, nobody would think twice about me working instead of making it to church. That doesn't quite make up for the poke of guilt I feel not making it to church, but it was my rationalization. We can rationalize almost anything if we work at it.  Whether we should or not!

But that hits on one of the hardest things about being a self-employed writer. Keeping those hours to work. Books don't write themselves, but when you work from your home, whether it's writing or whatever you might do, you have to be disciplined. And you have to stand up to others for your working hours. Things are difficult for me now with Mom's deteriorating health, but I've always had to carve out time from my busy life to write. I told a book club group the other night that I wrote my first novel while Captain Kangaroo was on. Then it was during school hours. Now all my kids are out on their own and I have to carve out time from my working schedule for those grandkids. 

That's what I was doing in the picture up top - taking a walk with my son and some of the grandkids. It's always a balancing act. Whatever we do, whatever kind of work. Work and family. Work and fun. In writing there is even more balancing to do. Writing and promoting. Writing a good book is the most important thing I can do to gain readers, but after I do the best job of that I can, then I have to try to let interested readers know about the book. That means newsletters and Facebook and Twitter time keeping up with my reading friends and letting them know what's going on with me - that I do enjoy. Blogging time  - that I also enjoy. Contests to promote my books. I love giving stuff away. 

Then there are book fairs and book clubs - two of my very favorite ways to meet readers. Add into all those the many other tasks of writing on top of churning out that first draft of a book like editing and coming up with discussion questions and promo bits and doing blog visits. In fact I'm visiting a blog now i blog 4 books where you can leave a comment to have a chance to win a copy of Words Spoken True. Brooke in the interview asked what was my pet peeve and so people have been sharing their own pet peeves in their comments. So it's fun.  

Be assured, I'm not complaining. I love writing and meeting readers. I went to a book club last week. Had a great time hearing what they had to say about Words Spoken True and answering the questions they asked. Saturday I'll be at the Southern KY Book Fest in Bowling Green, KY from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST talking to people one on one about my books. I'm on a panel about Christian fiction at 1 p.m. If you're in the area, I'd love to talk to you too. 

I've been keeping up with some of the questions people have been asking me lately. I'm going to be answering some of them in detail on here in the next few weeks. So if you've got something you always wanted to know about writing, but were afraid to ask, now's your chance. 

Thanks for reading my Wednesday post on Thursday. :) If you work from home, what's the hardest part of that for you?


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Heart of Hollyhill

Sweet aromas - do you have a favorite flower scent? We all know many roses smell delightful. And lilacs are heavenly. But what about locust tree blooms?

In Kentucky in the spring we usually have several cold snaps before spring finally comes to stay. So we call them winters. Redbud winter. Dogwood winter. Locust winter. Blackberry winter. The names come from what's blooming when the chilly air sweeps back into the area the way it did last week. We skipped redbud winter this year - it stayed warm, unseasonably warm all the time they were blooming. But the frosts came back last week while the dogwoods and locusts were in full and glorious bloom. Dogwood blooms don't have an odor, but ah, locusts. So sweet. 

The house where I grew up was surrounded by locust trees and in the spring we could breathe in the fragrance through our open windows. We also stepped on the thorns when we were running around barefoot and some think the trees draw lightning, but you have to take the bad with the good sometimes. As to the trees drawing lightning, I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know they got hit by lightning frequently. 

I liked the fragrance of the blooms so well that I used it in my novel, The Scent of Lilacs. Now you're frowning and saying, wasn't she talking about locust blooms? And I was. But lilacs are wonderfully fragrant too. So I used that in my book too. The locust bloom fragrance was Jocie's father's favorite scent and what he smelled when he received his unusual call to preach while in a submarine during World War II. Then later in the book, Jocie has her own unusual experience with the lilac fragrance. 

All this to get around to the exciting news I got this week that the Hollyhill books are going to be re-released. First Scent of Lilacs will make a re-appearance early in 2013 with Orchard of Hope and Summer of Joy to follow later in 2013 and 2014. The series title will be "The Heart of Hollyhill." What great timing - to get this great news while the locusts are blooming! I love the characters in these books and I'm looking forward to sharing their stories with new readers.

Have you read any of the Hollyhill books? If you have, which characters did you like?

Thanks for reading. I always enjoy your comments and appreciate you coming to visit here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Novel Tea

"Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things." ~Chaim Potok
 And what's more fun to talk about while you're drinking that cup of tea than books? That's what I got to do today at a "Novel Tea." I was excited when I got my first e-mail from Lisa Jones, the librarian in Grayson County, KY, saying they were planning to have a book event and it was going to be a tea and would I like to come speak. Since I'm a tea lover and a book lover, I was on board at once. Now if they'd had a dog show on the side, the day would have been perfect. Just teasing. Those dogs would have wanted all the treats. (grin)

Of course, after the lady said they were going to sell tickets, I told her I hoped the tea would be good because I couldn't imagine anybody buying a ticket to hear me talk. I don't think they did. I think they bought the tickets to enjoy the tea and scones. Aren't those teapots in the picture at the top cute? Each one had a different flavor or type tea. I went for the English breakfast tea because I like my tea strong without added flavor.

They also had wonderful desserts and the caterer was a woman after my own heart. She put the desserts at the start of the table so you picked up your plate and could load up with the sweet things before you got to the healthy relish tray and sandwiches, etc. After all, life is short and the plates were small. This way you got to allot the proper space to the best part of any tea - the sweet concoctions.

Actually, the best part for me was meeting so many new reading friends and getting to tell them about my books. After I talked about my writing life, we had time for questions. That's always my favorite part of any talk if the people aren't too shy to ask whatever they're curious about regarding writers or writing. Grade school kids do the best job asking questions. They want to know everything! Adults are sometimes slower to raise their hands. But a question I got today that I nearly always get is how long does it take me to write a book. My stock answer is about a year, but I have written books in six months and this summer I'm going to need to write a story in two months. Thank goodness it's a Christmas story that will only be about half as long as most of my stories.

Another question was about whether I work regular hours or wait until I feel a creative burst coming on. Some people may be able to wait for their muse to show up, but most of those muses are onery creatures who dillydally and don't come knocking on your door that often. You have to go out and grab that rascal and wrestle him into your office or workplace. How I do that is by spending a lot of hours with my fingers on the keyboard. That way your muse will realize you're serious about this writing stuff and reluctantly begin showing up more often. 

What question do you wish you could ask a writer? My answer and other writers' answers might be very different since writing is such an individual pursuit with many ways to write a story. But it's still fun to ask questions and I enjoy answering them too.

Thanks for reading. Maybe we can all have tea together someday and talk about books!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunrise and Easter Blessings

Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness.  ~Floyd W. Tomkins

Churches all over the country celebrated Resurrection morning today. At our little country church, we began the morning with a Sunrise Service. Our pastor has been doing this for a number of years now and he always delivers a sunrise message as if he's one of the Biblical eye witnesses to the first Easter like Peter or John. Today he picked Thomas. That meant he had to do a lot of digging into books other than the Bible because other than the listing of Thomas as one of the disciples, he's only mentioned three times. 

Of course, most people familiar at all with the Bible know that he was the disciple not present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. When the others told him they had seen Jesus, Thomas said unless he for himself saw the nail scars in Jesus' hands and put his hand in the wound in His side he wouldn't believe it was true. Forever after, even to this day, we call anyone who is slow to accept whatever facts or story a "doubting Thomas." But as Br. Fred, our pastor, said this morning, who among us would not have had some doubts about a man we knew had been killed now walking around alive? Thomas made a confession of faith the moment he saw Jesus. Isn't that all the Lord asks of any of us? To meet Him and recognize Him as Lord.

I enjoy Br. Fred's interpretive messages as he always helps me see new insights in the Bible stories. For the eleven o'clock service, he delivered a different message to a fuller church as not all our families can make Sunrise Service. My younger son and his family were able to make the second service. Since the out-of-state families were home last Sunday for an early Easter dinner and celebration, they couldn't come back today. But it was fun seeing this family of grandkids in their Easter best before they took off for their other grandparents' house and an Easter egg hunt on a lot nicer day. Remember, that April Fool's rain messed up my Easter egg hunt last Sunday. :(  I'm glad everybody had better weather here today.

I hope you had a blessed and joyous Easter. And some fun times with your family. Have you eaten jelly beans or chocolate today? Did you dye hard boiled eggs with your kids or grandkids? Did you watch the sun rise with joy in your heart? 

Talk to you Wednesday.    

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finishing the Race

" It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The what makes it great!"   -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

This was a good week for University of Kentucky basketball fans like me and my pastor, Br. Fred. We're smiling here on Sunday - him with his Kentucky tie and me with my U.K. jumper - before the championship game, showing our support for our team. This group of young men embraced the idea of hard work and becoming a team in order to reach their goal of winning it all. That didn't happen overnight. Most of the players were born with outstanding athletic talent and abilities but that didn't guarantee they'd be winners. They had to spend countless hours running and practicing and shooting a basketball at a goal in a gym somewhere. It was not easy, but they persevered and eventually reached the championship of college basketball. Many other young players worked every bit as hard perhaps without winning the "big" game. Sixty plus teams began the tournament, but in every game there was a winner and there was a loser until only one team could say they won it all. 

That team happened to be the team I cheer for this year and that made the tournament lots of fun to watch. Twenty thousand fans welcomed the team home after the tournament. I was not one of those. I'm more the stay at home and cheer kind of fan. But if they had come up one game short or several games short, the arena would not have been crowded with cheering fans. 

Basketball is a team sport and a spectator sport for fans like me. But many of the "games" that challenge us are individual races we must run on our own. My daughter and her husband came home last weekend to run in a half marathon. Around two thousand other people did the same. Most ran with an individual challenge to run a good race with no expectation of actually being the first runner over the finish line. My son-in-law crossed the finish line around 240th, and he was feeling great about that accomplishment even though a couple of hundred runners ran faster than he did. My daughter was way back in the pack, but she was excited because she was able to run the whole thirteen miles and didn't have to walk up the hills. Individual challenges met.

Writing a book is something like a marathon. It's not something that you're going to be able to do in one quick sprint. It's something you have to bear down and show up at your keyboard over and over to keep spilling out words to tell your story. It's a challenge that requires discipline to keep keeping on even when things aren't going well. Most writers write many words before they hold their first published book in hand. But they persevere and keep writing, keep improving, keep running the race. 

I'm doing my best to persevere in that way now with the book I'm working on. To keep pulling words out. To keep telling my story. To keep running my race. In the Bible, Paul compares himself to a runner several times. In Philippians 3:13 he says this. Of course, my brothers, I really do not think that I have already won it {the prize}; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. (Good New Bible) 

While Paul is speaking about running his spiritual race and living for Jesus, the thought of that verse works so well in many of the "races" we must run in life. Forget what's behind and keep our eyes on the prize ahead. For my writing that means I need to focus on my goal of telling this story and not on the stories I've written before or the books others have written. Write my book. Tell the story I have to tell. Finish my race. And when all the words are written then I can take the advice of Lewis Carroll. "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."  

Do you set individual goals to help you finish your race?  

Thanks so much for reading.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cousins Equal Fun

Cousins are different beautiful flowers in the same garden.  ~Anonymous

Here are a couple of the beautiful flowers in my garden of grandchildren - two little cousins who enjoyed an early Easter celebration at my house yesterday. We were sort of surprised by the early morning rain. The weather forecasters had said there might be a stray shower. It rained solidly for several hours. My daughter said it must have been the weather guys' April Fool's joke on us. It did mess up the Easter egg hunt we had planned. We hid the eggs in the house which didn't make the hunt very challenging for the older grandkids. The sun did come out and the kids did spend most of the afternoon outside but it was very wet when they were anxiously ready to do the Easter egg hunting. You can only hold off kids eager to hunt candy for so long. My two oldest grandkids didn't hunt eggs. They're growing up. One of them will be graduating from high school this year. How quickly the years zoom past. 

Going "home" to grandma's and grandpa's and playing with cousins can be one of the best memories of childhood. I certainly remember the many good times I had with my cousins when I was a kid. We played in the fields and woods and thought up some neat adventures. In a way, I can attribute my beginning to write to playing with my cousin and my sister. They, along with me, starred in the first book I started writing when I was a kid. We had fun in my imagination too. 

Cousins can be such great ready made friends. Supplied by family with no effort on the child's part. Connected to one another by family ties and sometimes similar backgrounds. My children had great fun with their cousins, and it's good to see their children playing together now. My children got to see their cousins often since my sisters and I live in the same community. My grandkids don't live close together. So they don't see each other but a few times a year, but they know how to have fun together when the opportunity pops up.  

Did you have cousins you played with as kids? Have the bonds of friendship endured through the years? I don't see my cousins much any more. A couple of them live in California and I doubt I'll ever see them again. But the memories of good times together linger and bring smiles. 

Thanks for reading!