Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shaker Book No. 5 Almost Here

June is almost here. That means July can't be far behind and that means - drum roll, please - a new Shaker book. The Gifted is scheduled for release on July 1. My fifth Shaker book is set in my Shaker village of Harmony Hill in 1849 with a whole new set of characters. I did carry over one character from The Believer. Sister Lettie. In The Believer, she served the community's medical needs. Her father had been a doctor and taught her much about healing and the use of herbs and potions. She plays a major role in The Believer. Much older now, she has more of a cameo appearance in The Gifted, but I think readers will enjoy spending a little time with her again.

I'm hoping readers will enjoy getting to know my new characters too. In each of my Shaker books, I've done my best to tell the stories of very different heroines. First there was Gabrielle Hope with her gift of knowing in The Outsider. She started it all with the Shaker books. Then in The Believer, Elizabeth Duncan simply wants a safe haven for her and her siblings. Southern belle Charlotte Vance was definitely not the average Shaker in The Seeker. And last summer Lacey Bishop got to tell her story with a generous supply of common sense in The Blessed.  

Now in The Gifted, I introduce Jessamine Brady, who is an engaging mix of innocence and curiosity. Tristan Cooper, on the other hand, has just returned from the Mexican War and is wearily looking toward the future his mother is insisting he must have. Then there's Sister Sophrena who does her best to see that Jessamine keeps following the Shaker way even when the girl's wondering about the world outside the Shaker village completely exasperates her. The storms of life will keep them all spinning just as much as the Shaker believers spin and whirl in their worship dances.  

A new book is exciting for me and I hope for my readers. An eBlast went out today with hopes that readers will order The Gifted at their favorite bookseller's website or ask for it at their favorite bookstore. Bookstore owners like to make their reading customers happy by getting them the books they want to read. I'm hoping The Gifted will be one you will want to read.

There will be more exciting events coming up in June. I'll be sending out a newsletter soon telling about my Celebration Giveaway for The Gifted. A new book is a fun reason to celebrate.

Thanks for reading. Remember tomorrow is the last day to throw your name in my May Giveaway hat. Then stay tuned for more fun.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Day to Remember

"The dead soldier's silence sings our national anthem." (Aaron Kilbourn)

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day after the Civil War when the wives, mothers, and sisters began decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. Slowly as the years passed, Decoration Day, observed on May 30, began to be called Memorial Day, but it wasn't until1967 that Federal law changed the name officially. The year after that the Uniform Holiday Act was passed and the observance of Memorial Day changed to the last Monday in May. Not everybody was happy with changing the date just to give people a three day weekend. Many felt it would take away from the original reason for the day - honoring those who gave their all for our country. 

The picture above is of the Memorial Field in my county. The flags represent soldiers from our area killed in service to their country. The memorial could be repeated in every town - big and small - all across our country. Thousands and thousands of flags were put on veterans' graves this Memorial Day in honor of their sacrifices.

At church this morning, one of the men, who served during the Vietnam War, was wearing a pin showing the number of Americans killed in that war. 58,169. The average age of the soldiers killed was 23. 11,465 of those killed in action were younger than 20.

I looked farther back. The Korean War claimed close to 40,000 American casualties. In World War II, 60 million people worldwide were killed. U.S. Military casualties were 416,800. In World War I, the war that people at that time believed would be the war to end all wars, 126,000 American soldiers perished.

The dead in the Civil War is thought to be around 700,000. So you can see how there were many who were left behind to grieve for loved ones. They didn't want to forget and so they remembered by decorating the graves.

We continue to remember today. Tomorrow, Monday, at 3 p.m., a moment of silence will be observed for all those who died in service to our country. May we never forget the debt we owe to those men and women willing to give their all so our flag can continue to fly over a free country. America, the Beautiful!  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Award for Enthusiasm

Have you ever been to a kindergarten graduation? Or maybe a preschool graduation? If you want some smiles -  the good kind of smiles that make you have hope for the future - then you might want to drop in on one of those ceremonies sometime. 

I went to one granddaughter's kindergarten graduation last night and will get to go to another granddaughter's on Friday. The one last night was at a small Christian school and the kids perform for their families. First they recited a Bible verse for every letter in the alphabet and then they sang songs. One was about bringing home pets and the kids really enjoyed singing that one's funny lyrics. 

Children this age are always cute. They lose their hats when they get too wound up in doing the motions of their songs and then panic because they have been told to keep that hat on. They play with the tassels on the hats when they get bored with the whole proceedings. Sometimes they consider wandering away, but kindergarten teachers are very talented at keeping their ducks in a row. Last night, one of the little girls was obviously very shy. But she was a problem solver. She covered her eyes with her hands so she couldn't see everybody watching her when she went up to get her diploma. The only trouble with that is she couldn't see where she was going. So now and again she'd have to peek and that made her giggle. She was very cute.  

After they handed out the certificates for completing kindergarten, the teachers gave every child another certificate as an award. We had best singers, best helpers, best a lot of different things. My granddaughter got the award for Enthusiasm. I told her that had to be one of the best awards to get. Enthusiasm can take you far and without it, life and work would be pretty dull.

"Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation and a pinch of creativity." (Bo Bennett) 

Without enthusiasm, writers like me might never come up with new stories. Enthusiasm is that big puff of wind that launches you on a project whether it's painting the living room, planting a garden, or writing a story. Perseverance is what keeps you going when that enthusiasm begins to ebb. But you need both. Right now I'm needing some enthusiasm to find the end of my work in progress and lots of perseverance. I can hear the characters talking on that last page, but I'm running through wet cement to get there.

"Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier." (Susan Rabin) 

Maybe I should have hung around my granddaughter a little longer. Hope you are feeling enthusiastic about what's going on in your life right now. Thanks for reading.

Reminder - The time to sign up for my giveaway is running out. If you haven't entered and would like to be in the drawing, let me know. It runs through the end of May and the 5 winners will have their choice of one of my books.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Graduation - A Commencement

  There is a good reason they call these ceremonies "commencement exercises." Graduation is not the end, it's the beginning. ~Orrin Hatch

On Friday, my oldest granddaughter graduated from high school. Here she is walking into the chapel where the ceremony was held. My son is the man in the picture watching her. It seems not all that many years ago that I was the parent watching him come down the aisle to line up with all his classmates and receive his diploma. A rite of passage that thousands of young people and parents are going through across the country.

In some ways it's as much an ending and a beginning for the parents as it is for the young people. The teen years are ending. Their child is ready to step out into the world and try his or her wings. I remember sending my son out into that world of independence. He was off to college the next year after working through the summer. He came home for visits and school breaks, but he never truly lived at home again. It was just a place to rest a few days or weeks before heading off on his journey to the rest of his life. Now he's beginning that time with his daughter - hoping her wings will be strong and her future good. His wings were strong and he's always soared high in life. That's what I wish for his daughter, my beautiful granddaughter. A good future with love and family and work that is fulfilling and makes her happy.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Have you lived the life you imagined? Or maybe one that turned out better than anything you might have imagined? And if you have a cherished child or grandchild graduating this year, what do you wish for him or her? 

Thanks for reading. And remember, if you want to throw your name in the hat for the May drawing for a copy of one of my books, you've still got time. Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment here with a way to contact you if you win. Also e-book copies of Angel Sister and Words Spoken True will be at reduced prices until the end of May.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Pencil = 45,000 Words

"A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere." ~Joyce A. Myers

With one pencil you can write 45,000 words - a short novel. Actually not quite half my own novels, but then I've been accused of being a bit wordy at times. 

I heard this interesting fact not long ago on the radio about how many words were in a pencil, and it started me thinking about all the pencils I have laying around. Pencils no doubt full of stories if I'd just pick them up and apply the lead to the paper. William Faulkner must have liked that style of writing if this quote from him is any indication. "I've got to feel the pencil and see the words at the end of the pencil."  You have to wonder if he would be saying I've got to feel the keys and see the words spilling across the computer screen these days. That's more the way I write. The way many writers write. Some still pick up pen and paper. Some dictate their words. 

Did you know that you can get computer programs that enable the computer to record your spoken words? Of course I can't even get my phone to understand when I want to call my husband, Darrell. The irritating little woman who lives in my phone comes back and says, "I can't find barrel." So it's no telling what a computer would type if I was dictating a story to it.

But I do think I need that feel of the keys and the words appearing on the screen in front of my eyes. Anybody want to hazard a guess to how many words are in a computer? That takes the pencil's 45,000 to a new level. However, computers have been known to have untimely deaths - usually right after the best scene you've ever written. The one you forgot to back up. Pencil leads break, but a little sharpening and they are right back to work without letting the paper lose a word. Unless the dog eats it or something. Or does that only happen with homework?

Even so, most of us began forming our letters with a pencil. Then the magic of words was at our fingertips. We could write down stories. I never tried to write a story with a pencil. I was partial to ink pens when I began writing, but it pokes at my imagination to think about being able to write a short novel with one pencil. It would have to be the right pencil. The one loaded down with imagination and nice soft lead to make the writing easy. I'd get my callus back on my middle finger like I used to have when I was in school. Then again maybe I'll stick with the keyboard. 

How about you? How do you like to write? Ever written a whole book with one pencil? You could you know, but I don't know if the eraser would last for me. "The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead." ~ Robert Brault

Thanks for reading.    

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Angel Sister and Mom

Eveyln on the left, Mom on the right
This is my mom and her older sister taken in front of the house where she grew up. I'm guessing Mom is maybe 16 or 17 here. For those of you who have read my book, Angel Sister, here are the two real people that became my characters, Kate and Evangeline. Mom didn't call her sister, Evelyn, Evie, but one of the other sisters did. So that's why I had to come up with a name that could be shortened to Evie since I didn't want to use Evelyn's real name. Then that helped the poetry come into play. That's how a writer's mind goes. This little bit of an idea leads to another little bit of an idea until you get the story built.

The plot of Angel Sister is completely fiction, but I built the background and setting from my mom's memories. That was hard at times because I had to separate my characters from the real sisters in order to tell my fictional story. But it was also fun and has made this book a story from my heart and from the heart of my mom. A lot of people downloaded Angel Sister when it was a free e-book last week. That was fun for me. If you didn't get a chance at the free download, the price for a download is reduced until the end of May. Plus you still have time to let me know you'd like your name in the giveaway for a print book (5 winners who will have their choice of one of my books). I'll do the drawing the end of May.

This is Mom twenty years later when I was just beginning to dream of being a writer. I thought she was beautiful and always wanted to look like her, but few people ever said I did. I look more like my dad. But the best thing about Mom was how she was always my biggest supporter while helping me learn to do things for myself.

That's a mama's job. Push the baby birds out of the nest when they're ready to fly. And yet somehow manage to keep being the wind beneath her child's wings. My mom did that. Taught me the things I needed to know and was always there for me with love and wisdom. She can't do that any more, but even now, even in the confusion of her dementia, she loves me and my sisters. It's just that she often drifts in time and now she really wants her mother to be there holding her and loving her. So my sisters and I try to love her through it but we're not good substitutes for a mother and the flashes of long past memories that are seeming so real to her. Some of those memories, or the echoes of them, are in Angel Sister

Happy Mother's Day to all of you! What do you love best about your mom? And if your mom has moved on up to heaven, what memory of her makes you smile? What I always loved best about my mom was her cheerful attitude - an attitude that said something might be hard, but we'd figure out a way. We always did.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Free Download - Words Spoken True

The price is right - free! Today, May 9 and tomorrow, May 10, those who have e-readers or an app on their phone or PC or whatever device in order to download books can download my newest book, Words Spoken True for the cost of $0.00. This picture of the cover is from Amazon. But it's free for Nooks from Barnes & Noble and for other e-readers on as well as other e-book sites. 

I don't have an e-reader yet, but I've heard great things about them from some and "please, just let me have a real book" from others. There are so many different ways to read now. Did you ever think that someday we might have to say "paper book" or "print book" when we talked about a book? The same with bookstores. Now we say "bricks and mortar" bookstores. You know, there is one constant in life and that is everything changes. Maybe not spiritual things. The Bible does promise us the Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. But the physical realm is in constant motion. 

When I started writing, I dreamed of having a typewriter. Then it was an electric typewriter. Then an electric typewriter that had a correction ribbon on it. That's when I thought I had it made! Those of you who never had to roll up the typing paper to make an erasure before rolling it back down and hoping the paper hadn't slipped have no idea how much I loved that correction ribbon. Add to that places where you could go get copies for a few cents a sheet and throw away that carbon paper. I was in writer heaven. Some of you are probably frowning and saying "What's carbon paper?" I don't even want to think about it long enough to explain. Google it. :)

Not long after that, computers began to filter out of offices into homes. I got a rebuilt one and the way I wrote changed once more. On and on the changes come. Now there are devices for reading books. With a few clicks you can bring a book right to your fingertips. Most of them even have sound effects so you can hear the page turning - electronically. 

You can get free books all the time. So much so that some people with e-readers have probably never actually bought an e-book. How about you? If you have an e-reader, have you bought books or do you just track down the free ones? Free is an excellent price and a great incentive to try a new writer. 

That's why the publishers offer the free books from time to time. They hope to find a writer new readers. Angel Sister was free Monday and Tuesday and is at a reduced price until the end of May. Now Words Spoken True is free until the end of Thursday, May 10, and then its price will also be reduced until the end of May. It's been fun having the free downloads available. Angel Sister even topped Amazon's free list. Words Spoken True hasn't climbed that high. Right now it's at number 25. 

You might wonder why an author would want her books to be given away free. After all, writing these books is my work. But it's also my passion and I want somebody, actually a lot of somebodies, to read my stories. In most of my books on the acknowledgement page, I thank you readers for adding your imagination to mine in order to make my characters come to life in your minds and heart. As this quote from Lawrence Clark Powell very clearly says, "Unless their use by readers bring them to life, books are indeed dead things." 

So we have a partnership - you and me. And this week I hope I've gained some new partners. You can download Words Spoken True too if you have one of the reading devices, but you'll have to hurry. The free ends tomorrow. If you're old fashioned like me and don't have an e-reader, you can throw your name in the hat for a "print" book. I'm picking five winners at the end of May and the winner can choose which of my books he or she wants. Just leave a comment with your e-mail or send me an e-mail from my website.   

I also sent out a couple of newsletters about the free books and other things. If you want to be on my newsletter list, let me know. As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Scenting the Trail to Better Scenes

Do you have a favorite flower?

I have a hard time picking one favorite, but the peony is definitely in my top ten. Their lush blooms, their spicy smell, their faithful, every year blooms are three of the reasons. And another is the memories. My aunt had two peony bushes in her yard when I was a kid. My mom has a picture of me when I was maybe two or three standing by the peony bush wearing a big hat. My two sisters also took pictures by the peony bush that day. I think the peony bushes were the big stars in the photos.

Whatever the reason for my love of the beautiful peony flowers today, one thing for sure the very hint of their spicy odor can transport me back in time. Memories are often brought to mind by odors. Sometimes it's not a particular memory, but just a good feeling. Smelling peonies makes me remember an innocent time when the sun was shining and life was easy. But I also have a tragic memory connected to the peonies when there was a death in my family and the coroner who came to pick up the body drove over the peonies that were in full bloom. There was something so incredibly sad about those crushed flowers.

Those kind of memories, both happy and sad, burrow deep in our minds. As a writer, I have to find a way to pull readers into my stories, to help them feel that sadness or joy, to put in images or sensory touches that the reader can recognize and relate to because he or she has seen or perhaps smelled something the same.

Fragrances awaken memories in our hearts. It's good to remember that while you're writing and take a sniff or two of whatever might be there in the scene you're setting. I don't know that I've ever written the fragrance of a peony into any of my stories, but there are some peonies in the yard down in my Rosey Corner stories. So maybe that fragrance will help me tell a part of the story someday.

I'm sending out a newsletter tomorrow with some fun news. So if you'd like to be on my newsletter list, you can go to my website and send me an e-mail saying you'd like to receive it.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have many pleasant fragrant memories.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lucky Dog Lucy

Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement. (Charles M. Schultz)

My dog, Lucy, had a traumatic experience last weekend. And she's not talking about it. She's one of those Heinz 57 dogs that has who knows what breeds in her. Her mother was the same. Father unknown. The mother dog was a neighbor's dog who had pups in our garage/shed. The grandkids wanted to keep one of them and Lucy was their pick. She had the neatest green eyes when she was a pup, but now they are golden. The only breed I'm sure she has a bit of is beagle because she loves to hunt. Unfortunately with her short legs she's never going to catch anything. Or perhaps that's usually fortunate. 

We're not sure if she caught something last week that turned out badly for her or if something caught her. Definitely bad either way. She went for a walk with me in the early afternoon Friday. She always disappears hunting so it wasn't unusual for her not to get back to the house with me. Then my husband comes in a couple of hours later and says what happened to Lucy. 

An excellent question. She was covered with black gooky stuff from her neck to the tip of her tail and very subdued. She crawled back under some shelves in the garage and just wanted to be left alone. It wasn't until I was trying to wash the stuff off her that I realized she had bite marks and a nasty torn wound on her hip. Vet time. Turned out ribs were broken too. And now she's recuperating in the house and not talking about what happened. I think she wants to enter the dog witness program.

For a while she was almost afraid to go outside for anything and stayed right under my feet when I took her out. She's still doing some odd things. Growls at one of the neighbor dogs that normally was a buddy. Doesn't mind Oscar, my dog, or the other neighbor dog. My daughter suggests that maybe this now unfavored dog deserted Lucy when whatever it was grabbed her and she's not about to forgive him for leaving her in the lurch. None of the other dogs came in with black gook on them. So it's a mystery. But I'm suspecting coyotes and a very lucky dog who found some hole to crawl into to get away. A black oily hole, but one that maybe saved her life.

So now, unless we hire a dog psychic (really, they have some out there) we'll never know what happened to Lucy. Maybe I'll change her name to Lucky Lucy. Or as my dad used to say, not so lucky because if she had truly been lucky she'd have gotten home from her hunt without any injuries.

Dogs. They can have some interesting adventures, but Lucy's wishing she hadn't hunted up that one last week.

Do you have any dog tales to tell?