Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Tricks and Treats

What says Halloween like pumpkins? And what's more fun than kids in a pumpkin patch? Actually my young granddaughter here is just hefting the pumpkin to show me. We were at the Shaker village near me and this pumpkin had turned loose of its vine and was too big a temptation for my granddaughter to pass by. She did put it back where she found it so perhaps it still found its way into some pumpkin pies or muffins at the Shaker village restaurant.

What did you do on Halloween when you were a kid? How you answer that might show your age. Kids did go trick-or-treating when I was a kid, but I didn't. Well, I did once with a school friend when I was maybe ten. I don't remember how old I was, but I DID NOT like going up to the doors of people I didn't know and saying trick-or-treat. It seemed too much like begging. Even the candy I got didn't taste all that good and I loved sweets when I was a kid.

My dad hated Halloween. Back then, the farm boys played real tricks and didn't worry about treats. One year they took my dad's gate and wired it across the front door at the elementary school. Dad was not amused. Gates keep cows in the field. Missing gates don't. 

After I married and had kids, the church had parties with candy and games for the kids. Once when I was taking them and my nieces and nephew home from one of those parties, I drove up on triple high row of rocks across the road. They must have dismantled an old rock fence. A lot of work carrying all those rocks out in the road. It wasn't much fun me having to move them either - in the dark on a lonely country road with six kids in the car. Spooky.

Here's a bit of spooky writing by Ray Bradbury from his book, The Halloween Tree. He really invokes a great atmosphere here. 

..Until they stood at last by a crumbling wall, looking up and up and still farther up at the great tomb yard top of the old house. For that's what it seemed. The high mountain peak of the mansion was littered with what looked like black bones or iron rods, and enough chimneys to choke out smoke signals from three dozen fires on sooty hearths hidden far below in dim bowels of this monster place. With so many chimneys, the roof seemed a vast cemetery, each chimney signifying the burial place of some old god of fire or enchantress of steam, smoke, and firefly spark. even as they watched, a kind of bleak exhalation of soot breathed up out of some four dozen flues, darkening the sky still more, and putting out some few stars.”  

Is that the kind of Halloween you want? Spooky? Or do you just enjoy standing at the door and watching the Tinkerbells and lions and camouflaged soldiers come to gather their suckers and candy bars?  

I got a rock. ~ Charlie Brown

Hope you got better treats than Charlie. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Whittling

The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.  __ Robert Cormier

Last time here on my journal I talked about whittling – the real kind of whittling where you take a pocketknife to a piece of wood. But there are other sorts of whittling and one of them is what I’m doing this week.

I had that deadline for my Christmas Shaker book that kept my fingers attached to my keyboard for several days straight as I tried to race to the end of my story. I did find the end finally with a couple of days to try to make the words sing a little sweeter tune. A couple of days are not enough. Especially when I knew I was too wordy. It seems wrong somehow to be working so hard to dig enough words out of your head to try to get a story down and then realize that you’ve dug up too many words.
Sometimes editors don’t mind a few extra words, but Christmas books are different. They need those stories to follow the length guidelines a little closer. I knew the story was coming in too long. I even pulled out my contract to see what the word requirements were – 50,000 to 55,000. To give this a little perspective, most of my recent books have come in at over 100,000 words. Sometimes 120,000. I love words and it takes a lot of them for me to tell a story. So even with the knowledge that I was over my contracted word length, I had to keep writing in order to finish the story. I couldn’t worry about how long it was until I got it written. I trimmed a few words here and there, but the deadline came and I sent the story in.
Happily, my first reader, my editor likes the story. That’s always good news. But she did notice those extra words. So now I have a new deadline to find and eliminate the unnecessary words. Tighten. Rephrase. Make better. The delete key is my best tool right now. So I’m whittling out the extra words to make a cleaner, slimmer story. Not as much fun as whittling a piece of wood, but maybe more fun than trying to whittle down a waistline by not eating all the good stuff there is out there to eat.
I don’t really mind editing. I sort of like it if I’m not having to totally change the story. This time I don’t have to do that. I just have to hunt down those extra words and whittle them away, one by one. Or sometimes a sentence or paragraph at a time. Good words that I thought were needed on the first run through of the story, but everything can be made better. The delete key works. 1,000 or so down. 500 to go.
Do you need to whittle down something in your life?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whittling in the Mountains

 Have you ever done any whittling? Do you even know what it means to whittle? I suppose a whittler could be making something out of the stick of wood he's working over with a knife, but most of the time when a person is whittling, he's just making wood shavings. Men are the ones I usually see working their knives on a piece of wood, but women can whittle too. I've even curled a few shavings off a piece of wood at times when one of my sons wanted to show off a new pocket knife. 

Do you have a pocket knife? For years, my mother had a miniature pocket knife about the size of a one inch safety pin in her coin purse. While a pocket knife is optional for a country girl, it's almost as necessary as a comb to a country boy. Maybe more so. And for men who have reached the "let's tell some stories" age, it's indispensable. It keeps a man's hands busy and his eyes occupied, but his ears are ready to listen. Plus, he can just think better when his hands are occupied. 

It's almost a cliche to mention older men sitting on a bench outside a store talking and whittling away the afternoons. Those men have made many an appearance in books, movies, and t.v. shows. The image brings to mind a simpler time when life moved slower. Now we're more apt to see men and women sitting with their phones in their hands checking out what's going on all around the world instead of just watching what might be passing on the street in front of them while the wood shavings pile up around their feet. But is that progress? Well, maybe. At least for me. I'd probably just shave my finger with a whittling knife, but I can take pictures with the phone to share the places I've been. 

This week we went on our annual trip with my husband's brothers and sister and their spouses to the Smoky Mountains. The weather was gorgeous, the leaves colorful, the food good and the company the best. A great way to catch up with what's going on with our families. And the guys did a little tale telling and whittling. 

Thanks for reading, and now that I'm back from the mountains, I'll get those books sent out to the winners of my giveaway.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Winners, Deadlines and Notebooks

A pen and a notebook still work. Years and years ago, when I first began writing, that was the way I started – with a wirebound notebook and an ink pen.  Not a ballpoint like this, but a real fountain pen that I filled up out of a little glass jar of ink. The jar had a little well at the top where I dipped my pen point in. Then I had to pull out this little lever that pushed in the rubber ink holder inside the pen. When you let the lever go, the ink was sucked up in the pen. I loved filling up that pen even if I did get ink on my fingers nearly every time. You know, that might have just made it better. Ink stained fingers surely meant I was a writer. Do you remember those kinds of pens? How about those that had little replacement cartridges of ink. I guess they were all replaced by gel pens.

Time went on. I got a typewriter and since with three kids, writing time was precious, I told myself I had to learn to write using a typewriter. I did. More time passed and I entered the computer age. The keyboard became an essential piece of my creative equipment. I still journaled in a wirebound notebook with any pen handy as long as it had black ink.  I hadn’t written any fiction in longhand for too many years to count. But deadlines can make a person desperate. So with a deadline looming for my work in progress and a long airplane flight to and from California, I stuffed a wirebound notebook in my purse. I sat next to people on the long flights who had no interest in talking. So I went back in time and started scribbling words. Lots of scratch outs and inserts, but I found out the pen still works. Words came that when I did get to a keyboard weren’t all that bad and I got through several scenes that helped me almost meet my deadline. I only had to beg a couple of extra days and that was for reviewing and editing. But without that notebook and pen, I would have never made it across the finish line.

Am I going to keep writing in a notebook? No. I like my keyboard and my backspace key when I think up a better word. The delete key comes in handy too. Of course, a black line or scribble through a few sentences works too.

After I finally got that deadline met, I drew for my winners in my birthday giveaway. Sorry I’m a few days late, but had to get that story written. So drum roll please. Wanda S of Iowa won the first prize of the NIV Bible and she picked my book, Summer of Joy. Ann H of Pennsylvania won second prize of the prayer journal and she choose, Orchard of Hope. Jayne R of Ontario, CA was the never won before winner of Liz Curtis Higgs book, Mine is the Night, and she picked my book, Angels at the Crossroads. Then I chose a bonus winner out of the never won before entrants. So Tisha of Indiana won a copy of her choice of one of my books, and she picked Angels at the Crossroads, too. Thanks to all of you who entered. I enjoy giving away books and I’ll be doing another book giveaway soon.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a good week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Frogs in the Bathroom! Oh my!

Do you like frogs? This little fellow has some explaining to do. I was sweeping the bathroom this morning when I noticed what I thought was a gray rock on the floor under the step stool. Rocks in my house are not unusual. The grandkids are always collecting rock treasures. And I sometimes carry in rocks I find interesting. Carried one home from my walk today. So a gray rock was not a worry. That is until it started hopping! Then the rock got a little more interesting.  

For starters, how did a frog get in my bathroom? Back years ago, when we lived in an old farmhouse with lots of air holes for sneaky critters to discover, I wouldn't have been so surprised. Snakes sometimes made it inside. Mice thought the old farmhouse was a winter hotel. Even an occasional bird showed up in a panic when it didn't see the first tree branch to light on. Can't remember any frogs though. 

But now I have a nice, tight brick house with doors that close all the way together. No holes in any of the corners that I know about. So how did this frog come inside? A tree frog at that. I did bring in some plants before I took off for California last week. They were warning about frost. I've had toads that liked making homes in my flower pots. Once I carried a big old toad about a mile away to a creek to keep him from burrowing down in my flowers over and over, but I've never had a tree frog make a home in a flower pot. Still, that's what must have happened. Either that or I have a frog entrance I don't know about. I am happy that I saw the frog in the daytime instead of the creature hopping on my foot in the middle of the night. That might have really gotten interesting.  

So I gave him his freedom. But I doubt he went to hide under these toadstools. Tell me have you ever seen a toad under a toadstool? Or a frog? How about in a bathroom? Frogs in my bathroom. Oh my!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Difference of a Few Thousand Miles

I was a long way from home last week. Out in Monterey Bay, California for a writers’ retreat. There the ocean trumps it all as the waves come in and the sea animals play out in the water. We left the doors open out to the balcony to hear the waves crashing and the seals barking through the night. During the day, we peered out toward the kelp where the sea otters floated along, some with their babies on their bellies. Pelicans lined up in the sky and flew past our hotel. Gulls flashed their wings at us and landed on the hotel deck railings to see what we were having for dinner. Out in the bay, dolphins leaped from the water, splashing their friends. People in bright yellow kayaks rowed around to get close to the sea otters. No sign of fall there with all eyes drawn to the beautiful blue water. All the hills are brown, not green like in Kentucky. In places flowers and colorful plants paint the ground red and yellow and pink. Nothing you’ll see in Kentucky.
Then the retreat was over and it was back on the airplane for the long ride home. 2,310 miles by I 40, but I was traveling Sky 40. An hour and a half by bus to the airport and then four and a half hours to Chicago and another hour home. That didn’t count airport waiting time. A long way home. I wasn’t by a window so I couldn’t see out. We were above the clouds most of the time anyway, but on the little puddle jumper plane from Chicago to Lexington, no one was in the seat beside me so I had a good view of the Kentucky landscape as we came in to the airport. Horse farms and barns. Green pastures and wooden fences. Cows and horses. And the trees got decked out in their autumn colors while I was gone. Reds and golds. Oranges and yellows. A blaze of color unlike anything in California.
So many differences from state to state in our beautiful country. From sea to shining sea. Mountains and rolling prairies. Hills and flat fields. Rocky coasts and sandy beaches. Last week I got to be in two very different states. Life is good. Do you have a favorite state?
The wind was really whipping today when I went out walking to see some of those beautiful fall colors. So this quote seemed perfect.
The autumn wind is a pirate. Blustering in from sea with a rollicking song he sweeps along swaggering boisterously. His face is weather beaten, he wears a hooded sash with a silver hat about his head... The autumn wind is a Raider, pillaging just for fun.  ~Steve Sabol
I’m extending my deadline a few days for my website giveaway. Remember, I’m giving away a NIV Study Bible and a prayer journal and some of my books. If you haven’t entered and would like to throw your name in the hat, just comment here with a way to get in touch with you or send me a message from my my website. I’ve got three days to finish my Shaker Christmas story so that gives all of you some extra time to enter the giveaway since I won’t have time to do the drawing until the end of the week. There will be three lucky winners.
As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

In Steinbeck Country

I’ve been in Monterey Bay all week enjoying a writer’s retreat hosted by my literary agency. I’m a long way from home in a lot of ways. Distance for sure, but not as long as some of the other attendees. One writer, Marion Stroud, and her husband are here England. They have been gifting us all week with their lovely accent. Of course, they say we are the ones who have the accent. Another writer, Cathy West and her husband are here from the Bahamas. From one paradise to another.  Me, I’m here from Kentucky – still a long ways by road or air. Took me all day to get here. Will take me all day to get home.
But distance isn’t the only way it’s a long way. I sit here now in the pre-dawn light when at home it’s mid-morning. The waves are crashing against the rocks outside my window. At home, I’d have to walk a ways to hear a creek running downhill over rocks.  Here, I have new and old friends, but no family. Here, I am among dozens of great writers, experienced writers, who are ready and willing to talk and share and give hints on how to improve. At home, all those writer ideas have to come from me.
This is Steinbeck country. He lived here. He loved the place and wrote about it in Cannery Row. Yesterday at lunch he showed up in his slouch hat and sunglasses while we were eating that fabulous dessert I posted on Facebook. Well, not really him, but an actor who pretended to be him and gave us his history. Writers always are eager to hear how our writers did it and he had a beautiful command on the language. Steinbeck, I mean. So we enjoyed.
I am enjoying. Great scenery. Great history. Great company. Today I have more opportunity to learn. I’ll share more when I make that looonnng trip back to where I belong – my home. My roots. That’s what Steinbeck had too. Roots here in Cannery Row.
Where are your roots?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Homecoming Smiles

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."

Goshen had a great 200th birthday celebration today. Our church was overflowing, something that hasn't happened our way for a long time. A lot of people who grew up in the church came back to celebrate and remember with us. We had to get out chairs. At a church, it's always good when the deacons have to go carry in chairs. We ran out of parking places and everybody had to park behind the other cars until some of the people were a captive audience. Several times we had to announce, please move your car so somebody could leave. But it was good. Everybody was happy and smiling as you can see in the picture. 

Here we had gone back over to the church after a potluck spread that was a smorgasbord of delicious. Trouble was, there were so many people I wanted to talk to that I didn't have time to eat. I did get some of that butterscotch cooler dessert I love so much. Yum! But I didn't even get over to the table of salads. That's my favorite part of church dinners. Forget the veggies. Let's eat those fancy salads and desserts, right?

Several people got up to remember back when they used to come to Goshen and as you can see some of the times were funny. Laughter is good medicine and memories can warm the heart.

"To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~ Margaret Fairless Barber 

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

200 Years and Counting

This is the little country church I attend - Goshen Baptist. On Sunday we are going to celebrate our 200th year. To give a little perspective on how long that is, when Goshen first began meeting, the members couldn't sing the national anthem because the "Star-Spangled Banner" had not yet been written. They couldn't claim to live in Anderson County because Anderson county had not been formed. Lawrenceburg was a tiny village called Lawrence with no churches. James Madison was president and Isaac Shelby was beginning his second term as Kentucky governor. 

In December of 1811, the Salt River Church (formed from the Dover Baptist Church in Manakin, Virginia) granted a constitution to 29 members to form a new church. Goshen Baptist Church was constituted on January 4, 1812 by John Penney, Sr. (an ancestor of the J.C. Penney who went on to establish the department stores) and William Hickman Jr. with those 28 members. Goshen first met in homes before a log building was erected in 1813. By the time an addition of 20 feet was added in 1829, the congregation had increased to 107. John Penney served as pastor from 1812 to 1822. His son, William White Penney was ordained by Goshen Church in 1822 and became the church's second pastor from 1822 to 1833. Both men died in the cholera epidemic of 1833.

In 1838 an anti-mission faction split from Goshen and formed New Goshen. This group led by Jordan Walker held to the belief that God would convict, save and preserve His elect without any added human effort. In fact, they believed attempting to assist God in His purpose was sinful. This split brought hard times to Old Goshen as shown in a poem written by Martha Penney Bell in 1838.
            Now we are scattered and bereft
            And but a few of us are left.
            Oft without a pastor we
            And in sad decline you see.

By 1870 the church building was no longer fit for use and the church began meeting in the Lyceum Schoolhouse. That was still their meeting place in 1886 when William Dudley Moore began his long pastorate at Old Goshen. He served the church for 24 consecutive years until 1910, and then returned in 1927 when the church called him for life. He was killed in an auto accident in 1935.  

In 1887, Bro. Moore began promoting the idea of building a church, and land was donated by James & Nancy Hendricks and J.B. & Nancy Case. The present sanctuary was dedicated on September 29, 1889 by Bro B.F. Hungerford, who made this entry in his diary. "Took an early start for Old Goshen church 7 miles from Lawrenceburg to preach the dedicatory sermon of their new house of worship. Br. Burford is a slow driver. Road hilly and rocky. Was two and one half hours going 7 miles. Was worried at the pace but couldn't complain. Reached there at 10 1/2 a.m. House full of women and babies. Woods full of men and horses. After some choir singing, preached the sermon. Text Psalm 127:1 and Ex. 19:4,5,6. An old time basket dinner." 

In 1910, ten members were dismissed to assist in organizing Kirkwood Baptist Church. In 1946, the church voted to erect a new building at an estimated cost of $12,825, but later decided to remodel and add Sunday school rooms. The Sunday school addition was dedicated in 1949. The Fred L. Knickerbocker Fellowship Hall was dedicated in 2006.

And now we're celebrating 200 years with another of those "old time basket dinners" this Sunday. And if you've ever been to an old fashioned church dinner, you'll know everybody there will be in for a treat. We'll also have the treat of some great Gospel music as the Patriot Quartet will be singing at 10:30 a.m. Come on out if you live nearby.
Through the years, Goshen has seen times of great blessings and times when the doors seemed to be ready to creep shut, but through God's grace and because of many dedicated members through the years, here we are celebrating 200 years.