Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunsets

Once while St. Francis of Asissi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, "What would you do if you were to suddenly learn that you were to die at sunset today?" He replied, "I would finish hoeing my garden."

That's a question that all of us pose to ourselves at some time or other. What would we do if we knew for certain that this would be our last day? I'm not sure I could be as faithful to my assigned task as St. Francis. I feel I would want to see my children and grandchildren, that somehow I would want to gather life to me. But that might not be possible. And even if it was, how sad that might make them. Perhaps it would be better to continue to hoe whatever garden was yours that day. 


The Shakers had a saying that I've used often in my Shaker novels. "Do your work as if you had a thousand years to live or as if you were to die tomorrow." They believed in doing their work as perfectly as possible but also as efficiently as possible. Then there's Isaac Asimov who when asked what he would do if he only had six months to live, responded "Type faster." 


Few of us are given a specific time to know when we are at the final sunset of our time. We think we will have a sunrise on the morrow. And most of us will. But not all of us. Accidents and tragedies steal young people before their time. Cancer is no respecter of age either, and we all know that terrible things can happen because people allow evil to overtake them. The Colorado shooting is grim evidence of that. 
  
My mother is 92, definitely in the sunset time of her life, but in her mind she's gone back to a younger time. It would be good if she could dwell in those memories and simply remember. But she thinks she needs to physically go back to that time, to see her mother and father, to fix her husband dinner, to see her sisters. Is it any wonder she sometimes looks at me and calls me her sister's name? I can't possibly be her daughter who is still just a baby somewhere needing to be cared for. One day when she was asking for Ann, I told her I was Ann. She said, "No, I mean the little Ann."


The little Ann is long gone, but maybe not for Mom. We try to be as kind as possible when we tell her we can't take her to see her mother or father. Often we try to not answer the question, but sometimes it can't be avoided. The trouble is that even after we tell her and she accepts it as true, five minutes later, she's asking to go see her mother again. It's hard to hear such sad news over and over and hard to have to deliver it too. We're going to try to take Mom home this week. It won't be the right home, the home she wants to go to, but we're hoping she'll be less sad.


It's an unavoidable truth that the sunset of time will come for all of us, but until then we'll just keep hoeing in our gardens. Or maybe type faster. 


For sure, the sunset of time up is coming for my Celebration giveaways. If you haven't thrown your name in the pot for the prizes of a Shaker music box, a basket and book or a beautiful pottery pitcher, you've got until midnight EST on Tuesday to go to my website and do that. I'll try to announce the winners on Wednesday if things aren't too crazy with Mom going home.


As always, thanks for reading.   
   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Through the Thorns to the Berries

I made boysenberry jam a couple of days ago and posted a picture of the finished product on my FB page. It's fun sharing things that are going on out here on the farm. But after I put up the picture there were a lot of questions about the berries. They're like blackberries only bigger than wild blackberries and sweeter tasting. Very yummy berries. However, there is a price to pay for that yumminess. They have thorns. Nasty, if you want these berries you're going to have to earn them with blood, sweat and tears thorns. You see those little curls on the ends of the thorns. That's what hooks you and once you're stuck you don't know whether to move forward or backward to get unstuck. And the leaves have thorns all along them too. There have been times when I've been certain the briars reached for me.

Even so, I like them enough to pick them, but I did tell someone once when we had an over abundance of the berries, that I would not pick them for anyone I hadn't given birth to or who hadn't given birth to me. And the grandkids, of course. The grandkids have always been brave enough to pick those berries themselves - not to put in a bucket, but to put in their mouths. During berry season, they will stand around the bushes like little birds eating everything in easy reach.

But tonight while I was picking a few berries, I got to thinking about reaching past the thorns for the good berries and how - if you want to really stretch the thought - that can be like coming up with a new story idea. When I'm searching for a new story, I have to reach into my creative bushes in order to find the ripe berry of a new idea. Some ideas are not ready for picking yet. Some may be like berries that have dried up on the bush or perhaps blooms that never were pollinated to make berries. But there will be the perfect ripe berry in there somewhere if I can just reach it. That's where the thorns come in. 

The thorns are the worries that this time the idea won't come. This time the story won't work. Distractions can be thorns to keep me away from the right idea berry. After all, it's summer. Jam needs to be cooked. Blogs need to be written. Books need to be read. Grandkids need to visit. Mama needs somebody with her all the time. I don't know that any of those are actually thorns, but they do make it harder to get started on a new book. Perhaps the biggest thorn - the one with the nastiest hook on its end - is procrastination that has me putting off pulling up that first blank page and typing Chapter 1. Got to do that tomorrow 


"But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose." ~Anne Bronte

 Or berry. Or new book. Wish me a thornless berry/idea bush. :) Thanks for reading.

 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Love at First Sight, Gifts, and Other Blogging Trails

Nine more days to take part in my Celebration giveaways. Either on my website at the The Gifted Contest Page (prizes shown there) or at Fresh Fiction and have a chance to win a lovely journal and pen. The picture of the basket and my book The Believer is the second prize in my website contest. The basket is a one-of-a-kind made locally. Not exactly like the Shakers would have made it since it is decorated with buttons, but the Shakers did make lots of baskets for use in their villages and for sale. 


It fun to give things away to celebrate a new book and another way I celebrate (and give away books) is by guesting on other blogs. I did a lot of that when Words Spoken True was published last February and some of you reading friends followed me around to leave comments and try to win a copy of the book. Well, now you can do it again. I was a guest on Rose McCauley's Blog Friday, and you still have time to comment there to have a chance to win a copy of The Gifted. Since Jessamine has to figure out which gifts are true and worthy in this new Shaker book, that's what I decided to write about with Rose. "What is Your Gift?" It was interesting to me that our pastor preached on how we all have gifts this morning. And no, I don't think he read my post over on Rose's blog. 


"Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” ~Anthony Robbins


Then I have a guest blog on Romance at Random all about love at first sight. Do you believe that's possible? Maybe you've experienced it. Or at least attraction at first sight. I was certainly attracted to my husband at first sight and we're still together all these years later. No free book on that site, but you can join in the conversation about whether you think love at first sight is possible. Of course, you can join in the conversation here for that too. And I threw out the question on Facebook a while ago and was already hearing love stories and then one story where the love at first sight feeling didn't lead to enduring love. 


But don't you just love to hear other people's love stories? How they met. How long they've been together. A couple at our church just celebrated their 64th anniversary. We had another couple who made it to 75 years together before the husband passed on at age 95. True testimonies of love and faithfulness. So you can find out how I met my husband if you go check out what I have to say about love at first sight. 


More guest blog posts to come with some of them offering chances to win a free book. A lot of reviews out there too. Ann Shorey, a fellow Revell writer, did one on The Gifted last week. If you want to know her thoughts about the book, go to Ann Shorey's website and you can check out Ann's books too while you're there.


I've got to come up with another guest post for a site called The Romance Dish. What romantic topic would you suggest?


Thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How to Have Fun with a New Book

My Hometown Reading Friends
Any excuse to have fun is a good excuse. And I did have fun this weekend celebrating my new Shaker book, The Gifted. See this roomful of friends waving at me and smiling? And that was after I talked. Could be that's why they were smiling -- because I'd finally hushed. I asked them to wave and I think it's funny that the people in the back rows waved big while the people in the front row were too shy or too something to hardly wave at all. If I was a psychologist I might figure that out. But that's okay. They were still smiling. 

I was smiling too, because it's always such fun to talk about a new book with friends. My hometown reading friends are so good to come out and support me as a local author. Each time a new person comes in the door of the library meeting room, I feel as if he or she is giving me a gift. In a way, they are. They are giving me the gift of their time. They are patiently ready to listen to me talk about how I got started writing and tell some of the same stories about my books again. I try to do a quick rehash of my writing history for the people who haven't heard me speak before, but some of the same stories about my hometown do seem to surface each book launch. Like how I changed the name of Lawrenceburg to Hollyhill in my books about Jocie and her friends because the Lawrenceburg series doesn't roll off the tongue right. How I didn't base any of my characters on real people - and that was my story and I was sticking to it. How The Outsider sat on a shelf for 25 years before it was published.  How I love to write. And how deep my roots go in this community. 

These sweet people laughed again when they were supposed to laugh. These sweet people asked questions when they were supposed to ask questions. These sweet people acted thrilled (at least the ones who won them) when they got one of my door prizes that were more fun than fancy. I gave away a raspberry candle because Jessamine was on a wild goose chase hunting wild raspberries in the first scene of The Gifted. I gave away a journal and a pen because Sister Sophrena wrote in a journal all the way through The Gifted. One door prize was a travel cup that said, "I took the road less traveled. Now where the heck am I?" That was Sister Annie following after Jessamine. 

Then there was the cup that said "Believe. All things are possible if you believe." That matches my book The Believer, but maybe it matches my writing journey too. How in the world could a little farm girl grab onto such a big dream as writing books and then years later, be celebrating her 24th published book with a room full of hometown reading friends? I am blessed. Many thanks to those of you who came to celebrate with me and also to those of you who celebrated with me from afar. 

Some of the Sherman Full Gospel ladies at the brunch
I also had book fun on Saturday with the ladies at a brunch at the Sherman Full Gospel Church in Dry Ridge, KY. These were all fresh ears so I got to tell my old writing stories with no worries about repeating myself. It was a lovely church with a friendly group of ladies who made some pretty fancy fixings for brunch. So how to have fun with a new book is to find some people willing to laugh at your jokes and listen to you tell about the gift of writing. Thank all of you.  

If you haven't already, don't forget about signing up for my Celebration contests on my website contest page and on the Fresh Fiction Contest Page. Entries need to be in by midnight EST on July 31. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 16, 2012

ER Room Replay

Well, Mom and I spent another night in the emergency room at the hospital. This time my sister went along. She's spent a lot of hours in ERs with her husband who was continually a cranky patient, but dementia adds a whole new dimension to an ER experience - especially after a fall and they strap a confused older person to a back board with a head guard on. Mom "Just cut it off." Me "I don't have any scissors." Mom "Oh, you know you do." Same conversation with Mom wanting me to get out my knife. Thank goodness I don't have a pocket knife or we might have been sawing on that head brace. Finally they got around to reading the X-rays. No new fractures. Halleluyah! They took off the board and head thing. Just the cut over her eye to fix. Doctor "We'll get that fixed in a sec." Secs are long at the ER. Some 45 minutes later Mom's head is glued together. Now all we need is a ride back to the nursing home. People in our county kept having emergencies. No ambulances available for transport for almost two hours. My sister is getting worried about getting home before her granddaughter shows up. I'm getting worried about ever getting home period. At least Mom's in a better mood - smiling now and when a couple of very tired paramedics do finally show, she's thanking them. One of the guys had been on duty 23 hours. We hoped he wasn't driving. I take my sister home. Go home myself in hopes Mom is as exhausted as me and will snooze back at the nursing home. Not! The nurse calls me after a couple of hours. Mom's being a terror at the nursing station. So now I'm sitting with her while she sleeps. I told Mom we were going to have to find a better place to party!

I did have a better place to party yesterday. My book party was fun. I've got pics but not on my phone, so the party report will have to wait. I do thank all who came and all who wished they could but the road trip was too long. I appreciate you all. Please also keep in mind that phone blog posts might result in some odd phrases. Who knows what this thing thinks I'm trying to say.








Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roots - Shallow or Deep

"For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks." ~Friedrich Nietzsche

We've been having dry and hot, very hot weather here in Kentucky. It's weather a lot of others in the country are sharing. In a stretch of ten days we set seven record highs and went over 100 degrees many of those days. And that's without those heat indexes that can make us feel even hotter. We didn't need anything to make us feel hotter. While it was hot, the wind kept blowing. That helped us when we were out in the scorching sun, but it didn't help the plants and trees. The wind whipped any remnants of moisture right out of them. Even the ironweeds out in the fields looked wilted, and there's a reason they are called ironweeds. Almost nothing can bother them. A friend had a digital thermometer that he could point at things and see the temperatures on that surface. He said the asphalt was 169 degrees. The black rocker on my deck topped out at 140 degrees. A real hot seat! 

It's no wonder then that some of the trees are losing leaves as if it were October instead of July. Most of the leaves on the tree in the picture above are yellow, worse than its brother trees down the fence row. There's a reason for that. It's growing near a wet weather spring--a place where there is plentiful moisture most of the time. So the tree never had any need to put down deeper roots. Now its shallow roots can't reach the moisture stored deeper in the ground. 

People can have trouble too when their roots are shallow and suddenly they enter a drought period in life. A time when troubles come, when the good things of life are no longer easy to reach. But people have the advantage over my stressed out little tree. It no doubt is trying to shoot out longer roots but it takes time for a tree to grow those roots. It takes people time to put down roots too but they can find plentiful help in showers of blessings even in a time of drought. Clinging to those blessings of faith and trust in the Lord can help us stand strong when the harsh winds of troubles blow against us. We aren't promised no troubles, but we are promised One who will stand with us through the droughts of life.

I hope you are being showered with blessings and not in any kind of drought. Some things have been difficult for me this summer, but other things have been very good. I'm excited about The Gifted being out for readers and love hearing from you. I'm getting ready to have my Hometown Book Celebration this Sunday at my local library. If you live in the area, come on out. We'll have a good time talking books and I'll have door prizes. I like giving things away. That's why I've got the Celebration Giveaway going on my website and you've got a few more weeks on the Fresh Fiction giveaway too. Fun prizes in both.


Thank you for reading.  

Kind hearts are the gardens, 
Kind thoughts are the roots, 
Kind words are the flowers, 
Kind deeds are the fruits. 
Take care of your garden 
And keep out the weeds, 
Fill it with sunshine 
Kind words and kind deeds." ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blank Pages, Beginnings and Book Launches


Talking to friends - the best part of a booksigning
A new book means I get to celebrate with my reading friends. I started having book launch celebrations here in my hometown when my first inspirational novel, The Scent of Lilacs was published. We had so much fun that I've had a book launch party for every book since. And now it's time to gather with friends for my new book, The Gifted. That will be happening this coming Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Anderson County Public Library - the good Lord willing and the creek doesn't rise. Not much chance of the creek rising as dry as it's been and I'll hope the Lord will smile down on us celebrating a new book. I'll be talking about writing this fifth Shaker novel and hearing what you have to say about The Gifted too. Question and answer time is always my favorite part of any talk.

  
But I know many of you reading friends live a little too far away to drive over (or maybe down or up) to celebrate with me. So I'm celebrating with all of you by having a contest or two where I can give away a few prizes. This pottery pitcher is the third prize in my Celebration giveaway on my website. You can sign up there until midnight EST on July 31 for a chance to win one of three prizes. This pitcher was made by a local artist here in Anderson County. That's fun - to have a local, one of a kind prize. Then there's the Fresh Fiction giveaway too, plus I'll be doing some guest posts on blogs with the chance to win a book. Some reading friends followed me around to those with Words Spoken True, and I appreciated that so much. 

All the celebrating is good, but here at home, I need to be beginning on a new reason to celebrate. It's time for me to pull up the blank page, ask a few "what if" questions and try to launch into a new story with the hope that in a year or so I'll be able to have another party with friends and giveaways to celebrate it. 

Beginnings - in a story that's when anything is possible. A time when a writer can believe this might be the best story yet or a time when a writer might worry that the story magic won't sprinkle over her fingers on the keyboard. After writing dozens of stories, I can summon up confidence that the story will come - most of the time. It always has before, but with each new story, I want it to be better than the last. That's what can be hard. Believing I can write a better story than the ones I've already written. But I will begin again and search out new people who have a new story to tell. I won't let the blank page intimidate me. At least, not too much.

Thanks so much for reading and if you're in the area, I hope you'll come to the Anderson County Public Library Sunday, July 15th, and enjoy celebrating a new book with me.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Family, Fireworks, Freedom


Did you watch fireworks last night on the Fourth of July? Did you get to hear the oohs and aahs of family and friends while the sky was lighting up with color and noise? Or maybe you had a little one who was terrified by the sky exploding and hid his or her face against you? 

I missed out on the fireworks last night. My son and his family came by to pick up their dog I'd been keeping for them since they traveled down this way to keep cool after the storm in the east took out their electricity. Then they took a little vacation and Sammy, their dog got to spend a few days here in the country. So last night we had grandkid fireworks here. Well, no fireworks, but family fun.

First Prize in The Gifted Celebration
It's been a busy week with the release of my 
new Shaker book, The Gifted and the deadline to meet for my work in progress. Got the deadline met and now time to celebrate The Gifted. Since it's way too dry down here on the farm to set off fireworks, I'm celebrating by giving some things away. The Shakers talked often about gifts and one of their most familiar songs is "Tis the Gift to be Simple." So what better prize to celebrate Jessamine's story than a Shaker music box playing that song. Just fill out the form on my website contest page or send me an e-mail to enter. Two other prizes too.


I'm also celebrating on the Fresh Fiction page by giving away a journal and a neat pen so that the winner can record her (or maybe his) thoughts and daily happenings the way Sister Sophrena did in The Gifted. I've always loved writing in journals.

I sent out a newsletter about The Gifted and my contest, and I've heard from some of you in return. If you'd like to get my newsletter and don't, just let me know. We can fix that. I love hearing from all of you. 

How did you celebrate the Fourth? Next question, how do you wish you'd celebrated the Fourth? I enjoyed seeing the grandkids. But I think a fantastic way to celebrate the Fourth might be to sit out on a beach somewhere and listen to the waves come in while some industrious city leaders shoot fireworks up over the ocean. I'll just make it even better by renting one of those big beachhouses and inviting the whole family to be sitting there on the beach with me. Think I could take my dog, Oscar too? Since I'm only dreaming, I think I can.  

Try to stay cool and thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Gifted

The Gifted  was released today, July 1. That makes today a good day. July 1 is also my deadline for the book I'm currently writing. That makes today a pressure filled day. July 1 is also my granddaughter's birthday. That makes it a joyful day. Tonight, still July 1, was also a really hard night for me with Mom, so that made it a not so good day. My husband was singing at a church in a nearby town and the WV grandkids, who happened to be in that town due to the electricity being out because of the storms that went through their area, all went to hear him. I didn't get to go. I didn't get to see the kids. That made it a day I was feeling a little sorry for myself. All the same day but with such different ups and downs.

But a person should always concentrate on the bright side. The bright side is Jessamine is ready to share her story with readers. The bright side is that some people have already read The Gifted and I'm beginning to hear some reader remarks and see a few reviews. The bright side is that the first two reader reviews on Amazon had all the stars lit up. Here's what one of those readers said, "Full of rich detail about the lives of this reclusive religious group, it is fascinating reading for anyone curious about the Shakers, or anyone who is a fan of reading about the Plain people, though not necessarily Amish." That was nice - another bright side.

The bright side is that I am almost finished with the new book even though I did spend extra hours at the nursing home and finally had to leave with Mom angry with me. Due to emergencies with a couple of other patients, they were slow to bring her medicine. She had gone to sleep and when they woke her she was in a wrong mood. Refused her medicine. Refused to listen to me. Now I have to worry about how she's doing without that medicine. Sigh. 

It was just one of those nights when things didn't go smoothly. But I suppose I can be glad that the electricity didn't get knocked out by the storm. I can be glad for all the bright sides of this day, July 1. And I can be very glad that I have a new book available for readers. As soon as I get the new book off to my editor, I'll be sending out a newsletter with information about celebrating The Gifted with the chance for you to win some special gifts. A person needs to shine up the bright sides and celebrate the good things in life.

Thanks for reading and helping me shine up the bright sides of this day and every day.