Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mysteries in the Safe

When I was a kid, there was a safe in an outbuilding at my aunt's house. The safe was the size of a small chest and locked. Nobody knew the combination. Nobody knew what was in the safe. It was from the past that nobody in my family remembered. At one time, some of my ancestors operated a distillery. My aunt even had a bottle of the whiskey that was distilled there. She used a little of it on her fruitcakes at Christmas time. And she threatened us with lemon and whiskey in sugar when we had bad coughs. My cough was never bad enough to even get the threat, but my sister had asthma and she did. Not sure if my aunt ever tried the cure on her or just talked about it.

The safe had been at the distillery that was put out of business by Prohibition. Why the safe ended up in my aunt's wash house, I don't know. I do know that when we were young, my sisters and I were fascinated with the safe. We'd twirl the dial this way and that, thinking that at any moment we'd hit the right combination of numbers and the safe would open and reveal its mysteries. Of course we expected gold bars or maybe bags of cash. Diamonds and coins were not beyond the realm of our imaginations. Needless to say, we never stumbled across the right combination. 

Fast forward fifty or so years. My sister now owned the place where the safe was located, where it had survived a fire, but still was locked tight. She sold the place. That's the old log house being torn down that I wrote about Sunday. A neighbor asked my sister if he could have the safe before she sold the place. When he was a boy, his parents played Rook every week with my parents, and he had obviously explored, found the safe in the outbuilding and been as entranced by what might be inside as we were when we were kids. He promised to share the wealth if he could get it open. LOL. 

I don't know if he used dynamite or skill with safe cracking, but he did get it open. No gold. No sack of money. Not even an old penny. Just some mementos from the past that had a treasured place in that safe for almost one hundred years. This woman's picture was in there in several different poses. This ticket to the 1919 Kentucky State Fair was there too. Was there a special date at the fair that was the reason for keeping the ticket? Was she a love lost? So, after all these years, we know what was in that safe, but we don't know why. We will never know. But it's fun to imagine!

What do you think? Wouldn't it have been nice if whoever had locked those things in there had locked his diary in there too?

Thanks for reading. I'm sending out a newsletter tomorrow. If you aren't on my newsletter list and would like to be, let me know.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This Old House - Saying Goodbye

"He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery." ~Harold Wilson

Things change. That's the one thing in life you can be sure will happen. Maybe not every day, but then again maybe every day. Sometimes we want to hold time in a bottle and keep the world from changing for a little while, but we can't. The sun comes up and goes down. The seasons change. Children become adults. New babies are born. To everything there is a season and throughout it all the one everlasting constant is that things change. 

The top picture is the homeplace being torn down - its logs showing for the first time in well over a hundred years. I don't know how old the original house is. The second picture is the way the house looked in I'm guessing the 1930's or 40's, with some of my great aunts in the yard. You can see the front porch behind them where many afternoons were spent visiting, perhaps breaking beans or shelling peas. My grandfather sat on this porch during his last years, a flyswatter in his hand to kill the pesky flies. My children swung on the porch swing "high as the moon" and sometimes off to dreamland. Inside are even more memories. Overnight visits almost every Friday with my beloved aunt. Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with little salt cellars at every plate. It's where I first touched the keys of a typewriter. It's where my children came later to spend the nights with their beloved granny and granddad after my aunt passed on. A memory not only in every room, but in every board of every wall, every wooden step. And now the house has been sold. The new owners had it inspected. The house was condemned and is being torn down. Change can make a person's heart hurt.  

I stopped the other night to ask the new owners if I could take some pictures. So even though seeing the house meeting its end is sad for me, I also found the log structure that had been revealed fascinating. Look at the rows of rocks carefully placed between the logs like a miniature rock fence before the builders added the chinking. I can imagine the men building this, sawing down the trees that surely were growing so majestically in this place before the settlers came and began clearing them away to grow crops and build houses like this one. This house was bigger than many I have seen in history books, and it would have taken several men to get the logs in place. It was built with care and skill and has lasted maybe two centuries or near to it. But all things change. 

"Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress." ~Bruce Barton

Progress can't be stopped. The new owners deserve a nice house on their property. The house being gone won't make the memories disappear. It'll just make the family, at least those of us left, who lived there and made those memories a little sad. 

Does change sometimes make you sad? 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bible Stories, Crafts and Cookies at VBS

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” (Forest E. Witcraft) 

Did you go to Vacation Bible School when you were a kid? Have you ever volunteered your time to teach kids Bible stories or help them tie dye shirts or make pencil holders out of soup cans? Could be you made a new friend like these two have done. 

Back in the day, so the older members of our little church used to tell me, they had Bible School for two weeks for three hours in the afternoon Monday through Friday. They went around with a big truck and gathered up every kid in the neighborhood and when the classrooms inside the church were unbearably hot with so many kids crowded in them, they had Bible School under the shade tree in the yard. They fed the kids Koolaid and cookies and taught them to store the Word of God in their hearts. 

I don't remember the two week Bible Schools, but I do remember the three hour during the day sessions. And I do remember the fresh faces of the kids eager to hear the Bible stories and make something neat to take home to show their moms and dads. I remember singing "This Little Light of Mine" and "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart." I remember giving that whole week to Bible School from preparing lessons and getting craft ideas ready. I remember all the other ladies in the church and some of the men were ready to do the same. It didn't matter that the beans in the garden were ready to pick or that they needed to make a few gallons of tomato juice. At VBS time, they were there to give their time in order to share the Gospel with a child. 

Sweet children's face march through my memory as I think back on teaching Bible School for over forty years. I'm not all that good with crafts. Sand jars are usually my and the kids' favorite. Did you know you can make great "sand" for those sand sculptures with plain old salt and colored chalk. Just pour a little salt out on wax paper and let the kids rub the chalk on it. The more they scrub the salt with the chalk, the darker the color will be.

Some of the other things we made were wind chimes out of bamboo sticks, yarn octopi, a gumball holder, picture frames of all sorts, a necklace of the Ten Commandments rolled up as tiny scrolls and threaded on a string, shirts painted or dyed in interesting and often very unique ways, and concrete garden stones. That's just to name a few. I guess the most unusual thing I ever did with a class was let them paint cow bones. I gathered the bones out in my field from long dead cows and the boys I had in my class that year got a kick out of making them into some sort of very strange creatures. You're probably going "ewww!" But the bone art was actually pretty neat. 

But what I always liked best about Bible School was telling the stories. So many great stories in the Bible! Elijah calling down the fire from heaven. Daniel in the lion's den. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace. Jesus calming the storm and walking on the water. The little boy and his five loaves and two fishes. I could go on and on. I love telling the stories in the Bible. I guess that's why I enjoy writing Christian fiction so much. I get to include some of those stories in with my stories.

So how about you? Did you ever go to VBS and make some new friends? I'm thinking you probably never painted cow bones, but you probably painted something and had fun doing it. Oh yeah, and our kids used to love playing kickball. 

Thanks for reading.    

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hometown Reading Friends

Do you like to talk about books? Well, then you should check with your local library or bookstore and see when an author is coming to town, because if those writers are like me, they'll be talking books. That's what I did today. When Scent of Lilacs first came out in 2005, I decided that since I had used my hometown the way it was during the Sixties as the setting, that I should celebrate that book getting published with a party for my hometown readers. To be honest, I was so happy that book was published after I'd had several rejection filled years, that I was ready to celebrate anywhere, any time. Scent of Lilacs was fun to celebrate with my hometown friends because so many of the setting details I included in the book, they knew all about since they were right here in Lawrenceburg in the Sixties the same as I was.

That first book party was such fun that I've been having one whenever a new book comes out ever since. I even had a repeat party for Scent of Lilacs. We got to talk hometowns again. Today, of course, I was celebrating Small Town Girl. It also borrows a lot of its background and setting from Anderson County. My mother grew up in Alton here in Anderson County, and I used her memories of coming of age during the Depression years as the jumping off place for my story, Angel Sister. In Small Town Girl, I head back to Rosey Corner - my name for Alton - and tell a new story as the ominous WW II clouds gather on America's horizon.

I never know how many people are going to show up for one of my book parties. I always worry that no one will and then I won't have anyone to give away those door prizes to. The prizes are never big, but they're fun. Today I gave away a journal with inspirational sayings on the cover, a really nice pen along with notecards, a lovely garden decorative stake that said "Hope," a decorative wall plaque about imagination, and of course, my book, Small Town Girl. As I told the ladies in attendance, I give away prizes that I like.

Some of these ladies have come to several of my book talks and I worry that they will tire of my talks. But so far they are continually supportive. You know what? That's how Hometown friends are in a small town. I'm making a guest appearance on the Bookclub Network this week and to enter for the chance to win a copy of Small Town Girl, you have to answer one of three questions. (You can go visit too and throw your name in the Bookclub hat for the chance to win one of the five books.) One of the questions I asked was what's good and what's not so good about living in a small town. Well, I found out the good part today. Friends who show up to listen to me talk about books. I already knew that, but it's fun to find out good things over and over.

And they all say I need to have another party in September or October after Christmas at Harmony Hill comes out. Here's the great cover Revell designed for it. I've probably already shared that with you, but to be honest I'm so tired tonight, I have no idea if I did or didn't. I'm at Mom's and she just woke up ready for morning. I convinced her it's the middle of the night and to lie back down. Not sure how long that will last, but I can hope for a few hours sleep. If not, I'm going to be sleepwalking tomorrow after only a few hours sleep last night. The grandkids were visiting and I never get them started to bed early enough. No, of course I don't spoil them. LOL. Then I had a few chores to get done and ... well, you know how it goes.

Thanks for reading. And I always love to hear your comments. Tell me about a time you enjoyed a book talk.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celebration Prizes and More Flower Stories

Do you like entering contests? Have you ever won anything? I'm imagining a lot of you shaking your heads. That's why I have that "never win" drawing in my Celebration Contests. Somebody who says they never win has to be a winner. This time it was Brandy from TX. I'm hoping she doesn't have neighbors who don't like wind chimes. Texas probably has plenty of wind to make those chimes sing. She picked my book Scent of Lilacs. The first place winner was Dorothy from FL. She got her roses today and says she's enjoying them so much that she is carrying them from room to room so she can see them wherever she has to be in the house, doing chores or relaxing and reading. Soon she'll get to relax with my book, Small Town Girl. Pam from KS picked Words Spoken True and instead of one of the grab bag books, she gets Small Town Girl. The grab bag books are Laura Frantz's The Colonel's Lady and The Trouble with Cowboys by Denise Hunter. Then I sent Theresa from IA Scent of Lilacs, just because. It's my party and I'll give away an extra book if I want to. :) (Do you remember that song from back when? It's my party and I'll cry if I want to. Well, it's my party and I'll smile if I want to and I want to.)
How about another couple of flower stories? I still have a few I think you will enjoy. Lisa actually left this as a comment here, but I loved the story and wanted to be sure you all got to read it.  

"My favorite flower story was told to me by my grandfather. Every time he visited his dad's grave he would take one single rose. He once told me his reason for this. He said when he was a little boy and he had worked out in the fields all day with his dad that at the end of the day his dad gave him a rose picked from the rosebush in the yard. My great grandpa told my pa, 'This is for a hard day's work, son. I'm proud of you.' My grandpa never forgot that and it meant so much to him, he just wanted to always return the favor."  

But you know sometimes we miss the boat on sending flowers. We might only send them when something bad has happened or we're in trouble. At least that's been Anna's experience. She's got some good thoughts here. Maybe we need to think about those ordinary days when we can brighten a life with flowers.

"Unfortunately, now when I receive flowers (I can think of four times in the last nine years of marriage), they have been 'I'm sorry' tulips, 'I blamed you for something I did' roses, or 'oops, I forgot to pick up our daughter from school' mixed spring flower blends. Receiving flowers just for the sake of receiving flowers sounds so wonderful. No drama attached or hurt feelings or kids with angry faces. Simply a day-brightening collection of some of God's beauty."

So guys and gals, take note. Sometimes a person needs a flower just because even when it's not a birthday or an apology. And sometimes a bouquet can be a lovely way to say thank you. Mildred tells a story about when she was a teacher and a student wanted to say thank you in a special way. 

  "As a teacher, one often receives a 'thank you' gift or note at the end of the school year. One that I especially remember was a bouquet of hand-picked flowers, including some dandelions, with a note attached that said, 'I did a good deed in your honor, I picked up all the trash on our street.' Many other gifts have been forgotten but this one stays with me and I have been retired several years.
( We had talked about not cluttering up the environment with our trash.)"

What a great memory, Mildred. Thanks for sharing it with us. And thank all of you again for your wonderful stories. I hope you've enjoyed the ones I was able to share forward as much as I did. A new contest will be coming your way in September.  

 Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 15, 2013

And the Winners Are

Aack! It's not Sunday. I'm late! A person should not put the end of her giveaway contest on the same day she has a deadline for her current work in progress and on a day when she has to sit with her mother!! I made those mistakes and then the kids came out and picked blackberries. Now, you have to help the grandkids pick blackberries. Life's too short to pass up those kind of fun times. 

At any rate, the hours yesterday slid away from me. I missed my deadline for the book submission by a couple of hours, but I figured my editor wouldn't notice until the sun came up this morning. I burned a bunch of midnight oil and probably slept through trying to edit the last three chapters, but I read through them - I think. Thank goodness, Mom slept well last night, but then this morning we had all the Monday chores. Baths and hair fixing and laundry. She's feeling rotten now and is lying down. 

So now that I've made a few thousand excuses (not quite, but I probably could keep going if you want to hear them!), I picked the numbers by Each of the e-mails and comment entries that came in to my Small Town Girl Celebration contest are numbered and put in a special folder. Then after I get the random number from a random number generator, I find the saved entry and send out an e-mail to the winners. Those e-mails have already gone out, so if you didn't get one, maybe next time! Drum roll please. 

Dorothy B is the 1st prize winner. As soon as I hear from her and find out where to send those two dozen roses and one of my books, she'll get her prize. Pam K is the 2nd prize winner. She gets her choice of one of my books plus 3 grab bag titles from my Christian fiction collection. And Brandy B from Texas can't say she never wins anymore. She wins the wind chimes and her choice of one of my books. Then I nearly always pick an extra winner "just because." This time I picked Theresa H. Her e-mail so touched my heart when she told me about her son sending her flowers for her anniversary after her husband died and then how she lost him too after already losing another son. I shared her story on one of the flower story blogs. 

I have a few more flower stories to share and still plan to let you enjoy those with me. But today I'm just going to share one. This story touched my heart too. Well, to be honest, a lot of your flower stories had me blinking away tears or smiling. I thank you so much for sharing slices of your lives with me. I do so appreciate all of you and the fun we can have with stories.

The story today comes from Judy. 

"After my husband passed away from a brain tumor I told God that I would never marry again.  We had just celebrated our 8 year anniversary two days before he died.  I could never live through caring for and watching another husband die.  Bob was only 44 when he passed away.

Little did I know that God had other plans for me.  When John, my adult Sunday school teacher, asked me if I would like to see a movie with him, I told him that I would go under one condition that we'd only be friends.  I wanted a big brother type person and nothing else.  He quickly agreed.  A couple of days after we saw a movie I came home to find a bouquet of flowers in a beautiful vase sitting on my front porch.  The card was signed, from your big Brother! 

John and I have been married 9 1/2 years!  (Never second guess God!)"

What a blessing all your stories have been to me! Stay tuned for at least one more post of flower stories in the next week or so. And thank you for your patience with me. I really didn't intend to be late with the winners. Thanks to all of you who entered. It made the contest fun and made me the biggest winner of all because I got to read all your stories. And for those of you who didn't win this time - maybe next time. I'll be having another celebration for Christmas at Harmony Hill, my Shaker Christmas novella due out in September. Oh, and if you live near me here in Kentucky, I'm having a Hometown Booklaunch this Sunday, July 21, at 2:30 p.m. at the Anderson County Public Library in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Come on down. I'm planning door prizes along with talking about my books! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Deadlines, Dandelions and Stories

My deadline is staring me in the face. My book in progress needs to be off to the editor before Monday.  I suppose if publishing houses didn't set deadlines for writers, we might play with our stories and words forever and never get them out there for readers. So deadlines are good. 

Even before I had deadlines from editors, I set deadlines for myself. Except I didn't call them deadlines. I called them goals. The good news about the current deadline is I finally found those very necessary words, "the end." The bad news is they hid from me for so long I don't have as much time for editing as I'd like. But I'm scrubbing and polishing my story as fast at I can. 

The truth is, life intrudes on the best laid plans at times. But sometimes when that happens you get a surprise bouquet!

 So I've taken a break from trying to whip my book into shape before Monday to share a few more flower stories. I've loved reading your surprise bouquet stories. So many wonderful ones that I couldn't share them all. Many of you have left great comments on here with fun stories too. Thank you all so much. You make my contests so much fun. 

By far the most mentioned bouquets were those clutched in children's hands. Dandelions from the yard. Roses from a neighbor's yard. Broken heads of flowers picked without stems. But with love in every bouquet like this story from Lois.

"When my daughter was about 4 years old (now she is 40) she gave me a bunch of dandelions in a fruit jar for Mothers' Day and she was sooo very proud. They were the best flowers I have ever received." 

Pure love from a child to her mother. Love was in this bouquet Beth received from her daughter too.

"My 17 year old daughter surprised me this spring by picking a tiny bouquet of grape hyacinths and putting them in a small blue vase. Just for no reason." 

When I contacted Beth for permission to share the word image of her surprise bouquet, she added this about her daughter, Becca. "Just a proud Mama note I would like to share, Becca graduated this past Friday. She received 7 awards for her academics. The English, Latin, Science awards as well as valedictorian. What makes this remarkable - Becca is dyslexic and couldn’t read until 4th grade. This is what God can do with hard work and desire. Now you can’t get her to put books down." 

Don't you love proud Mamas and happy stories? 

The last story tonight (maybe a couple more flower stories Sunday) we hear from the other side of the bouquets. Mary Ann says, "I remember picking bouquets of purple and white violets and of daffodils for my family when I was little. That always felt incredibly special to me." Then she added, "Oh wait! Think on, my wonderful eight-year-old son occasionally brings me the decapitated heads of daffodils and grape hyacinths and roses from our garden now, as Lovely Bouquets. :D"

Flowers do have a way of making us happy!

The deadline for my book is not the only one approaching. A deadline is coming for my Small Town Girl Celebration Giveaway too. Only three more days to enter. Deadline for entries is midnight EST Saturday. So if you haven't thrown your name in the hat for the roses and books or entered the "never win" contest for the wind chimes, you'd better do it quick. Send me an e-mail or leave a comment here with a way to contact you should you be the winner. Oh, and if you are one of those "never win" people, be sure to tell me that too.

Thanks for reading. Now back to work polishing and trimming and... Monday's coming!



Sunday, July 7, 2013

And So We Look for the End

I'm still searching for those elusive words "the end" with my deadline zooming toward me. Well, actually my original deadline is seven days gone, but where one deadline is missed, another takes its place soon after. So since most of my words need to be on the trail of those two sneaky little words that keep hiding from me, I went back in time here on One Writer's Journal and pulled out a post from long ago about looking up some "end" quotes to inspire me in a previous hunt for the end of a story. Here it is with a few updating tweaks. 

When I went out hunting quotes about "the end," what I found wasn't exactly what I had in mind. This first one from Oscar Wilde must be talking about romance, but we can twist it around a little to make it fit writers. "When a love comes to an end, weaklings cry, efficient ones instantly find another love, and the wise already have one in reserve." 

When that story that has a writer totally in its grip ends, the weak writer might cry as she has to let her story go out to perhaps face rejections. Ah, but the efficient one will find a new story to take off with, and the wise writer will already be thinking up that new idea before she writes "The End."

And I always enjoy Mark Twain's wisdom. His quotes generally have that germ of truth that really gets his point across. "Man was made at the end of the week's work, when God was tired."

Here's another good one for writers. 
"If you want to know the end, look at the beginning." ...African Proverb

We need to have the thread of our story from the beginning to the end. I'm not one of those writers who knows the ending at the beginning, but I do hope that my endings fit my beginnings.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's advice here can certainly apply to writers. "
To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom."  

So write the books you love. Enjoy the writing journey. Finish your moments and live your hours in your stories and in your life.

How about this last one? "To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow, the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture." ...Pablo Picasso

What do you think about it? Does this just fit for an artist? One thing sure just because I write the end doesn't mean I'm finished with this story. I need about two months to go back over it and make it better. But right now I'd settle for two weeks to at least begin to polish the story even though I know it will need more polish than I can apply in that short time. 

Writing a book is a long process from the day I type "Chapter 1" to the day - it has to be tomorrow - I write "the end." In between the two, I've come up with over 100,000 words. But the important thing is - have I written the story and let my characters come to life and find the perfect ending? The story is one more return to Rosey Corner for Love Comes Home.

Thanks for reading. Especially those of you who have been reading Small Town Girl. Remember, one more week to enter my Small Town Girl giveaway. Drawing next Sunday.