Sunday, April 28, 2013

Creeks, Cliffs and Wildflowers

Lots to do! Deadline zooming toward me for my work in progress and the words are coming slow. Chores need doing! New floor going down in the kitchen and bathroom and new room. New floors going down need everything moved off them! Not enough hours in the day.

Sometimes it's hard getting everything done since I have to spend so many hours sitting with Mom and trying to convince her she is home and doesn't need to head out the door to that home that is just beyond her view in her mixed up thoughts. That home she wants is long gone but so much more real in her mind these days than the home where she's been living for the last thirty years.

All this to say that sometimes a person just has to ignore all the have-to-dos and take some time for want-to-dos. So come go to the creek with me.

That's what I did Friday morning. I gave myself the gift of a couple of hours and forgot about the deadlines and chores. It's wildflower season at my creek and I feel cheated if I don't get a chance to admire the wildflowers there every year. So I said the chores can wait. The words might come easier after a little brain rest time. And I went walking. I didn't let Oscar go. He's still recuperating from his broken leg and surgery, but I didn't totally miss out on dog companionship on my hike. The short-legged little neighbor dog went with me. His name's Peanut Butter, but I nicknamed him P.B.

And I saw the wildflowers and heard the creek running. I spotted a Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of my favorites. I got a great picture of some shooting stars. I saw larkspur and buttercups. I took pictures of wood poppies and bent head trilliums, another of my favorites.

The creek was full from the recent rains with the water singing over the rocks. I got my feet wet and practiced my balance on the rocks. And then I climbed back up the steep hill, came home and headed to Mom's. It's good to give yourself a gift now and again. Especially in the spring when nature has given us the gift of beauty.  

What are some of your want-to-dos that make you happy when you give yourself that gift of time? Reading? Time with the grandkids? A favorite movie? Writing in a journal?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blogging's Ravenous Appetite for Words

“If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you’ve got. Just don’t plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living.” (Seth Godin)

This is my 544th post on One Writer's Journal. When I started this blogging adventure in January 2008, I only posted once a week. Here's the very first paragraph I blogged.

"Hi, everybody. I'm just a country girl who's been writing forever. I hope to share some of what I've learned about writing over the years and some about being a country girl through and through."

And the last paragraph in that first blog: 
I'll tell you more about growing up in the country next post. Wouldn't want to give away all my secrets the first day. These blogs have a ravenous appetite for words.

Boy, was I right about that ravenous appetite of blogs! Words, words and more words.  And by now, if I had any secrets, you probably have had a chance to read them all. It's a good thing I like journaling as I told you in Post 2.

I'm figuring out what exactly I want to write about in my blog. I've been a journal writer forever, but that's writing to myself. Now this may be writing to myself too, but it's like leaving my journal open out on the kitchen table where anybody can read it. That might be okay. I've done some of my best writing in journals. How about you? Are you a journal writer?

Since then I started posting twice a week and left my journal open on a lot of nights. I want you to know I've appreciated each and everyone of you who has taken a peek. I've also needed to remember this bit of advice from Liz Strauss. "The Internet has no eraser.”Once something is posted, it's out there. It's hard to grab back and completely make it disappear. 

So I've tried to remember to share encouraging words and fun stories. And now I'm letting Jocie from my Hollyhill books do her own blog once a week. Hollyhill Book of the Strange. The picture up top is the one I have on that blog. It's me a long time ago when I was only beginning to scribble words in notebooks to make stories. I've scribbled and typed and word processed millions of words since then. And hope to have another million or two in my fingers. 

Some of that million will be here on One Writer's Journal where the great thing about blogging is this from an anonymous (no doubt blogging) writer. "Blogging is not rocket science. It's about being yourself and putting what you have into it."

"Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.” (Andrew Sullivan)

Writing out loud. That's a good way to look at blogging. 

So what do you think? Do you like to blog? Read blogs? What advice would you suggest to make my next 500 plus blogs more fun to read?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Old Time Sunday Afternoons

What I miss today more than anything else - I don't go to church as much anymore - but that old-time religion, that old singing, that old praying which I love so much. That is the great strength of my being, of my writing.~ Ernest Gaines
I got to eat breakfast with writer friends Lonnie and Roberta Simpson Brown at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on Saturday. Roberta writes ghost stories. While she looks like somebody's sweetest ever grandmother, her stories might not exactly be the kind of stories grandma would tell you - especially right before you went to bed. At least not if she didn't want the kids to be crawling in bed with her to keep the ghosts away. Roberta is  known as the "queen of cold-blooded tails" by her friends. You can check out her and Lonnie's books at Roberta's website. She'd be the perfect storyteller to have sitting around a campfire with you if you wanted to have chills crawling up your back and to keep checking over your shoulder for something going bump in the night. Her husband, Lonnie, also writes some of the stories, so when they go on the road to a book event, they go as a team.
Breakfast isn't much of a ghost story telling time. So we were talking about less scary things like how things used to be back when we were all quite a bit younger. Lonnie said he used to spend Sunday afternoons counting the cars that went by their house. That made me laugh because while I don't remember counting the cars, I do remember noticing every one. And we knew who was driving each of those cars too. A different car, one we didn't know, was reason to wonder what that driver was doing on our road. Sometimes we didn't even have to look at the cars to know them. We could tell by the sound of the engines. Lonnie said they'd know Uncle Willie was coming before he topped the hill.
Then he said another of their past times on a lazy Sunday afternoon was leaning on a fence rail and watching the cows graze. That's how come we have a cow picture tonight. I don't think I ever watched the cows graze, but the little calves running around are pretty cute. Back in the day, things were considerably slower out in the country where people like Lonnie, Roberta, and I grew up.
Sundays were different. After that wonderful Sunday dinner that your mother fixed and put in the oven before leaving for Sunday school, most of us took the day off. Sometimes people went for a Sunday drive. That was when gas was around a quarter a gallon. Folks would drive down all the country roads and see what the neighbors were up to. Or maybe you'd go visiting relatives.
That's what happened around my house. We went to our cousins' house or they came to ours. Cousins can be the best friends. We'd be outside in the woods as soon as Sunday dinner was over. The grownups would maybe play Rook or just talk away the afternoon. In the summer, the men might make ice cream in the White Mountain ice cream freezer. Neighbors would drop by to sit on the porch and pass the time of day. You kept a swatter handy to kill the pesky flies. My husband would have been off fishing when he was a boy and then back to church after getting the cows in early to milk. And even on Sunday, there were always chores to be done, animals to feed, wood to pack in during the cold months, water to carry into the house.
We didn't have electronic toys. We had grapevines in the trees instead of swing sets. We made mud pies and went wading in creeks. And we chewed on sweet grass and watched the cows graze. But those were good days. What about your Sunday afternoons? What did you do when you were growing up on Sundays? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life is Better with a Dog Named Oscar

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don't even know we have. ~Thorn Jones

Some of you have been asking about how my dog, Oscar, is doing. About a month ago, one of the men working on a room remodel here at the house ran over Oscar. He was parked beside the house in the field and we don't know if Oscar was under his truck or just running along beside him. At any rate, one of the wheels must have run over his leg and broke both bones. 

That was a bad day for me. I was sitting with Mom who was having one of her more unsettled days when I got the call from my husband reporting Oscar had been hurt. My husband was getting his eyes examined and couldn't go home right away. I couldn't leave Mom alone and so couldn't go home to see about my dog friend. A couple of hours passed before my husband finally got home and reported Oscar's leg was broken. I still couldn't leave Mom's, but a neighbor came over to help load Oscar in the van for a trip to the vet. They kept him in the doggie hospital and did surgery on his leg the next day. 

Dog surgery is not cheap, but Oscar is my dog. Dog lovers will understand what I mean when I say he's my dog. He's been my dog since my husband brought him home about four years ago. I had another dog at the time. A chocolate lab that was my dog too, but he was also an independent character who although he'd been neutered had not lost all his romantic desires. Female dogs from around the neighborhood loved Dub and came to get him from time to time to take him off to get in trouble. (Honest, it was never Dub's fault! Or so he would have me believe.) I had to bail him out of doggie jail once and did so gladly. 

For some reason, my husband decided I needed another dog. I resisted. He went shopping on the internet for dogs. Free dogs. He would find one and then have me come look at the dog's picture. I resisted. I had my dog, Dub. I was happy with that. But then he pulled up Oscar's picture. Someone had dropped Oscar in Lexington near a horse farm and a young couple had given him a home. They loved him, but when spring came they were going to have to travel around in their job of training horses. So they advertised for a new home for Oscar. That was the name they gave him. For some reason his sweet face and that name broke down my resistance. A phone call or two later and my husband went to get Oscar and bring him to his new home. From the very first day, he was my dog. Sometimes it just works that way. We thought he was grown. He weighed about sixty pounds. We were very wrong. He kept growing. Now he's over one hundred pounds - bigger even than my old dog, Dub, was. 

Dub passed on one sad summer day a little while after we got Oscar. So it turned out to be a good thing that I stopped resisting and let Oscar join our family. He's a very good dog. He doesn't roll in cow piles or want to drag various dead animal parts home to the yard. Dub was very good at that, but not enjoying the special aroma of those two things is an important good dog attribute out here on the farm. Just ask my neighbors, whose St. Bernard loves to decorate her neck ruff with aromatic cow piles.

Oscar is not a swimmer in spite of obviously having lab in his mix. He will wade a bit when it's very hot. He looks ferocious when he's barking at strangers, but if they will notice, he's usually wagging his tail at the same time. I used to have a dog in the house, a sweet cockerspaniel. I decided Oscar with his good dog manners, would make a wonderful house dog and invited him in. He refused. He did not want to cross the threshold. In fact, he did not want to so determinedly that he sat down like a mule and wouldn't budge. I gave up after a few tries although I continued to hold the door open now and again to invite him in. He always ran the other direction. 

But after his surgery, he was ordered kept in confinement with leash walking only for six weeks. I bought him a bed and we gently pushed him into the house when we brought him home from the doggie hospital. I had to put a trail of scatter rugs across my hardwood floor to get him to walk to the front door to go out. He still won't venture out of the back hallway into the kitchen or living room. He does come down the hallway into my office now to keep me company when I'm working. 

For two weeks I only took him on short walks, but for the last couple of weeks, he's been going on the full walks with me. On leash. He's never tried to run away from me. He's been a model dog. So what if bone shards decorate my office floor and his panting drips all over the rug after we walk. There is also Oscar, inside keeping me company. Sometimes good things come from bad. I'm not sure what will happen after he is released to run free again, but I hope he will still be willing to come inside and keep me company. A dog makes a wonderful writing friend. Especially a good dog like Oscar.

One of the most enduring friendships in history - dogs and their people, people and their dogs. ~Terry Kay

Have you had a good dog in your life?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Christmas in April, New Book Covers, and Pet Words

Happy Monday morning! I'm late with this post because I was out of town yesterday. So to make up for it, let's be early and talk about Christmas. I got the galleys on my Shaker Christmas book last week. So I'm going to have to invite the snow and chill winter winds into my imagination for a few days as I work over the story. Here's a peek at the cover. Do you like it?

Have you ever wondered about the editing process a book goes through on its way out to the reader? First there are all my own edits before I decide I've done the best I can with the words telling my story. Then off it goes to the first editor who reads it and decides if I've written a story that readers might spend money to read. That editor might suggest major plot changes or improvements as well as more minor points to improve the story. Then once she or he approves the rewritten manuscript, the book will eventually go on to a copy editor who will look for all those little things that might be missed in the bigger edit. 

This editor makes sure I don't have the characters doing something on Friday and then going back to Thursday. Time lines can get confusing in a historical novel. This editor and the proofreaders make sure if your character sings a song or reads a book in your story that the song or book was actually written by the time of your book. I've made that mistake a few times. 

They also catch all the times you use a certain word too many times. I always, always have a pet word. I'll shove one of those words out in the cold and tell it that it can't be my "pet" anymore and another word will slide right in to take its place. So now I have a whole stable of "pet" words that I have to be careful to not like too much. What are some of them? Just. Still. Before. Of course. To name a few. Usually transition words of some sort that help me keep the words going. Nothing wrong with that in the first draft. You need to keep going in the first draft, but then I need to edit some of them out. Of course, I still like them just before I get out the red pen or hit the delete key. :) 

Then I sometimes have a sentence that runs along too long. Commas are always an issue too. Editors generally like commas more than I do. You wouldn't think an author would worry about a little added comma now and again, but sometimes we do. To our writing ears, a comma in the wrong (or perhaps right!) place messes everything up. Editors have to have the patience of saints at times. 

Once the galleys are worked over and the author and editor have "fixed" everything as well as they can, then there's still one more edit. This is called editing "the pages." Here a writer is more or less proofing the book to look for minor mistakes like typos or something that might have been missed in the previous edits. Not a good idea to make lots of changes at this stage. That's why I'll need to work through these galleys to make sure I change what needs changing now. 

It will be a while before Christmas at Harmony Hill will be ready for the store shelves. Its release date is September 15, my birthday. That's sort of neat. I'll have extra reason to celebrate. But before
that book comes out, Small Town Girl will be out in July. Both books are already available for pre-sale on the internet, so you can go ahead and order your copy.

So much fun to have new books coming out. This year has been especially busy for me with the re-release of Scent of Lilacs and looking forward to Orchard of Hope re-releasing in the fall. Then the two new books, Small Town Girl and Christmas at Harmony Hill, A Shaker Story, out too. Gives a whole new meaning to "so many books, so little time" for me. But it's fun to have new stories, and old ones too, out there for my reading friends.

I appreciate all of you who take time to read my journal. Thank you so much. So what do you think about the new book covers?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring Blooming All Over

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain

Spring was late in coming this year, but it came in a hurry this week with record warm temperatures after a week of record cold temperatures. That's spring weather for you. But the temperatures rising into the 60s, then the 70s, and today the 80s was enough to convince the flowers to bloom. Forsythia bushes are exploding with yellow blooms in yards along the road. I have a struggling forsythia that's trying to get re-established after being dug up when we built on to the house. We dumped it over on the side of the yard without proper planting, but those bushes are tough. It's putting up shoots and blooming this year. My japonica bush is going red. My peonies have pushed through the ground and are almost visibly growing. All three of those are from sprouts or bulbs I dug up out of my grandparents' yard. A heritage of beauty to be passed from one yard to another, so that not only do I enjoy the blooms, the sight of the flowers also stirs memories of the hands that planted them. 
Yesterday on my walk, I saw my first butterflies. Today I ran my face into my first spiderweb. That's spring for you. A constant entertainment to someone like me who enjoys walking on the farm. I've seen it all before but every spring, I'm ready to see it all again. A joy to behold. And maybe this year the pictures will be even better than last year. This bluebell picture isn't. But you've got to understand that I was taking the picture with one hand while holding Oscar's leash with the other. He still has two and half more weeks of captivity. That's how he's feeling about being in the house. A meek and compliant prisoner, but it's obvious he's far from comfortable. I was hoping to make a house dog out of him, but it's not looking like he wants that. He has become a nice companion here in my office. So maybe he can be an office dog.  
The front door to springtime is a photographer's best friend. ~Terri Guillemets 

What brings you joy in the springtime?

P.S. I sent the prize packages out today. Sharma, Rita, and Tawnya, you should get them before the end of the week. Congratulations and thanks to all of you who made this giveaway such fun for me, even though your number didn't get drawn this time. Maybe in June. Got to figure out a prize. 

Diane K., I sent you a Facebook message, but if I don't hear from you by Monday, I'll draw a new number for one of the 2nd place prizes - a couple of books.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mystery Pictures and Writing Puzzles

Have you ever seen those close up, really close up, pictures of familiar objects and had no idea what you were looking at? I'm giving you a less challenging mystery picture tonight. Do you know what it is? Let me know what you guess. Or it could be you know what it is at first sight.

Sometimes writing is like that. You might know your story and your characters from the very beginning all the way to the end, or your story and your characters can be mysteries you as the writer have to solve. Characters can't just walk on stage in a book without living a little life first. Well, maybe if a baby was just being born. Then I'd better know about the baby's mother or father or maybe the doctor who could be delivering  a baby for the first time. So many possibilities for every character - even those who aren't going to matter too much to the storyline.

For my major characters, I create character sketches and try to get them to start talking inside my head. But most novels have dozens of characters. Some only make cameo appearances and never darken your book's doorway again. And yet those characters have their moment to be real in your story. So I try to find a few details to make even the most minor character become somebody that, yes, you might see behind the store counter. Or as a nurse or firefighter. If you have a building in your story catch on fire, you need firefighters who know their business, to show up.  Or perhaps not, according to how you want your story to go. But if you create bumbling firefighters, you still have to make them come across as real persons.

Sometimes in a story, a gift character shows up. Wes was that kind of character in Scent of Lilacs. I can't remember planning Wes, but he rode his motorcycle into Hollyhill and ran out of gas money at just the right time. I really missed Wes when I started writing a new story that wasn't set in Hollyhill. So I came up with another Wes like character in Angel Sister - Graham. And I loved getting him to talk in my story just as much.

Sometimes writing a story is about allowing ideas to pop up out of the ground like these mushrooms. (Yes, you wer right if you guessed mushroom.) All that old stuff, those memories from a lifetime of living sink down into a bubbling pool of creativity inside your brain. Then a story rises to the top and if I'm ready, then I can try to grab it fast before it sinks away into that dark world of forgetfulness where the very best ideas always seem to want to hide out. 

Thanks for reading. I hope spring is popping up like these mushrooms in your neck of the woods. Now tell me, did you guess right? I hope I'm guessing right with the characters who are popping up in my new story. 

I'll be at The Bookstore in Campbellsville Saturday, April 13th, at 1 p.m. for a book signing and then at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on April 20th, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST. That's in Bowling Green. If you're in either area, I hope you'll come by and say hi.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Winners but the Biggest Winner - Me

Tonight I've finally got the winners of my Scent of Lilacs Celebration Giveaway. It wasn't easy, let me tell you. I pick the winners by random numbers. Each e-mail I get goes into a special folder and the sender gets numbered according to when I receive the e-mail. Well, imagine my extreme distress this a.m. when I click on that folder and it shows a number as to how many e-mails are stored there, but then instead of the messages coming up this little box comes up that says the folder is empty. All the other mail folders work fine. Messages pop right up. Panic time!! I thought I might have to wade through all my sent e-mails to try to figure out which of you had entered the contest. But then I tried my iPhone and wonder of wonders the messages came up in the folder on it. Not sure how or why that happened or why they don't show up on my desk computer or my laptop, but do on the phone, but I'm just glad they did. I'm going to tell you who won. Really, I promise I am! But first let's enjoy two more grandmother stories. 

Donna shares a wonderful story of how sometimes the Lord blesses us in the midst of troubling times when the last thing we're expecting are blessings. Here's her story -
 I have many stories I could tell of my grandmothers, but my greatest grandmother blessings I actually received as an adult.  Following a stroke (her granny's stroke), I helped my dad and my aunt care for my granny by staying 2-3 nights a week with her.  I would work all day in a classroom, drive a morning & afternoon bus route, then go to my granny's house, cook supper, and then do whatever granny needed, which most nights had to do with quilting. She couldn't cut fabric anymore, nor use her sewing machine, but she could still hand piece and quilt. So many times I would be so tired and not want to set up a new quilt top in the frames or cut out quilt squares & place in ziplock baggies so she wouldn't get confused. I didn't realize it at the time, but while I did these things for her, she was bestowing on me the blessings of knowing the stories of her life. She gave me the desire to write and share similar hardships, trials, faith, & love with others. Later at her bedside as she was going to sit at the feet of Jesus, I realized that she became an integral part of the woman I had become. 

Next Rosemary shares how an object can keep memories alive for us.  
"I would like to share a little story about my grandmother. Us kids 
 would go over to visit and she would give us slices of fresh homemade Portuguese bread, with butter on it and serve us little tea cups with tea in it. We would sit with her in her favorite chair which was in the kitchen. She had a large black iron stove that had the metal round tops that would come off. You must be able to picture the stove I am talking about; anyway, we would be warm and cozy. That same chair we sat on with her, my mom sat in it and would watch out the window to see if the bus was stopping to see if my dad was coming to visit, he was a sailor and stationed in Boston Massachusetts - 1951 ...  yep !!!  well, I sat with my grandmother in that chair, and I fed and rocked my granddaughter in that same chair, reupholstered, in 2003 and I still have that chair in my sitting room!!!  I love that chair and its memories!!!!

And I have loved the memories and stories of your grandmothers. I read every one of them, often with a smile and sometimes with a nod of the head that yes, I have felt some of the same things you felt. You have all been such a blessing to me that I am, without a doubt, the biggest winner tonight. Thank you! 

But there are a few of you who are also winners. Drum roll, please! The 1st place winner of the lilac Grandmother's Bible is Sharma D. of KY. The two 2nd place winners are Diane K. (not sure which state yet) and Rita W. of CA. They will get a grab bag book by a Christian author and their choice of one of my books. And Tawnya P. of  WI won't be able to say "I never win" any longer. She wins the lilac candle and her choice of one of my books. I've sent all of you winners e-mails and I'm waiting to hear back from you which books you are choosing as your prizes.

Now what memories should I ask you to share with me on my next Celebration giveaway? 

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~From the television show The Wonder Years