Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Let's Talk Titles - Titling Time Again

Only weeks away from the release of Small Town Girl, my second Rosey Corner book. It follows up the characters in Angel Sister five years later. And now it's time to title the Rosey Corner book I'm writing now. My working title has been Home to Rosey Corner. I like it but I haven't had any illusions about that title sticking. I've again moved my characters four years into their future. Each of these books will be stories that can stand alone, but it will be more fun if you read them all - especially for me!! :)

The third Rosey Corner book won't be released until the summer of 2014. A long time from now, but that's the way the book business is. You're always working on the book ahead. I feel blessed to have a book ahead to be working on, to be considering a new title for. So let's talk titles.

I'm the kind of writer who would rather wait until I've written the end to the story before I decide on a title. For many years, that's the way I worked when I was writing without contracts. I'd write the book and then try to place the completed manuscript with a publisher. That made coming up with titles easier for me, but it is great these days having the promise of publication in hand while I'm writing the book. That is, if I can deliver a story the editors like. I'm hoping I can do that yet again with my Rosey Corner characters. 

Many of the titles of my young adult books are the ones I came up with or slightly tweaked versions of my titles. Secrets to Tell, Bridge to Courage, A Chance Hero, For Sheila, Wish Come True - to name some of them. That's been true for some of my Christian fiction books too. Scent of Lilacs was my title. So was Orchard of Hope. Summer of Joy was not. I had suggested Sunflowers of Joy, but Summer of Joy is better. And now they are being advertised as the Heart of Hollyhill series. I like that too. 

The Outsider was not my title, but once it was suggested by the publishers, I liked it. It fit the story nicely and suggested titles for my other Shaker books. The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted were all titles I suggested, following the pattern of The Outsider to tie the book titles together. You can see the tie-in on the Hollyhill books too. 

If you pay attention, you'll notice that kind of kinship in titles on most series books. Of course, the writer with a great tie-in with titles is the mystery writer, Sue Grafton, starting with her A is for Alibi. She very successfully is working her way through the alphabet and is up to W is for Wasted that releases in September this year. I used to read Ross MacDonald mysteries and often his books had a color in the titles.  
The Rosey Corner books don't have quite as obvious relationship titles, but they do have the echo of small town and family. The new title proposed is Love Comes Home. To my ear, that has the same feel as my working title, Home to Rosey Corner. What do you think?

So we'll see. My editor once told me I wrote to the title. I certainly did in The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted. Those themes were threads throughout the stories. Maybe I will again with this book. Love's a good theme to have in a story and home is a place we all want to go. 

What words do you like to see in titles? Do some words encourage you to pick up a book quicker than other words? What is the best title for a book that you've ever seen?   

Remember to drop back by on Sunday or Monday when I'll be visiting with Sue Harrison, author of the Alaskan novel series beginning with Mother Earth Father Sky. Here's what Publishers Weekly said about the third book in the series, Brother Wind. "Engrossing, dramatic emotionally compelling conclusion to a monumental saga." I think you'll enjoy visiting with Sue and hearing how she came to write these bestselling books.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Day to Remember Those Who Gave Their All

"It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle." (Norman Schwarzkopf)

Do you know why we have a long Memorial Day weekend? Some people think of it as a day to decorate the graves of their loved ones who have died. And that does happen at cemeteries across the country. But actually Memorial Day began as Decoration Day back in the 1860s after the Civil War. Wives, mothers, and sisters began decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. It's thought as many as 700,000 men lost their lives in the Civil War, a lot of graves to decorate. Perhaps the women, who began the tradition, picked a day in late May because they had many blooming flowers for the grave decorations. 

It wasn't until 1967 that Federal law changed the name of the remembrance holiday officially to Memorial Day. The next year the date was changed from May 30 to the last Monday in May. Not everybody was happy with that change because they thought the real significance of the holiday - remembering those who'd been killed in wars - might be lost when the day became part of a three day weekend. 

Most communities have special observances to honor our soldiers. In our town, we have what is called the "healing field" where soldiers from our area who died in wars are honored with a flag. When you think about how that kind of memorial could be repeated in every town all across our country, you begin to realize the sacrifice so many have made to keep our country free and to stand up for the freedom of other countries as well. This weekend, thousands and thousands of flags will be placed on veterans' graves in honor of their service and sacrifices.

At our church this morning, we had two Vietnam War veterans. Men who answered the call when their country asked for their service. They made it home. Many did not. Over 58,000 soldiers were killed in that war. 11,465 of those killed in action were younger than twenty. The Korean War claimed almost 40,000 American casualties. World War II saw at least 60 million people worldwide killed. U.S. Military casualties were 416,800. World War I, the war those who fought it thought would end all wars, resulted in 126,000 American soldiers' death. 

My books often have scenes of war in the stories, and in my research for these scenes I have read many great stories of the men and women who have served our country in time of war. Most of these soldiers were ordinary men, and sometimes women, who responded with extraordinary valor when they stood in the gap to defend their country. Wars throughout history have claimed the lives of some of the finest among us and are still doing so today. Let us pray for peace and for our soldiers to come home safely. May we never forget those who did not. God bless America and our soldiers and their families!
Arlington National Cemetery

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Color the World

A few years ago when my writing wasn't going so well, I was exploring new options. One of those was writing devotionals inspired by things out here on the farm. I thought if I could come up with one devotional per week, I could turn it into a Hiker's Devotional. Then my fiction writing began to get rolling again and I let the devotional idea slide into the background. However, I did write ten or twelve, and included a few of them on my website. The following is one of those. Hope you enjoy it.

Do you like wildflowers? I do. You might even go so far as to call me a wildflower nut, even when wildflower is no more than a nice word for a weed that just happens to have some kind of bloom. I like flowers of all kinds and even a tiny blossom in the grass that hardly looks important enough to have a name can stop me in my tracks for a closer look. 

One day a few springs ago, I was walking across our pasture field when I spotted a tiny blue bloom I hadn't noticed before. The flower was not as big around as a pencil eraser, and the four little petals were a delicate blue. The flower seemed to be lifting its head bravely out of the grass to reach for the sun. Yet because it was so small, its color was almost drowned out by the green of the grass blades.

Then when I stood up, I noticed there wasn't just one of these little flowers. There were hundreds of them. So many that when I looked across the field, the ground turned a hazy blue. 

As Christians we can sometimes feel like that small, insignificant flower thinking we can't make a difference in the world of grass blades around us. Yet if we open our lives to the "Son" we can make a difference no matter how small, and if we join together with all the other Christians in the world around us, we can change the color of the world.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. I Corinthians 16:12-14 (NKJ)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Books and Reviews

In about a month I'll be celebrating a new book out for readers. Small Town Girl is scheduled for release on July 1, but usually I get to enjoy that new book smell when I open up a box the UPS man brings to my door a few days before July. It's always exciting to actually hold that new book in my hands. That's the reward for about a year's worth of work on this particular story and a lifetime of work trying to write well enough to be published and find readers.

One of the exciting things about having a new book come out are the reviews. These days you can find reviews all over the internet. Everybody has an opinion and in the book business, a lot of them post those opinions out there somewhere for the world to read.

I just read my first review of Small Town GirlMy publisher sent me a review from Publishers' Weekly. I held my breath while I read it, hoping for good. It wasn't bad. No wow, that's the greatest story ever remarks, but all in all a favorable review. See what you think.

Gabhart continues the story of the Merritt family, first introduced in Angel Sister. Kate’s the middle sister—the sensible one, the fixer of other people’s problems. She encounters her own problems when older sister Evie marries their pastor, and his childhood friend, Jay Tanner, comes to Kentucky to stand as best man . On the surface, Jay and Kate have nothing in common. She’s a third generation Rosey Corner resident; he’s a drifter. Kate stands strong in tense situations; Jay is prone to pack up and leave when things get tough. She’s a woman of faith; he’s not sure what he believes. Still, the attraction is immediate. While the ending is predictable, Gabhart plants enough roadblocks to make the story interesting. In dealing with Jay’s spirituality, she raises legitimate issues of faith and shows understanding of those who do not easily accept a Christian religious message. And while Kate is the undisputed protagonist, young Lorena Birdsong, an abandoned child unofficially adopted by the Merritts, certainly has her share of scene-stealing moments. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books and Such Literary Agency. (July)

Would any line in that review encourage or discourage you from reading the book? What blurb would you pull out to convince someone that they should give this story a try?

Back in 2005, when Scent of Lilacs first came out and was my first book in the internet age, I hunted down reviews for it and read them all. There weren't that many. I floated up in the air when reading the good reviews and then got knocked back to the ground when a reviewer had a complaint about the story. Thankfully there weren't many unfavorable reviews for that book early on. Too many bad reviews might have been too discouraging for me while I was trying to get started in this Christian fiction genre. 

By the way Scent of Lilacs has since been reissued and gotten lots of reviews. It's also been nominated for fiction book of the month on The Book Club Network. If you take part in the book fun on that site, I hope you'll consider voting for my book. Lots of great books were nominated this month, so I won't be discouraged if I don't win. I've learned not to let bad reviews discourage me. I might stew about them a little, but then I move on to the next story. Or I remember some of the kind comments you have made here. You're the readers I'm trying to keep happy.

Thanks for reading. I do so appreciate each and every one of you who follow my on-line journal. I'm planning a visit from Sue Harrison next week. You won't want to miss that!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sweeping the Shaker Way

Brooms make me think of Shakers. That's what I put on my Shaker Wednesday post on my Facebook page this week, but there's only so much you can put on a Facebook post. And a person can write a lot about Shaker brooms. 

If you visit the Shaker village of Pleasant Hill here in Mercer County, Kentucky, you can see a reenactor dressed as a Shaker making brooms. These men, like the one pictured here, explain over and over to the tourists who drop into their workshops how the Shakers made brooms and answer hundreds of questions, probably some of the same ones over and over, with the kind of patience and gentle spirit the Shakers may have had in the past. And then, taking their cue from the thrifty Shakers whose ways they're demonstrating, they sell the brooms in their gift shop.

Shaker history says that Brother Theodore Bates of Shaker village in Watervliet, New York watched the sisters sweeping in 1798 with their common round brooms and realized they were wasting time and effort. While he didn't offer to help them sweep, he did flatten the brooms to make them sweep more efficiently. Then the Shakers came up with machines to manufacture the flat brooms. Soon they were making more brooms than they needed and began selling them to the "world." Throughout most of their history, the Shakers didn't believe in patenting any of their inventions because they felt that would be selfish. If they had a better way, they were willing to share it with others. 

 Shakers could not abide dirt. One of the sayings attributed to their founder, Ann Lee, reminded them of the need for cleanliness. “Clean your rooms well; for good spirits will not live where there is dirt. There is no dirt in Heaven.” So a broom was available in every room, not hidden away in a broom closet, but instead hanging at ready on the peg strips.

The Shakers took ridding their physical world of dirt seriously since one of their purposes was to make their villages as much like heaven as possible. That was part of the reason for their furniture having no ornamentation. A table with plain and simple lines was quicker and easier to clean. That was the reason for the pegboard strips that circled every room, so they could hang things out of the way while they cleaned. Chairs were hung upside down on those pegs so dust would not collect on the seat of the chair. Their beds had rollers so it would be easy to move them out of the way to sweep under them. They even had brooms specially designed to sweep out corners and other hard to reach places.

They also labored "sweeping" songs during their worship such as "Sweep as I Go" where they would pretend to sweep as they sang. 

One of their best known sayings is "Hands to work, hearts to God." That has found a place in all my Shaker novels, but I've used other Shaker sayings too in order to add to my story. This is one I've used often. "Do your work as if you had a thousand years to live, and as if you were to die tomorrow." 

Here are a couple more that I might take to heart in my own work and keeping my house in order. :)

"Never wish a thing done; do it!"

"A place for everything and everything in its place." 

I need to find that place for everything and then put everything in those places and stop just wishing it would happen. Right now it's time to go back to Rosey Corner and write a few more pages on my story. I think I'm writing it as if I have a thousand years before my deadline. Better get that out of my head.

Do you like a good broom? Then you might have a Shaker to thank. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Smiles Make a Difference

What Sunshine is to Flowers, Smiles are to Humanity. ~Joseph Addison
Today was Mother's Day. A beautiful time to remember Moms everywhere. It was a sad day for some who were missing a mom gone on before them. I still have my mother, but she's not the mother I've known all my life. Dementia has stolen her memories and joy in living. It's hard for her to get up and down. Hard for her to walk. Hard for her to understand the confusing world she now lives in where people tell her she's at home when she knows she's not. She wants the homes of old, not this one where she's lived for thirty years but now can't remember where the bathroom is. 
My mother always enjoyed life. Whatever life threw at her, she managed to keep smiling and doing whatever needed to be done. The smiles are harder to come by now, but they can make such a difference in her day. To her and even more to me.
Nobody needs a smile so much as the one who has none to give. So get used to smiling heart-warming smiles, and you will spread sunshine in a sometimes dreary world. - Lawrence G. Lovasik  
Mom has gotten a lot worse the last few months. She's often unhappy, often agitated, often wishing to go home to see her mother who has been gone for almost forty years. The other day when Mom was having an unhappy time, my sister asked her how old she was and she said, "Sixteen." Well, no wonder she thinks her mother will be upset if she stays out all night. It's no wonder she looks at her hands and rubs and rubs them thinking they are "dirty." Those age spots and wrinkled skin are not supposed to be there. And no wonder she doesn't know me some of the time. She didn't have children when she was sixteen.
She doesn't always think she's sixteen. She jumps around to lots of different ages, but very rarely thinks about being ninety-three. Sometimes she wonders why her husband never comes home. Sometimes she worries about the children. She needs to be taking care of them. If I tell her I am her daughter, Ann, she will look at me as though that's the craziest thing she can imagine or perhaps say she means that "other Ann," the younger one.
Then there are times when she does know who I am, and we can find reasons to smile. Like getting our hair curled. Like watching America's Funniest Home Videos, one of the few TV shows that she'll watch. She likes the little children on there. Sometimes, we can watch Curious George because they have clips of kids doing things. And she'll watch golf. Not sure why except that Daddy used to like to watch golf.
So we take it day by day. At times, five minutes at a time in hopes that the next five minutes will be better. And we try to squeeze in a few smiles now and again.
  "The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions -- the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment."  Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Did you share some smiles with your mother today - in life or maybe in your memory? Smiles don't have to be hoarded away. The more we give away, the more we get in return. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Mysteries of Spring

I had fun with my last mystery picture that wasn't much of a mystery for some of you. So how about this one? Got a guess before you read on? 

While you're thinking about it, let's talk about Spring. Here in Kentucky it was so cool in March that spring tarried and dragged its feet, but then April came along with sunshine and rain. Everything in sight burst into bloom. Redbuds, dogwoods, crab apples, lilacs, Bradford pear trees, tulips, to name a few. 

And the dandelion. 

People who want perfect lawns don't have much affection for the lowly dandelion, but I sort of like them. I made them a part of Lacey's story in The Blessed, by having her do a dandelion dance in the spring. And some years ago, I wrote this devotional about them. Here's a bit of it. If you want to read the rest of the devotional, you can find it on my website at this link, Ann's Dandelion Devotional)

The Lesson of the Dandelion 
God made the dandelion and said, "It is good. This plant is tough but has a bloom like a spot of sun to make my children smile. It is plentiful so they can eat the leaves and still never lack for flowers." He smiled when the seed ball popped up. "Yes, my little children will have fun with that, and look at all the fresh seeds for my songbirds weary from the winter. Yes, it is good."

So now if you haven't already figured it out, you know the mystery photo. I took the picture a week or so ago when the dew was extra heavy on the dandelion fluffs. Made them sparkle in the early morning light.

"If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn." ~Andrew V. Mason

"The miracles of nature do not seem miracles because they are so common. If no one had ever seen a flower, even a dandelion would be the most startling event in the world." 

 "It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun." ~Henry Ward Beecher

So happy dandelion hunting and maybe dancing if you take the notion. I think if you look, you'll find some. :)

Do you enjoy Spring? What's the best part for you?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Final "Take" to Make the Book a "Wrap"

"Truth is, every writer has to be a good editor, and you have to edit yourself. It is a skill every writer has to acquires." ~Lisa Scottoline
Got the pages for my Christmas novel last week for one more read through. Someday I'm going to keep count of how many times I read through a story before it finally gets into the hands of readers. Maybe I can't count that high! :). No, not that many times, but I do read it numerous times. I've probably read completely through a story I've written at least five times before I mail it off to the publishers. Maybe more. That doesn't count the times I read individual scene or chapters or the times I read it after the story is in the editing stage before being published. A person can't see what needs editing if a person doesn't look for it.
I don't mind editing. Well, most of the time. There have been occasions where the requested edits took some thought and seemed difficult on first look. A few times, they looked difficult on second look!! But it got done. There are other times like this particular read through on my Shaker Christmas book that there are no real changes to make, just little glitches to perhaps catch before the book is printed. I caught one of those on page one of this book. At this stage, it's too late for major edits. I had plenty of chances for that in all those read throughs earlier on.
But it is amazing how, no matter how carefully you read, a few things will slip past you. An 'it' will be written as 'if' or vice versa. Even the most careful editing eye lets little things like that slip past from time to time.
But once I've done these last edits on Christmas at Harmony Hill, I'll be ready to rush toward the end of my work in progress. I'm thinking positive on that rush toward the end. My deadline is not that many weeks away with lots of busyness going on other than writing scheduled into those weeks. Prayers appreciated.
But now, just for fun, here's the first paragraph of Sister Sophrena showing up in this story. I really liked Sister Sophrena. She was the journal writer in The Gifted. It was such fun letting her come back to be one of my headline characters in this Christmas story. I do hope the lady I met a few years ago named Sophrenia at the Redbud Festival will see the stories. I told her when I met her that someday I'd name a character after her. I did change the spelling slightly. 
    Sophrena Prescott arose from bed at the first toll of the Shaker rising bell the way she had for the last twenty-five years. Habits clung to her like lint to a dark cloak. The other sisters in the room were also getting out of bed at the sound of the bell.
    Time to be up and the day to begin. Chores awaited. Beds to make. Floors to sweep. Biscuits to cook. She had kitchen duty. Not a bad duty for November when the warmth of the ovens was welcome instead of suffocating the way it was in the summer months. ....
   Forgive me, Lord. She pushed the words silently toward the heavenly Father. Truly the most sincere prayer words she'd offered in days.
That's a final "take" as the movie directors say. But it's hard to say how many "takes" it took me to get to this "wrap."  
Does it bother you when you're reading if you notice mistakes? Do you think it possible to catch every mistake is this day and age? What kind of writing mistakes and editing misses bother you the most?
Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fiddlesticks and Thunderation!

When I was a kid, I was taught that a lady had to watch what she said. If she was irritated or stumped her toe, there was a definite limit on available words to express her vexation. Even the innocuous darn was forbidden in my house. Often, if that word slipped out, you were reminded that the word meant repairing holes in socks. 

Most of the young people in this day and time probably would have no idea how to go about darning socks. To be completely honest, I don't know much about the process either. There was a glass or wooden
darning egg that the mender inserted in the sock and then with darning needle and thread repaired the hole. If people lacked a real darning egg, they might have made do with a lightbulb or a ceramic doorknob. Amazingly enough, you can find how-to videos about darning socks out on the web. Not that I'm going to take up darning. I'm too busy "darning" all the "threads" of my story together. So I just buy new socks and keep the economy rolling. 

That's Mom and me back in the fifties. (You can see I was already a dog lover then.) Mom's favorite vexation word was always "fiddlesticks" or sometimes just "fiddle." My daughter told me last week that she finds herself saying fiddle now and in the process remembers Mom. That got me wondering about the word and in the process of wondering I discovered a lot I didn't know about fiddlesticks.

See the guys in the photo. They're playing fiddlesticks. Fiddlesticks are traditional instruments used to add percussion to old-time and Cajun fiddle music, allowing two persons to play the fiddle at the same time. While the fiddler plays with his bow, a second person uses a pair of straws, sticks, or knitting needles to tap out a rhythm on the strings over the upper fingerboard (between the bow and the fiddler's fingering hand). This is also called "beating the straws" or "playing the straws." Nobody knows for sure where this technique originated, but some think it probably arose in the eastern United States. The technique has become rarer over time as the music has changed, but numerous examples have been recorded. (Info from Wikipedia)

Obviously my mother's use of the word to express irritation and the odd way of helping a fiddle player's music sound different aren't the only ways fiddlesticks is used. A lot of stores and restaurants are named Fiddlesticks. There's a country club in New York and a town in Florida. And from the images I pulled up on the internet there is a video game where Fiddlesticks is a creepy character. 

Another word I heard sometimes when I was a kid, used mainly by a neighbor who loved to visit and talk away the afternoon, was thunder and thunderation. Tommy was good at telling stories and sometimes laughing at himself in those stories, but when something went sour it was always "thunderation." So I went out on the web to check out that word. An outdoor steel roller coaster that opened at Silver Dollar City in Bransom, Missouri in 1993 is named Thunderation. My neighbor's use of the word pre-dated that by a long time. But here's a photo of the roller coaster. 

But even more interesting is that Thunderation is a scouts' camp song. Now it's mostly the Girl Scouts who claim the song, but I think in the beginning it may have been any scout's or guide's song.  Here are the lyrics. 
"Thunder, thunder, thunderation.
  We are the (Scout/guide) Association.
  When we work with determination
   We create a sensation." 

Sounded as if there might have been some feet stomping to make the thunderation.   Link to Girl Scouts singing Thunderation.

So what about when you were a kid? How were you allowed to express your vexation? Or not?