Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The 1960's - Marches, Civil Rights and Changes

In the car on the way up to sit with Mom, I switched on the radio today and tuned in to live coverage of the fifty year anniversary March on Washington. I remember the 1963 March of Washington, but I was young and didn't pay all that much attention to the Civil Rights movement. Civil Rights were words in the news, but out on the farm, I was an innocent who had very little understanding of why people were marching on Washington. Most of the adults around me were simply worried violence was going to break out or that it was somehow going to change their world. But things needed to change and I think the Lord sent the right man to lead the marches and get those changes started in a peaceful way. Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech has a permanent place in the history of our country.

Our schools were integrated in 1963. It seems strange now to think about how long it took for the school system to allow all the kids in our county to go to school near where they lived. I don't remember worrying about it. I also had no idea of the struggles many of the blacks had faced as they marched to have the same rights as other citizens of the country. 

Years later, I wrote my Hollyhill books set in the 1960's, and while researching the era, I learned what an innocent I had been. So in my second Hollyhill book, Orchard of Hope, I let Jocie be that innocent young girl who thinks everybody has the freedom to do whatever they want and who is confronted with the truth of prejudice. I wrote about a family moving into an area of the Holly County where black people didn't normally live. Myra, the mother in the family had ridden the Freedom Trains and been arrested. She'd taken her children to marches and because of that, one of the children, Cassidy, developed deep fears. Cassidy is one of the viewpoint characters in the story and I think her fearful innocence contrasted against Jocie's unaware innocence deepen the story line. Orchard of Hope is due to be re-released with this new cover in October. It seems to be right on time with the anniversary of the Washington March this year. 

Some of you are old enough to remember that time too. What do you remember about that March on Washington?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ready, Set, Go - Winners Picked!

"Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who wait, and the best things come to those who don't give up."

This is Riggs, my son-in-law and daughter's dog. They picked him as a pup because he seemed to be the quietest and listened the best. He must have been on his best behavior that day because he's rarely been quiet or still since. Here he's watching me waiting for me to throw a stick for him to fetch. See his paw up - ready, set, go. 

But you know, I think we can learn a few things from Riggs. First, he's always ready for a good time. Second, he can have fun with whatever stick he might find, whether it's no more than a twig or a branch he has to break down to size. Third, he keeps his focus. He'll stand like that and watch the stick he brought you or the ball he wants you to throw for long minutes until you know what? You pick it up and throw it. Then he's gone like a flash to bring it back to you and start the whole cycle over again. He never seems to get bored at doing what he does best - fetching. 

It's time for me to be ready, set, go on a new story. I've found the stick (got the idea). Now all I need is the belief that the stick (the story) is worth pursuing and the focus to keep my eye on that story. I need to keep trying to do what I do best and that is tell a story. 

Meanwhile, thank you all so much for leaving comments this week and entering my drawing for a copy of Christmas at Harmony Hill.  I used to choose my winner. And the winner is -- Central East 2. (I'll be sending you an e-mail, Central East 2, to get your mailing address and then will send your book.) And because I had so many wonderful entries and because nearly all of you said you liked Christmas novels, I got in the Christmas spirit in August and picked a second winner. Linda McFarland, you're my extra winner this time. (Sending you an e-mail too, Linda.)

I also have copies of Small Town Girl to send out to the winners over on Seekerville. Had a great time talking to everybody over there about books and writing. 

Now you can read about my experience of having my first child on Lyn Cote's Blog. And guess what? You can leave a comment there to have another chance to win Christmas at Harmony Hill. It's such fun to give away books and I'll enjoy hearing what you have to say about my post on Lyn's site.

Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you want a smile about Riggs, go to my Facebook page and see his video. :)




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

That Winning Feeling - A Shaker Christmas is Here

When the delivery guys bring me a carton and I open it to see a new book spill out, I feel like a winner. So I'm giving away a copy of the just arrived Christmas at Harmony Hill to share that winning feeling. Keep reading to see how to enter your name in a drawing.

As a fiction writer, I spend day after day with my fingers on a keyboard and my mind in a world that doesn't even exist, putting words into the mouths of imaginary people. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get the story told.
But then that great day comes when the new book lands on my doorstep, all dressed up in its beautiful "meet the world" clothes. 

Yesterday I got to experience that fun day with my Shaker Christmas book, Christmas at Harmony Hill. The official release date is September 15, a birthday present for me, but it could be the book is going to sneak into stores a few days or weeks early. I personally am not going to admit to being a year older until the actual day, so the birthday is not coming early. Just the book. LOL. 

I've never written a Christmas novella before. I've had Christmas scenes in my books. One in Orchard of Hope, the second book in the Heart of Hollyhill series. That reissue will be out in another month. I love having books come out, but this year it's kept me hopping. I also wrote a Christmas scene in the Rosey Corner book I just finished. All kinds of interesting things can happen around a Christmas tree or in the case of the Shakers, in a Shaker village.  

The Shakers didn't do elaborate Christmas celebrating back in the 1800's. They generally had a worship service where they received imaginary gifts - thing like robes of love or baskets of blessings. But before Christmas they had a day sometimes called Sacrifice Day and other times called a Day of Atonement. On this day they were to seek out and ask forgiveness from any person they had wronged in the past year. They were also obligated to forgive and forget the wrongs done to them. I used that in my story as both of my characters, Sister Sophrena and Heather, had people in their lives they needed to forgive. 

I do hope readers will enjoy going back to Civil War times for my Christmas story. One of you can get an early copy to read since to celebrate these books showing up on my doorstep, I'm giving a copy to one of you who comments on this blog. I'll draw for a winner on Sunday. That will make two Sundays in a row I'm giving something away. Last week my mystery picture winner was Ann M. who said she wanted either Words Spoken True or Small Town Girl. I'm having trouble deciding which one to send her. Decisions. Decisions. Anyway, this week maybe you'll be the lucky winner. I won't have to decide which one to send you. You'll get Christmas at Harmony Hill. :) 

Just leave a comment. You can tell me if you've ever read a Christmas book. I'll be guessing that you haven't read a Christmas Shaker book - yet!

I'll also be giving away a book to someone who comes over to my guest post on Seekerville on Friday, August 23, and leaves a comment there. I'll be giving away Small Town Girl. That's a lively site with lots of comments, so I'm looking forward to talking to the readers there.

I always look forward to talking to you here. Thanks for reading.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mysteries and a Winner Revealed

 Those mystery photos turned out to be a lot of fun for me. The guesses were very creative. Most all of you got the first photo right. But Sarah said the one thing she was sure of is that it wasn't a fence. I guess she thought I'd be sneakier than that. Judy guessed that it was a fence and a book cover. So she was seeing "the whole picture." It's the picket fence on the cover of my coming Shaker Christmas novel, Christmas at Harmony Hill. That little dab of red must have given it away to Judy. 

The guesses you made for photo two were the most fun. Here's some of them: peach, two dogs or cats lying next to one another, a purple cone flower, a horse's back end, an elephant's back end (somebody thought I was brave to take that photo, but I can sort of see that elephant), a cow's tongue, and then those of you who must have been licked by plenty of dogs' tongues and recognized Oscar's tongue. It might have been a bit more mysterious than most dogs' tongues because Oscar's tongue has those black splotches. Fun guesses all and got my imagination going seeing what you were seeing. Having a hard time seeing that peach, though.  

And now the last picture. It fooled most of you, but a few of you got it right. There were some interesting guesses on this one too. Sandi guessed those buckeye shells like the photo I posted on my Facebook page not long ago. Great guess, Sandi, but wrong! It's a walnut. One person said she could almost smell it.  Black walnut outer shells have a very strong odor. 

Two people guessed all three mystery photos. And now the winner of my drawing for a choice of one of my books --Ann M. I'll be in contact, Ann. Tonight things are difficult as I'm at Mom's house and the modem here decided to give up the ghost. Finishing this on my iPhone. So please forgive the centered type. I have no idea how to fix that.  

Thanks for joining in with my mystery photo fun. We'll do it again sometime, just as soon as I go to the zoo and get those elephant pictures. :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cows and City Girls

"All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow."  Grant Wood.

No, I'm not that much of a country girl. Never learned how to milk cows. I did try once, but being the youngest girl, I guess nobody thought it important enough to teach me the proper method of tugging on the cow's udder to get milk to come out. I remember thinking there must be a trick to it I didn't know. I was never too excited about the task anyway. Feeding the chickens was more my speed. I did a lot of carrying in wood too, and I do remember coming up with some story ideas while I was doing that.
But cows are one of the attractions down here on the farm when my city grandkids come to visit. No cows in their neighborhood. So the only time they see a cow close up is when they come to the farm to visit. This granddaughter is trying to get the cow to eat an apple from her hand. The cow looks interested, but not quite interested enough. Just as well. She would have freaked if it slobbered on her. The older granddaughter was a little freaked out just looking at the cows and very nervous that a horse fly was going to come her way. Bugs are not her thing. And when the cows cut loose as cows do, then there were plenty of eewws. 

But on the way back from seeing the cows, the older girl wanted me to treat her like a "farm girl" and have her do the kind of chores her father had to do when he was her age. A little hard to re-create since we don't burn wood anymore and we didn't have any rocks to haul off fields or hay to put in the barn. She did pick a few boysenberries and that gave her a little feel of country living.

It would be interesting to know what my grandkids will remember about their visits to our farm when they get older. I remember so many wonderful times visiting my aunt who was like a grandmother to me when I was younger. I remember the wavy medicine cabinet mirror that could stretch my face into funny shapes like a fun house mirror. I remember the smell of chewing gum in the drawer of her buffet. I remember her cats and the playhouse in the backyard. Mostly I remember feeling so very loved and accepted there. That's what I hope my grandkids will remember someday. That and feeding apples to the cows.

Do you have sweet memories of times with your grandparents? I know some of you do because you sent me stories about those memories in one of my giveaway contests. Remember, I have a little giveaway going now. I'll draw for a winner Sunday from those who guess on my mystery pictures from the Sunday post here. Any guess will get an entry. Right guesses will get a double entry and if you get all three mystery photos right, you'll get a triple entry. Some of you have guessed already. Fun guesses, but I'm not saying if you're right or wrong until Sunday.

If you're in the area, I'll be at Corinth Christian Bookstore in Frankfort this Saturday, August 17 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. signing my new book, Small Town Girl. Other area authors will also be there signing books. So come on out and support your local Christian book store and tell us authors hello.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mystery Picture Contest

Mystery picture 1
Mystery picture 2

Mystery picture 3

How about some fun with a few mystery photos? You guys are so good at this that I'm sure I won't be able to stump you, but we can still have fun. And to make it more interesting, I'll give the winner (drawn from all the entries) his or her choice of one of my books. (USA or Canada only for a print book and an e-book if an international entry wins. You must be 18 to enter.) You can enter by making a guess on the mystery pictures. Be sure to number your guesses. That will get you one entry. You'll get an additional entry for every right guess. And if you guess all three correctly you'll get a bonus entry. I'll draw for the winner next Sunday. So start guessing. But it's no fair reading everybody else's guesses before you make your own. Besides, they could be wrong! So no peeking at the other comments until you've sent in your comment with your guess. And be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in case you do win. If you'd rather send me a message instead of leaving your guesses here, here's my e-mail. annhgabhart(at)yahoo(dot)com. That's how you can include your address if you want to keep the robots from seeing it. 

I've been out on the net doing some guest posts and every time I responded to a comment, I had to prove I wasn't a robot. A couple of times, I wasn't so sure I wasn't. Some of those smashed up and crowded letters are hard to read. LOL. But I managed. I was at Mary Vee's Let's Talk this week talking about how I got started on my writing journey and the perseverance I needed to keep writing all these years. Thanks to all of you who went over to read my post and leave a comment. Guess you proved you weren't a robot either. 

Then I was interviewed by DJ Deb on her blog, Next Page. DJ Deb asked questions about some books I haven't talked about for a while like Angels at the Crossroads, so you might enjoy reading that interview. Just click on the link underlined above. On August 23rd, I'll be visiting Seekerville. That will be great fun because they have a lot of interaction with readers on their blog posts. You all know how I love to talk to anybody who will stand still long enough to listen or send me comments. LOL. I'll be in blog heaven.  On August 19, I'll be doing an interview on Juanita Nobles' blog. Leave a comment on that one for a chance to win a copy of Small Town Girl. You'll also have a chance to win Small Town Girl by commenting at Seekerville. 

So lots of giveaways up and coming. Very soon I'll be sending out a newsletter with a Christmas at Harmony Hill Celebration Giveaway. I've got to decide what to give away first! The book is available for pre-sale already and release day is just about a month away. Where has the summer gone? Also Angel Sister is still available at a reduced e-book price for a little longer.

But first let's see who wins the mystery picture giveaway. And remember, it won't be as much fun if you don't guess first and read everybody else's guesses second. Besides, you guys always figure out my mystery pictures without help. 

Thanks for reading. And may the best guesser win! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sassafras, Boysenberries and the Sound of Words

Do you like the sound of your voice? It's funny, but somehow when we're speaking, we don't hear our voice the same as when we hear it recorded. I remember the first time I heard a recording of my voice. I was in high school and somebody had brought in a tape recorder. None of us had recorded our voices before and so we were playing with it. I remember my shock when I heard my voice. It was so awful I decided I'd never speak aloud again. Of course, that lasted about two minutes. It's too much fun to talk.

The reason I'm remembering all this is that not long ago somebody told me I should make some videos. He's been trying to help me improve my use of media and after he met me face to face and witnessed firsthand how much I like to talk, he told me I was a storyteller. He thought I should try videoing some of my Facebook posts. So I've been playing around with the video on my iPhone. And you know what? I'm still not crazy about the sound of my voice, but I am more used to it now. Anyway, I decided to test out my very first live video on you sweet people. It's about picking boysenberries and is less than a minute long. 

If you listen to it, you can tell me what you think. Stupid? Wait, you wouldn't tell me that. You're too nice, aren't you? Silly? You might tell me that. Boring? You'll probably tell me that. Just keep in mind - this is a test. This is only a test. If it were a real video, I would have hired a voice-over actress and maybe a script writer too. LOL. 

But back to boysenberries and sassafras. I posted a photo of sassafras leaves on my Facebook page and asked how many people had tried sassafras tea. You'd be surprised how many. I'm not sure if I have or not. I think Dad brought in roots and Mom made it once, but I can't positively remember tasting it. But whether you've tasted it or not, you know the word. 

One of my Facebook friends said she loved the word - sassafras. Doesn't it roll off your tongue just the way you think it should? And boysenberry is the same. A treat for the tongue - both the berry and the word. 

I love words that glide through your ears and look good on paper too. I like fun words that sound what they mean. Like nincompoop. Or rain. If you draw that word rain out with a bit of southern drawl, you can hear drops sliding down your window. Or fever. Or hash. Add an 'r' and you have harsh. It sounds just that. But then think willow or whisper. 

So even though I don't particularly like the sound of my voice, I do like the sound of words. And somehow just seeing those words written down plays the sounds in our heads as we're reading. As you're reading, you might not even notice the words. That's the way a story is supposed to read, but if the writer has chosen the right words, the best words, then those words can add so much to the story.  So maybe I need to add a few boysenberries and some sassafras tea to my next story or have a willow tree whispering in the breeze. 

Oh yeah, and there's that word "ow" or "ouch" I said you would hear a lot if you were here picking boysenberries with me. Maybe it will be better if we just sit in the glider and sip some of that sassafras tea. Or eat a piece of that boysenberry cobbler.

Thanks for reading. What words can you think of that are a treat to the ears or that sound exactly as they should?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fun with Housework and Cluttered Desks

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk? ~Dr. Laurence J. Peter

A writer needs a little clutter going in her head. Got to pull those stories from somewhere. But I did finally almost get my desk cleaned off today. (I didn't show the corner that still has a pile of stuff to do something with.) 

I should have taken a before picture so you could have seen what weeks of dumping everything on the desk for later looked like. While I was working toward my deadline on the new book, I didn't have time to deal with some of the things coming across my desk. Well, that's a bit misleading. Those things didn't go "across" my desk. They landed on my desk and stuck to it like the bottom side of whatever it was had glue. 

A place for everything and everything in its place. That's great advice - except for a writer like me who hates throwing away anything related to that writing. The letter my editor sent me three books ago. The scraps of paper with inspiring quotes on them. The catalogs with my books listed in them. I can't throw those away! The Valentine card my husband gave me - three years ago. A granddaughter's Kindergarten graduation program. Various and sundry bulletins from church. A 2012 calendar. Oops, now I'm wondering if the stuff on my desk has only been building for weeks. Maybe it was months. 

Come to think of it, I'm sure it has been months. It's been more than months that I've been taking turns sitting with Mom. That's been three years now. As someone told me once, it's like having two full time jobs. Sitting with Mom and writing. That doesn't leave a lot of time for decluttering my desk or my bookshelves. Things get postponed. Those things pile up. But eventually the piles get too tall. Eventually I finish the last book and look forward to a new book. I seem to need the desk cleared off to get that fresh start on the new idea. My sister is already asking me if I've started on the new book. I don't think she wants to hear me whining about a deadline racing my way if I delay the writing too long. 

Perhaps my problem is that housework is not my favorite thing. My husband once told me - while I was not too happily cleaning up the stove after cooking his breakfast - that a lot of women loved cleaning. Guess he's not married to one of those "lot of women." 

I'm more in Erma Bombeck's camp. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance. 

Or I have to confess to being right there with Phyllis Diller about ironing. I'm eighteen years behind in my ironing. There's no use doing it now, it doesn't fit anybody I know. My husband's shirts get dusty waiting for me to iron them and then they have to be washed again and the whole cycle starts over. Like Phyllis says, he's probably outgrown them by now anyway. 

And isn't this the truth? Housekeeping is like being caught in a revolving door. —Marcelene Cox

But I did find this quote from A.A. Milne to be too true today as I cleaned off my desk. One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. 

I don't know that the discoveries were exciting, but I did find something I had searched high and low for, but not in the right pile of stuff. I knew it had to be there somewhere. I'm hoping I put it in a place where I will find it when I look for it again. 

But tonight I'm going to let Ruby Lou Barnhill have the last word. A bright person can always think of something better to do than housework. 

Well, almost the last word. What household chore do you hate the most? I've always hated dusting. Not a hard job, just one that seems so futile. And go ahead, you "lot of women" and tell me how much you love cleaning and the household chores you like. LOL!

P.S. If you're reading this, Tarasa, look close at the calendar. It's on the right day!!!