Monday, December 23, 2013

Season's Greetings

Jesus is the reason for the season!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Tis the Season

The season. Christmas. The holidays. Yuletide. Whatever it's called, it has rolled around again just as it does every year. And, too soon, it will be gone. What--if anything--will it leave behind? Dying trees, flickering lights, trash bags of wrapping paper, dissatisfaction with gifts received, relief, exhaustion...for many, yes, all the aforementioned are what they reap from the holiday season.

For those who have attacked it with the purpose of wiping it out, there is a modicum of success to be gloated over, I suppose. Not content to let the season pass by unnoticed because of their own beliefs, they have done everything possible to ruin it for those who celebrate it for what it is--the birth of Christ. The arguments they make--separation of church and state (which is not in the Constitution, actually), offensiveness to non-believers, ad naseum--are old and tired. The simple fact is, they want to impose their own agenda on everyone and will employ their bullying tactics wherever they can get away with it. Sometimes I feel angry--other times I just feel sorry for these people. And they are human beings and deserving of my compassion though they feel none for me.

My own approach to Christmas has changed over the years. I'm less focused on shopping, cooking, and decorating--and sometimes a little resentful if pressured into doing more than I want to do.  I enjoy Christmas music playing throughout the house, the lights on my down-sized tree, the limited gift-buying I do for my grandchildren, and relaxing with old, well-loved movies such as "White Christmas" and "A Christmas Carol". I want to internalize the true meaning of the season and remember the coming of the Prince of Peace, the Savior of mankind.

The recent "flap" over replacing Santa Claus with a penguin in the name of racial diversity is ridiculously laughable. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Christmas giving. I've seen him portrayed as both black and white, and my feeling is, who cares? The historical St. Nicholas was indeed Caucasian, and one can't change history--but when we view him as a spirit, we can look at him however we wish, and it changes nothing. He is still representative of Christmas joy!

I was taught as a child in Sunday School that Jesus was less the fair-skinned image portrayed in our children's Bibles and in stained glass and more likely darker-complected due to living outdoors in the Middle East. I found that knowledge interesting and accepted it as more historically correct. I've even seen Him portrayed in art as black and oriental.  If we believe the Genesis story that God created man in His own image (and I do), skin color is a moot point.

I wonder sometimes if God doesn't shake His head at the nit-picking. I personally am out of patience with it.

Finally, Christmas isn't a day in the month of December but rather a season of the heart. I heard a song once--a secular one to be sure but very true--that it's not about the things we do at Christmastime but "the Christmas things we do all year through".

Ebeneezer Scrooge learned to keep Christmas in his heart. So may we all. 

I wish all of you a blessed season of joy, peace, and hope.





Saturday, November 23, 2013

Current Rants and Raves

Raves first:  I'm currently reading Dr. Charles Krauthammer's Things That Matter. The man is not only brilliant but outrageously funny. I sat in the pick-up line for my granddaughter yesterday and almost found myself unable to drive because of laughing so hard at his "Don't Touch My Junk" essay.

Kudos to the school children/parents in South Carolina who fought back against a group of sue-happy bullying "humanists" determined to keep them from providing Christmas gifts for children. These lovely groups go in and threaten to sue small towns/schools which don't have the money to fight them in court, and they know it. It's bullying pure an simple--and even worse, bullying someone smaller and weaker.

Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly interviewed the head of the humanist group threatening to sue, and he proclaimed they'd sent money to the Philippines for disaster relief. Good for them. But he couldn't answer when she asked him what they were doing for the children who wouldn't be getting gifts because of his group. He looked blank when she said well, he was protecting them from being "evangelized" and she was sure that would give them "warm comfort"on Christmas morning. In the midst of total disgust for people like this, you have to feel sorry for them, too...just a little.

The new Common Core curriculum taking over our schools seems designed to indoctrinate students in the almighty government (current)doctrine. Sixth-graders in an AR school were asked to re-write the Bill of Rights. In another school, teachers were directed to read the Gettysburg Address without expression and without giving the historical background. A fourth grade class biography about Obama seems to want students to believe all white people are racists. And, of course, Education Secretary Arne Duncan lashed out at "white suburban moms" criticizing his baby.Some states, I understand, are pulling out. I hope the rest follow suit.

Folks, I don't know about you, but I am about fed up with being told what a terrible racist  I am because I am white. I was born white--nothing I can do about it. I am a Christian and a political conservative by choice. I have that right in a free country. I lived through the Civil Rights Era, and you can bet I was rooting for all those determined to end racial discrimination in every corner of society. We have come too far to play the "race card" at every turn just because someone disagrees with someone else. I'm done with political correctness. You can teach but not mandate courtesy and respect. I was taught both. If someone else wasn't, well, that's their problem.

I'm tired of the name-calling, the double-speak, professional politicians who live a fine life on my tax dollar, the race-baiters, and those who would deny kindness and compassion if it's linked in any way to the G-word--that being God.

God help America!

(I hope the NSA and anyone else tracking American citizens on the internet takes note of this post. I guess I will know they did if my tax return gets audited or a swat team shows up at my house with/without a search warrant.)

America! America! God shed His grace on Thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhod
From sea to shining sea!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear to My Heart

Right now I'm working on revising Book #1 of The Dreamland Series. That's the one I put up on this blog sometime back. It was okay--but like all first drafts, it needed some work. Those of you who read it may remember one of the characters, Danny Jefferson, who had Down Syndrome. Often overlooked because of his challenges, Danny kept his eyes and ears open and often saw and heard more than anyone else.

I like using special characters in stories. In my first-ever published novel, Where Is Papa's Shining Star?, the male protagonist/hero--Alan Ashley--came back from World War I blind and scarred. He had many challenges to overcome, not the least of which was winning the heart of Lenore Seldon who had less-obvious scars of her own.

In Four Summer Days, a story based on my great-grandfather who shot and killed his stepfather in 1876, there is Cart, the mentally-challenged younger brother of the hero Tom. In a time when such a disability was too often considered something shameful to be hidden away, Cart's family helped him achieve his potential with unequivocal love and encouragement. He had the mind of a child but the soul of an artist and left behind a huge work of intricately-crafted woodcarvings. (This book should be "up" on Amazon soon.)

Blest Be the Tie, the "great American novel" I've been working on for thirty years and may never complete, has Peaches, crippled more by her family's disdain than by childhood polio, her daughter Button, born without a left hand for which Peaches blames herself, perhaps with good reason, and Vic, who came home from WW II without most of one leg.

But I digress. Right now Danny Jefferson is close to my heart because my 18-month-old grandson Liam was born with Down Syndrome. Fortunately for him, he was born into a family who loves him completely and will do everything in our power to help him reach his maximum potential. Looking ahead, I know he will face many challenges, not the least of which is being labeled "different" and as such, "not quite good enough" by many people. Perhaps Danny is my love song for Liam--my prayer for his future.

Writers are often advised to "write what you know". I would add, "Write what you love, what you feel deeply about."


Friday, November 15, 2013

Rules-Smules

Interviewers often ask, "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" My answer would be, "It all depends. Usually, when an idea presents itself, I jot down a setting and some character names. Then I research the setting, especially the time period so as not to have any anachronisms floating around, and make notes. Then I jot down some ideas about the plot--where it's going and how it will get there. I might even fill in character descriptions and back stories.

But not always.

Sometimes I get an idea and just start writing, and when I come to the end, I really really like it or just want to hit 'delete'. I don't think there's a definitive answer about 'how' to write. I've read a lot of books on the subject and have come away with some good ideas, but even then the  ideas have to be adapted for me personally.

A short story can just sort of 'go', where a longer novel needs a few guidelines so it doesn't become too convoluted. Also, what works for one author doesn't necessarily work for another.

I spoke to a group about the Penelope series, and immediately someone said, "You do have a murder in the first chapter, don't you?" When I replied in the negative, she became adamant--"You have to follow the rules." Okay, honey, you follow the rules if that's what floats your boat. I write for myself. And, btw, the number of books sold in the series indicates that readers haven't heard about 'the rules' I didn't follow!

It's been great to have a series which has sold well, and maybe it will happen again. Or maybe it won't.
The one thing I can count on is that I'll enjoy what I'm doing however I do it. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Grand Adventure, Mistakes and All!

The original intent of The Word Place was to write about writing--specifically "resources, reflections, and remedies", but I've drifted lately. So let's see...how about a "remedy" today.

I don't think I'm the only person who hits the indent key for paragraphing, but now I realize why that's a no-no. When I started formatting mss for Kindle, I realized that the paragraphs could be/usually would be skewed unless I went back and set the indent for 0.5"--which automatically throws a new paragraph to the exact right spot. Going back and doing that after the fact is tedious and time-consuming. Lesson learned. From now on, any new ms will be formatted from the start.

Working with headers and footers (page numbers) has taught me to check the toolbar for a sneaky little thing called "link to previous"--which, if highlighted, can throw everything off, especially when you've put in section breaks for whatever reasons. And, it highlights itself automatically! Look for it, and turn it off if you don't want to start from scratch.

In the "is-my-face-red" section, even though I pride myself on careful research, I have made some bloopers--and readers have let me know about them. I will never again assume I know something without double-checking to be sure. Also, if you are a reader, don't hesitate to point out the errors--politely, of course. I've been fortunate to have some of the nicest readers send me an FYI email--and I appreciate that they took the time to do it.

No matter how long one writes, being a writer is an evolving thing--from technicalities to truth. I think it's one of the grandest adventures of life!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Casting Out

I bought myself a present! A 12-pc set of T-fal non-stick cookware! Just washed it, but the instructions say to "season" it with cooking oil before first use, so I'll do that in a bit.

Now comes the task of "purging" all the old--and I do mean OLD--cookware inherited from my mother and grandmother. Except for the cast iron skillet, of course. I'm not parting with that!

Once upon a time, cookware was forever: the aforementioned cast iron skillet, a couple of saucepans with lids, a Dutch oven, a griddle, and a double boiler. I mean, you used it for a lifetime. I think what I'll be ditching has been used for several lifetimes.

I also bought a new covered cake pan, but I also need an 8-inch square one for brownies and such. My old one has as many dents as I have wrinkles. Ditto the muffin tins. The bread pans are, I think, salvageable.

In retrospect, it seems foolish to buy new cookware at my age. I don't even cook that much anymore. But it was on sale for a good price, and the last time I made brownies, I sort of cringed as I buttered the pan. So perhaps it was time.

So, it's off to get tough with myself and box up assorted pots and pans for a salvage yard which wants metal. I can't get rid of the memories though. Chicken and dumplings bubbling lazily in a heavy pot on my grandmother's gas stove. Cinnamon fried pies crackling in enough butter to sink the Titanic in her big iron skillet. Chocolate sheet cake covered with thick fudge frosting in a 13 x 9 pan  heavy enough to bench press.

Of all my immediate family, it's my grandmother I think of most. She was always there (next door), patient, welcoming, armed with practical knowledge I wish she'd imparted more of to me. I've held onto all this old cookware just because it was hers, even though I haven't used most of it in years. But it's time to say goodbye to the physical reminders and move on.

 I've hauled "stuff" around  for too long. I don't have to keep it in order to retain my memories. They'll always be there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day

     It's November 11, the day the guns went silent in Europe in 1918 during WW I--known for years as "Armistice Day" and now as "Veterans' Day". I like the name change--we should honor all veterans, not just those who fought in a particular conflict.
     WW II vets are dying out. The survivors of Jimmy Doolittle's "Raiders" who struck at the heart of the Japanese Empire early in the war, are down to four and have decided to end their reunions this year and drink the toast while they still can, rather than wait to dwindle to two.
     I am a 'war baby'. "The war" wasn't history while I was growing up but rather something with which we lived every day, particularly my friends and classmates whose fathers never came home. I became accustomed to seeing men--older but not old--selling poppies on downtown streets as this day of remembrance approached. Actually, it was a donation rather than a sale. I always bought one, and I still do whenever I happen to have the opportunity.
     My generation went to Viet Nam. I don't criticize those who fled the country or protested out of true conviction, but I feel a deep and abiding shame about how those who didn't burn their draft cards were treated when they came home. And, on principle, I wouldn't pay to watch a Jane Fonda movie. In my opinion, what she did was inexcusable, and forgiveness for the harm she caused is between her and her Maker.
     And here's the rest of my beef:  Look at America today. Look at the professional politicians, paid with our tax money, who have made a mockery of the bravery of the young men and women who struggled to preserve this nation in a time when true evil stalked the face of the world and threatened to destroy freedom forever. If these soldiers could have looked ahead as they stormed Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima or countless other lesser-known beaches and bridges, how would they have felt?
     The greatest "battle" these politicians face is their next election--and they seem to be willing to say/do anything to win it. Everything but sacrifice themselves for the good of the American people whom they were supposedly elected to serve. They live high at our expense and do little if anything for our well-being. I'm sick of them--some more than others.
     "They gave up all of their tomorrows for our todays" has always resonated with me. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives laid down for the ilk of those who play at "running" the government of a once-proud country. Not a perfect country--not by a long shot--but a light in the darkness anyway.
     "Write/call your Congressman" we're told. Why? They read what they want to read, hear what they want to hear, and sneer at the rest...at us for being dumb enough to vote for them year after year, ad nauseum.
     Is this too strongly worded? I don't think it's blunt enough.
     "Home of the brave...land of the free..." Dear God, please let us keep it that way while we still can!
    

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I don't want to think this hard...

     So here I am needing to do laundry this fine Saturday morning, but my washer and dryer (tops) are occupied by two things I'm not quite sure what to do with:

(1) My granddaughter's 'crystal garden' which we concocted yesterday with charcoal briquettes, ammonia, laundry bluing, and salt. Crystals are beginning to grow, and the instructions caution against moving/jostling the fragile project. We did the project outside because I wanted to minimize the ammonia fumes, but it had to be moved inside for safe-keeping. Hence, the utility room.

(2) A sack containing an urn with the recently-delivered ashes of my beast/aka Lady. She will be buried out back, appropriately with St. Francis and also in her favorite spot to relieve herself. But I have to wait until my younger son arrives at Christmas with a shovel. Someone told me recently that she has her mother's ashes on a shelf in her closet. Somehow that option doesn't appeal to me.

Obviously, I will need to use the washer and dryer before Christmas.

So--here I sit considering all alternatives.

As the King said in "The King and I", 'tis a puzzlement.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How did we get from there to here?

A classmate is keeping everyone updated on monthly birthdays so we can exchange good wishes. He's especially stressing "the big 7-0".  Humphf. I am still seventeen, thank you. Seventeen and graduating from high school and going off to college with my whole life in front of me. Wait...let me think...was that just yesterday, or was it a lifetime ago?

Having gone to school early, I'm one of the younger classmates. I have another whole year before "the big 7-0" comes along. One more year to put my hand against the face of the clock and try to hold back time. But, of course, it can't be done.

So...how did we get from 17 to 70 in the blink of an eye? And do I really want to know?

I thought my parents were old at 40. They almost made 90, so I come from pretty long-lived stock. My mother used to tell me I'd never grow up. "No," I'd reply, "and I'll never grow old either." I bought my first Mickey Mouse watch when I was 50. Well, I'd always wanted one, and it was time. I still start December by watching the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I read the comic page in the newspaper every day.

When I was growing up, all the "old" women (probably younger than I am now) wore the same black square-heeled, lace-up shoes and clip-on pearl earrings. I guess it was their trademark--or something. I like jeans, sneakers, and hoops or "danglies" in my two-hole ears.

People talk about the risks which young people take without thought of the consequences. I try not to think about either one anymore. Maybe they're smarter than we think. Maybe they know what I just found out--you only go around once, and it's better to live a few years than to vegetate for a lifetime.

At this point in time, there's no going back, only forward at what seems now to be break-neck speed. I'm just going to hold on tighter and soar with the eagles. Who wants to be a sparrow hopping around on the ground digging for worms?

No, I'm not contemplating sky-diving or bungee-jumping. A tattoo? I don't think so. Shucking my blissfully single state? When pigs fly. But the road beckons, and I have places to go and people to meet and things to learn.

I don't really know how I got from there to here. It was inevitable, I suppose.

Just know I'm not staying here with so many 'theres' to see.

The life I was afraid to live before is still out there waiting for me, and I'm on my way.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Of disrespect and hope...

So much for my resolution to blog regularly! It's been a busy month, which is no excuse, but the statement stands. Mostly, I just haven't been inspired to say anything remotely worthwhile. Let's see if I can dredge up any interesting tidbits...

The Penelope books have sold 17,461 copies since mid-July. My first royalty checks were a treat. For the first time since I've retired, I've earned money. There's a topic--does earning money make one valuable and not earning money relegate one to the bottom of the barrel? Sometimes I wonder. Example:  On my last doctor's visit (I only go once a year, thank goodness!), the nurse persisted in calling me "Baby". Retired + gray hair + senior citizen = Baby. I didn't say anything, but due to persistent issues with the nurses in this particular office, I'm looking for a new doctor.

Ah, now I've found my soapbox. When I was growing up, I was taught to respect older people. I mean, respect them. It was Mr./Mrs., sir/ma'am, etc. And it wasn't just surface respect--it was real respect. These people had lived and had something to teach me from their experience. What they offered me was a gift, and I took it gratefully. I appreciated them. I really did.

Of course, disrespect is a way of life these days. We don't respect life in general. Inconvenient conceptions are easily gotten rid of. Decisions permanently affecting children's lives are often made with the stroke of a gavel. Children as young as kindergarten are suspended from school under an insane "zero tolerance" policy for things they don't even realize aren't "politically correct". Despite lip-service to "diversity" and cultural respect", certain groups are notably cast aside or, worse, demonized. The name-calling in our nation's capital is embarrassing--or should be--but I have the feeling it's just business as usual.

The bottom line is, IMHO, we can't respect others if we don't respect ourselves--and look at how we treat ourselves. Young girls flaunt their "assets" before they even have them. Boys seem to think sagging pants which show what we all have but shouldn't advertise is "cool". What about the music we listen to, the television shows we watch, the movies we pay big bucks to see? Are they respectful of anything? I think not. I'm appalled at the language posted so casually on social media and found in so-called "best-sellers".

Look at what comedians make fun of these days: moral values, people's intimate lives (it shouldn't matter if they're public figures or not), patriotism. And they get paid for it!

It's like Pandora's box--once it was opened, all the awful, terrible things crept out and infiltrated the world. Ah, but one thing was left, wasn't it? Tucked away in a quiet corner, the one remaining inhabitant of the box struggled to free itself.

It was HOPE. 

I don't want to lose it.





Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Saturday Smile

I woke this morning to an email from a reader who had just finished book #6 of the Penelope series. She told me how much she'd enjoyed the books and how she hated to see the stories end. She finished up by thanking me for a "thoroughly decent" read.

Folks, that's the highest praise I can imagine, and I'm glowing. Others have written/reviewed saying similar things, but the word decent says it all. I've achieved what I set out to do. I've entertained without resorting to graphic language and sex. The values to which I've held fast have proven themselves worthy.

The series has sold 14,496 copies as of this morning. Such sales may never happen again, but I'm motivated to keep writing. Somewhere out there is an audience of readers who want what I have to offer.

It's a smiley day.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Maybe a dictionary would help...or maybe not...

Okay, so the current dictionary has listings for words only written on bathroom walls when I first learned to use said reference book. That fact doesn't mean the words are useable in polite company. Frankly, when I run across someone (FB comes to mind) who can't express shock, anger, surprise, joy, etc. without the use of the F-word, I realize that person and I just have to say goodbye. That's what the 'unfriend' button is for.

Not that I'll be missed, and that's okay. There's an old saying about how the eyes are the window of one's soul. I think speech is the mirror of that soul. I know, I know, I'm just an old-fashioned old lady, a real prude. Good. I'm glad. I sleep better at night.

I remember my first few weeks at college, meeting girls from so many places and backgrounds. I heard a lot of profanity and thought (naively) it was really 'cool'. Come Thanksgiving, when I went home, I tried some of it out. Not cool.

I think that's one of the things I appreciated most about my husband. He had a clean mouth--and it reflected his clean mind. He knew the words, but he chose not to use them.

Usually books with graphic language get closed and returned unfinished to the library and/or deleted from my Kindle. Occasionally I can move past the words when they're used in realistic context (e.g. in a crime drama, for example) and understand why they were used (NOT overused, btw).  Ditto movies I check out because I had my television cut off so as not to have my ears assaulted on a regular basis. (Why pay for a service I don't use?)

In the end, people will spout what they want to. They have that right. And I have the right not to listen.





Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Our Kids Are Covered

I saw a magazine ad urging parents to have their sons as well as daughters vaccinated against HPV. So now they don't have to worry about contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Moving right along, the next step is making sure they have access to birth control--best if it's at no cost. Also, they must be able to get pregnancy test kits over the counter.

And, if all else fails, they can always get an abortion, and in some cases, parents don't even have to be bothered with the knowledge of the event.

 No fuss, no bother, no uncomfortable discussions about self-control and self-respect.

Yep, our kids are covered.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Conversation with Cubbie


"Cubbie" is my three+ year-old granddaughter. She and her sister have been spending quite a bit of time with me this weekend as their parents execute a move into a new home. She followed me into the utility room this afternoon, and I boosted her up onto the washer as I removed towels from the dryer and folded them. The following conversation ensued:

"Where's your daddy? Do you have a daddy?"
(I knew she didn't mean my father.) "Yes, he lives in Heaven now."
"Why? Did he die?"
"Yes, but I'm sure he's watching you and Hanna and thinking what sweet girls you are."
"Did he get hurt?"
(He died in a plane crash when her daddy, my oldest son, was 7 1/2.)
"Yes."
"Why?"
"That happens sometimes. But I know he's watching you."
The small bottom lip came out, and she clutched polka-dot blanket for comfort.
"I want him to hold me."



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reviewing the Reviews

I'm gratified that so many people have taken time to review the Penelope books. It's plain a reader either really, really liked the books or really really didn't! And that's no surprise at all.

The main 'complaint' seems to be Penelope's sticking to her moral principles i.e. not hopping in bed with Sam. I don't apologize for that at all. The other beef is her use of the by-word 'blessed' (pronounced bless-ed NOT blest). One person even said she didn't appreciate it being used as a 'curse word', and I regret it was perceived as such. Almost everyone has a favorite 'by-word', and that happened to be Penelope's. Unfortunately, the f-word and the s-word are totally acceptable these days, but I'll guarantee they'll never find their way into my books.

I had a one-star review from someone who admitted she hadn't even read the book because of lack of time! Also, poor Penelope has been lambasted as a 'prude'. One reviewer never mentioned the book at all, only went on and on about how much she would pay for a book of a certain length! 

The good news is, the books have sold over 11,000 copies. While I'm sorry some people felt their money was wasted, I'm delighted the majority feel they've gotten good value for their buck(s).

The bottom line is, a variety of reviews are a good thing. Too many 5-stars, for example, almost make one wonder if they are from friends of the author. The bad with the good lets people see different views and make their decisions to buy or not buy based on those. And the line under that is, an author who puts herself 'out there' better have the hide of a rhinoceros!  Our books are our babies--but not everyone likes babies!

My approach to reviews is to only review if I can give at least a 3-star. The reasons are simple: (1) Some books are badly written, but at least the author made the effort, and I don't want to discourage her/him from trying again. (2) I might be offended by the subject matter (not reflected in the title)--e.g. graphic sex, obscenity, etc. However, many people are not offended by such, and I don't consider it my duty to 'preach' about it. (3) I might not actually understand the twists and turns of the story, but that doesn't mean someone else won't. So--if I can't be enthusiastic about a book, I try to be neutral--and if I can't do that in all honesty, I just let it go. My philosophy may be entirely wrong--but it's just the way it is.

I didn't expect to sell a large number of books and am still in a state of near-shock over the numbers. It's been a learning experience. Some people have mentioned typos, and I'm sure they are there despite all efforts to root them out. Those mentions are appreciated. I think everything is fixed in the print books, but who knows. I'll be working on the Kindle books one at a time in the near future.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to decide what else to 'put up'. Like the king who said, "My kingdom for a horse!", my wail is, "My kingdom for some TIME!"


Monday, September 16, 2013

THE Day

It's a 10K day for Penelope. What else can I say except 'thank you' to all who have purchased/borrowed my little tales and also to those who have left reviews recommending them to other readers.

From everyone in Amaryillis, Arkansas, especially  Penelope, Jake, Mary Lynn, Harry, Mike, Millie, Shana, Rosabel, Brad, and--of course--Sam--

Thank you!

And Abijah adds his "Have a meow-onderful day!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Another week...

No rest for the weary...or is it the wicked? This week promises to be busy as usual. I'm not complaining--well, maybe a little. The alternative of nothing to do isn't pleasant.

Today I have a lunch-conference with two other writers to discuss a proposal for a 'writers' college'.

Tomorrow I'm back to weeping, wailing, and gnashing my teeth over the genealogical publication, BUT this time I think I've come up with a fix.

Wednesday there's a board meeting for the genealogical group followed by lunch.

Thursday--a ME day! Massage followed by haircut!

Friday is a work-day at the Melting Pot Library (our genealogical library).

Today and Friday I'll be picking up the small person from school.

And then, what? A week-end?

I'm waiting for things to slow down a bit...I thought I was retired!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

It's the end of the road...

for Sam, Penelope, Jake, Brad, Rosabel, Mary Lynn, Harry, Shana, Peter, Mike, Millie, and all the inhabitants of tiny Amaryllis, Arkansas. The final book of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, Sam's Last Stand, has debuted on Amazon.com. You can find it here.

Am I sad to see them go? Well, I hope they'll hang around a bit longer so far as sales go, and that seems to be happening. But I'm very relieved that they are all UP and out of my hair! It's been a long summer trying to learn all the ins and outs of formatting and meeting self-imposed deadlines.

So what's next? Several volumes of short stories, The Kate Chronicles, which began as fan fiction for "The Big Valley" site and have been mainstreamed. Just before Christmas 1880, a passing hand discovers a newborn baby in the arms of her dead mother in a line shack on a Texas Panhandle ranch. On Christmas Eve, an older couple, Olivia and Dan Bancroft, see the baby and fall in love with her as quickly and as completely as they fell in love with each other only a few months earlier. They adopt her and take her home to Galveston, where she is raised with the best of everything--including love, discipline, and devotion. The stories focus on the highlights of her century-long life.

After that (and with some luck and hard writing) I'll complete The Dreamland Series. In the first book, Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, thirty-year-old Trixie Collier Blake, widowed when her husband Major Ned Blake died in an Air Force training accident, returns to her hometown, Dreamland, Arkansas, to look into disposing of the building left to her by her grandfather, Quimby Loyd. It's empty since the departure of Stella and Letha Drake who ran a dress shop on the ground floor. And the town is changed. It's almost as if the people are afraid of something--or someone. As she investigates, she doesn't realize she's opening up a closed, dark chapter in the life of her estranged mother, Lorraine. She also meets Mitch Langworth, son of the mayor-elect and Lorraine's lover, and also a widower. Reconnecting with school chums, Rudy James and wife Delores Jefferson James, Trixie gets an unpleasant lesson in dirty politics--and murder. Two more books, Under the Sil'vry Moon and Come with the Lovelight Gleaming will complete the series--if Trixie survives that long!

But I'm ready for life to settle down a bit and to do some traveling, so I'm not setting any self-imposed deadlines on getting these books 'up'. They'll be there when they're there and not a minute sooner.




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Locks are for honest people...

...or so my father always said. It's true, I suppose. In this day and age, the determination (or desperation) of a house-breaker can easily overcome the hindrance of a mere lock.

Still, I felt confident with deadbolts and the added security of non-monitored door alarms. I live in a wooded and somewhat isolated area, but I've lived in worse. Try the middle of Africa with no electricity, no phone communication, no near neighbors who spoke English...and I survived, thank you.

Given the current economic impetus to take what one can get, I might be safer there! Well, no, not really, but in the last year or two I've had occasion to think that the days of taking safety and security for granted is long gone. While I've always had smoke alarms, I really didn't plan on anything else.

Then, one morning, I woke to find that the local property owners' association, in all its great wisdom, had decided to open up the common property on the side of my house, extending past the back, for a walking trail--which is large enough for a vehicle to access. Hidden by the trees, one could enter the house from the back and load up. So--a security system became a semi-urgent necessity.

The company recommended to me came out and gave me an estimate, and we scheduled today for the installation. They are here now, and I am "exiled" to my study while they work. On the first visit, the rep assured me he'd walk me through how to use it. "I won't hand you an instruction book and leave," he said. 

I complained quite loudly about the violation of my security and privacy. (I will have to buy something to screen my deck from curious onlookers--more $$.) I was told, rather arrogantly IMO, that "they" (the POA) could do what it wanted to. Obviously.

However, I don't have time to stress over "these kinds" and am thankful I could put in the security system. I'll feel better when I travel--and I understand the monitored smoke alarm will get me a discount on my homeowners' insurance. This is good.

Penelope didn't even lock her doors at the B&B until Sam insisted, so I'm sure she didn't have a security system. LOL And by the way, in the first four days of September, Penelope has sold an additional 1200+ copies of the first four books! Book #6 is coming probably this weekend.  That's in addition to about 5100+ copies in August! I'm amazed and delighted. All those good readers make up for the attitude of certain people I have to deal with out here!

Oh, to be in Amaryllis, Arkansas! Sigh.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's September?

Wait, where did August go? For that matter, where did June and July go? It is really true that time flies when you're having fun--or just when you're getting old? Sigh.

It's been a productive summer. The Penelope books are launched. Number 5 goes up tomorrow, and Number 6 will follow as soon as possible. The first four have sold well over 5000 copies! I'm shocked, amazed, and surprised but nonetheless delighted.

I've enjoyed one day a week with my Small Person. In addition to other books--and books she's read to me--we've enjoyed The Secret Garden and Heidi. She even requested I read aloud while she ate her lunch!

The genealogical society's yearly publication, of which I'm the new editor, has taken up much time. That plus formatting the Penelope books has resulted in copious weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but everything will come out all right in the end.

The fall has pleasant prospects--new writing projects, putting together (with two other writers) a proposal for a 'writer's college', and a new eight-week Bible study. In order not to miss two consecutive sessions, I've decided to take two or three short trips as opposed to the long trip I'd planned.

Christmas will bring Son #2 and our wee Sir Scrumptious--making great strides now that all those nasty hospital stays seem to be behind him, and he's no longer tethered to oxygen.

This is Liam, age 17 months.Isn't he a happy little fellow? And what's not to be happy about when one has so many people to love him and cheer him on! This was taken on an outing to the park--where he's 'parked' in the welcoming bend of an old mesquite tree.








Before I know it, a new year will arrive. Whew! Time flies when...well, let's just say time flies!







Sunday, August 25, 2013

Deadlines: Real vs Self-imposed

One thing about it--I've learned a lot about formatting with MS Word since I started putting up my little tales. And I've had to learn by the seat of my pants in most cases--which isn't all bad, since trial and error generally imprints the process in one's mind (and fingers).

I suppose, despite the frustration(s), the whole experience has given me confidence that old dogs can learn new tricks. Old ladies, too!

Not that I'd set myself up as an expert by any means. Not now--maybe never. But I've learned a thing or two or three, and it's a nice feeling of satisfaction.

Penelope continues to sell better than I ever dared hope she would. The first four books have racked up almost 3600 sales/borrows on Amazon in just over a month, and I still have two books to put up. It surprises me, but then I think I got lucky. Somehow I put together a cast of characters who caught the imaginations--and perhaps the hearts--of some readers. That's a nice feeling, too.

The scary feeling kicks in when I start to wonder if I can ever do it again! One can only try, I suppose, and perhaps The Dreamland Series and The Kate Chronicles will appeal to a whole new audience.
 'Twould be nice.

Then I think about all those hours of formatting and the several stages of proofing, and I wonder more. Hopefully what I've learned will hasten the process a bit. One can only hope.

Meanwhile, I'm the current editor of our genealogical society's yearly publication, and that has to take top priority until it goes to print--and that deadline is coming up. As much as I'd like to make my self-imposed deadlines with these last two Penelope books, she'll have to take a back seat to the aforementioned publication.

Real life crashes in.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Which road do I take from here?

Another author who has done quite well with indie publishing and whose opinion I respect said the best promotion was to have the next book ready to go. That makes sense. I'd already planned to put up a three-book romantic suspense series, The Dreamland Series. Book 1 is in first draft (holding nose), and Book 2 has been planned (sort of). Book 3 is anybody's guess, but it will write finis to the others.
This is the series I wrote about earlier, the one with the character who has Down Syndrome, and is "for" my young grandson who faces the same challenge of living with DS.

What I have ready is a series of stories I refer to as The Kate Chronicles. They'll make perhaps as many as 8-10 volumes of 10 short stories or 3 longer 'chapter stories' each. They 'chronicle' the 100-year lifespan of a foundling adopted by an older couple who grows up to become a doctor. So they'll probably be next up.

I have two finished novels I could put up, but one bears a second look. It's rather gritty--not graphic or otherwise against my grain, but it deals with some very realistic life situations...and I'm not sure I've done the best job handling them. It's a good story about four siblings taken away from their father (their mother deserted the family) and put up for adoption during the Depression. The oldest vows to find and reunite them. Keeping Promises is the story of her quest. It's not necessarily a 'feel good' story despite its happy ending.

The second is based on a family story of how my great-grandfather shot and killed his stepfather back in 1876. It's a 40K+ novella to which I added a sequel of the same length--so perhaps that would be two books. Four Summer Days is, in my opinion, the best thing I've ever done, and I keep thinking maybe it should go to a university press in the area in which it's set because of the historical background. I've hung onto it for probably a dozen years, so maybe it's time for it to see the light of day--and hope readers like it.

And, of course, there are various other WIPS which may or may not ever be finished. (So much to write, so little time!)

This venture into indie publishing has been a satisfying venture (though exhausting). It's like I'm at the crossroads now...which road do I choose to travel next? 


Monday, August 19, 2013

First day of school...first day of...

My six-year-old granddaughter started school today. (She did kindergarten last year, of course.) For me, it's not a day of excitement because I am an 'old teacher' who knows that school is no longer a good, safe place for children. It's not because of the loonies who show up with weapons, though that's a consideration. It's because of the ruling monster, Political Correctness, which has infected every area of life today and particularly schools.

In California, the governor signed a law which allows students to use the restroom/locker room of their choice based on their own personal gender identity--not which body parts they have. Tell me how taking the rights of the 99% away for the rights of the 1% is a good idea. In the last school where I taught, faculty restrooms were unisex. I didn't like it one bit.

We scream about how our children aren't getting a good basic education, but there's no time for that. They must be taught The Test. It must be practiced, analyzed, remediated, practiced again...ad nauseum.

The mention of God, Christmas, Easter, etc. has been banished. A 6 or 7-year-old child who innocently chews a poptart into what a teacher perceives as the shape of a 'gun' is suspended. Zero tolerance. (And that's only the tip of the iceberg.) I'm waiting for the inevitable suspension of a child who dares to say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"--and is pounced on for bullying!

In one school in Texas (I think this fell through), high school students were being monitored through ID badges with chips in them. A  single student who refused based on religious convictions was thoroughly persecuted by the district.

A kindergartener who innocently touches (hugged, I think) another student is suspended for 'sexual harassment'. God forbid a teacher should offer any kind of physical comfort to a distraught child--her license would be gone, and she'd be in jail. In my last few years of teaching, I never touched a child--no pat on the shoulder, no hugs, nothing. Not only that, I made sure I was never alone with a child of either sex--if I couldn't find a chaperone while providing extra tutoring, the tutoring didn't get done. How sad is that?

No, school isn't the safe, happy place I remember as a child, and I weep for all my grandchildren will grow up without. Meanwhile, I teach them what I can--what is no longer considered necessary to good education--by reading the classics, teaching cursive writing and geography among other things including manners! My oldest granddaughter has an outline map of the U.S. on the wall of my study, and she gets to place a gold star on a state as soon as she's learned the capital. She sits fascinated while I read Greek and Roman mythology one might consider far beyond her years--stopping me occasionally to ask for an explanation of a word or an event. She loves classical music and poetry. She's been dictating stories to me since she was three.

Yes, she's bright, but all children are sponges and will soak up what they're given. The problem is, they're being given all the wrong things these days.

I tell her she has a guardian angel, and I believe in them. I hope hers is on duty right now.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

I have a plan...

Barring unforeseen complications, Book 4 of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo, will go up today after I get home from church. Then I'm headed out for a shopping spree--using a gift card I've had for months! It's for my #1 favorite store, Kohl's, but alas, that's in Benton (on the way to Little Rock) and not Hot Springs. I love going over there. It's finding the time to do it that's the problem!

So it's a plan. Church. Work. Shopping.

Meanwhile, here's the blurb from Book 4:



Possum Hollow has existed outside Amaryllis for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a dark place with dark secrets, and outsiders aren’t welcome. The elementary school which has sprung up inside the impenetrable wall separating the people of the Hollow from the town, struggles to show the children there’s a better life outside. Soon after Penelope and Mary Lynn volunteer to fill in for an absent faculty member, one of the students and her little sister accidentally lead police to a fresh grave deep in the woods. And Miss Maude Pendleton, who scared generations of high school seniors into reading Shakespeare and Chaucer, faces the necessity of learning a whole new curriculum if she wants to stay alive. Penelope keeps the B&B slick as a whistle, but now she’s in the middle of a mess she’s not sure anyone can clean up.

I have to say, after all is said and done, this is my favorite in the Penelope saga. It was a fun write, and I hope it will be a fun read. 




Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is confession really good for the (my) soul?

Tomorrow will make one month since I launched the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series for Kindle. To date, the first three books have sold/lent over 2,200 copies. To say I'm amazed (and delighted, of course!) is an understatement.

But now it's time for 'true confessions'. I had no idea there were that many people out there looking for a good clean read. In addition, I will make full acknowledgement that I have in the past envied other authors who sold more books writing what I could not. Envy is always wrong and avails nothing. Let me be clear: I don't begrudge anyone success. In the end, one makes (or doesn't make) her own 'success' according to her own definition of same.

Shortly after it became clear that the first three books had found an audience, my shortcomings were brought home to me in a short prayer from one day's morning devotional:

Father,
May everything we do
begin with Your inspiration
and continue with Your saving help.
Let our work always find its origin in You
and through You reach completion.

The bottom line was, whether I sold one book, a hundred books, or a thousand books, I could only hope to feel satisfied if they were the product of my own moral compass. 

Then came the next--and most difficult--'revelation' if you want to call it that. On another morning I was reading from "Daily Living for Seniors", a devotional to which I subscribe by email. It spoke of how many people carry around 'spiritual fire extinguishers', afraid to be seen as too extreme or as having gone overboard. I realized I'd been packing that fire extinguisher for a long time, at least in my writing world. But shucking it off was another matter.

If I shared my  newly-acquired 'wisdom', would the readership of this blog dwindle? Would the next three books be shunned as having been written by an 'extremist'? Was I obligated to take that chance? The answer was--yes. There was no getting away from it.

So here it is. Somehow I feel 'lighter'. 

Book 4, The Possum Hollow Hullabaloo, should be up on Sunday. Meanwhile, get acquainted with Penelope here.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's a dark and stormy day...I love these kinds of days when I can just stay in and write! Unfortunately, I can't work on my personal stuff today because I'm busy with the yearly publication of a genealogy group to which I belong. With some uncertainty, I took on the job of editor, and I've had a few nights when I've lain awake wondering if I could really make it happen. But bit by bit, with a lot of help and input from the other members, it's coming together.

But if I COULD spend today writing my own personal 'stuff', what would it be? Penelope's proofreader emailed last night to say she's ready for Book #5--and I'm not ready to send it! I need to run one more spell check and put it into PDF for her. BTW, Penelope is doing well on Amazon for Kindle, and I'm properly grateful as well as blown away! Book #4 will go up on the 20th of the month if not sooner. My proof reader is amazing!

The Dreamland Series is crying out to be finished, but Book #1, which I did as a blog novella here, needs to be rewritten. Based on the success of Penelope, I may change tack a bit with this new series. It's always nice to know what someone likes to read.

Next to go up on Kindle will be several  volumes of The Kate Chronicles, and those need to be looked at yet again and formatted.

I have at least two novels begun and never finished--no, make that 4!--but who knows when if ever I'll get back to them? And there's a folder stuffed with story ideas which may never see the light of day!

Still, it's lovely to be busy, to have work to do that matters.

So, taking  deep breath, I plunge forward into this day with a smile and a thankful heart.




Monday, August 12, 2013

What was hiding in the supply closet?

Nothing tall, dark, and handsome (not to mention rich) unfortunately! Of course, I don't really want/need anything like that at this time of life, though striking oil in the back yard would be acceptable.

I've been keeping the supply closet in the study pretty well organized, or so I thought. I love those decorative "photo boxes" which often go on sale at a local craft store 6 for $10. They pretty up my shelves and keep everything in its place. While adding more of the beautiful boxes, I found a few things hiding behind other boxes such as
  • a package of those big rubber bands (I was out but hadn't bought more)
  • a roll of magnetic tape, which I haven't been able to spot at the store
  • my Crayola sharpener
  • two unused sticks of that 'sticky stuff' I used to use in my classroom to hang posters, etc. 
  • the flash drive (minus the protective lid) I used when I taught school lo these many years ago
  • a cheap caculator which still works and which the small person will delight to find in her desk drawer
  • packages of manila envelopes I forgot I bought
  • and enough pens, pencils, markers, and highlighters to see me through more lifetimes than I'll ever live
 What can I say? When I retired, I left behind many things for the teacher who was replacing me, but I took boxes of supplies bought with my own funds. It's been six years this spring, and I still haven't used them up. I probably won't. But I won't have to buy more either.

So the supply closet is once again tidy. Honestly, it stays mostly tidy, but it does need some tweaking occasionally. So now it's on to my middle desk drawer. Who knows what's hiding in there? I'd better get the wastebasket handy just in case...


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bits and Pieces

People talk about 'writers' block' but I only seem to get it when I prepare to blog. There have been 55 views here today, and the last post is several days old. I feel guilty. I also feel totally clueless about a topic for today.

Penelope #1 and #2 are doing well on Kindle--about 832 and 247 sales respectively. Book #3 is with the proof reader and should go up on the 10th. Three down and three to go. I'm ready to move on to the next project.

The small person is tucked up in the guest room for 'quiet time', after which she looks forward to a jaunt to Happy Hour at Sonic. It is source of much amusement to her that 'Mimi' always orders the same thing--a large diet vanilla Coke.

The beast is sulking beside the sliding glass door as she always does when the attention is diverted from Her Majesty.

"My" humming bird is fluttering around the feeder on the sill outside the study window. Clouds are moving in. Rain?

I have paid the few bills not automatically drafted each month, responded to some emails, and finished reading Heidi to the small person. We've collected pictures and printed out several sheets of lined paper so she can re-tell the story and illustrate it.

Is any of this of any interest to anyone? Who knows? But it's all I have for now.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Close to my heart...

In March 2012, my grandson Liam was diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome. He had a rough start, including open heart surgery at six weeks, pulmonary hypertension, 24-hour-a-day oxygen, and cleft lip surgery. Just one year ago this month, he stopped breathing and had to be airlifted to the children's hospital where he'd had his surgery. It was touch and go.

Now, thanks to the skill of many doctors, nurses, speech, occupational, and physical therapists--and the total love and devotion of two parents who think he's the absolute best--he is thriving. I just enjoyed a lovely visit via Skype with a bright-eyed, alert little fellow whose muscle tone has improved 200% since I last saw him on his birthday in March. He's scooting/crawling and into everything--but for the two hours we were on Skype, he was content to sit in his daddy's lap while his mother fed him supper.

The sky's the limit for our Liam. Not so for many other children so diagnosed. As a former special ed teacher, I've seen too many children labeled and their potential dismissed. Fortunately, his mother is trained in Montessori and already has him enrolled in a Montessori homeschooling program. He will never be shunted aside as 'different' and 'unworthy'.

Which brings me to the new series--The Dreamland Series. One of the pivotal characters is Danny, a young man with Down Syndrome who, like Liam, was loved and guided past the pitfalls of needing some extra time and help as he developed. Danny is a valued employee of the local supermarket in Dreamland, Arkansas. The customers love and appreciate him, and management keeps a protective eye on him. Lucky Danny.

As the series progresses, it is Danny who unobtrusively watches and listens. To many, he's invisible, but he never gives up. He knows what he knows and passes it on through the proper channels.

I've written characters with various disabilities, but Danny is close to my heart. Hopefully, I can give voice to all who struggle to become an integral part of society despite the labels hung on them for the convenience of others.

Some statistics state that up to 80% of babies diagnosed in utero with DS are never born. Liam's parents refused the testing and gave him life. Now he is filling theirs--and mine--with joy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Resolutions

I've been considering my shortcomings in the social media scene and have hereby resolved:
  1.  to comment more frequently on other people's posts
  2. to retweet more often
  3. to write a review for every single book I read, especially if it is another indie author, but ONLY if I can be at least three-stars positive
  4.  to blog regularly rather than hit or miss--a helpful blog once a week has got to be better than three or four not-so-helpful
  5. to learn to do one new thing every week, whether it be navigating a site I don't understand or the subtleties of posting pics more attractively
 Meanwhile, I still have to get the other four Penelope books launched. To be honest, I bit off a very large, difficult-to-chew chunk when I started out as a newbie with SIX books to get up there! I have to say, the customer-service-support-teams have been very patient.

Now, here's something I've cut and pasted from Amazon. I HOPE it says what I think it does about Book #1, The Bogus Biker. 

 I'm blown away by the number of free downloads and subsequent sales. Here's a BIG thank-you to everyone who has been part of that.

THANK YOU!!

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Never grow up, never stop learning, never grow old...

Never grow up.

My mother was fond of saying I'd never grow up. When I was 50, I decided it was time to buy the Mickey Mouse watch I'd always wanted. When it finally died a few years ago, I bought another. Currently I'm in need of another thumb drive on which to back up files from my computer, and I have my eye on one with the Tasmanian Devil logo. The last movie I saw was the final saga of Harry Potter. Never a Christmas goes by that I don't watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the cartoon version) and "Frosty the Snowman" (the one narrated by Jimmy Durante.)This summer I've been reading classics (The Secret Garden, Heidi) to my six-year-old granddaughter and enjoying them as much as she does. I can't wait to get to Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Never stop learning.

This summer I've been learning--slowly and painfully--about formatting for CreateSpace and Kindle. Sometimes I've felt overwhelmed, but I haven't been tempted to give up. Like the Little Engine, "I think I can, I think I can...I know I can!" Rarely a day goes by when I don't find new and fascinating information in the newspaper or online. I fill notebook after notebook with ideas gleaned from people-watching, conversations, pictures, etc.

Never grow old. 

 A classmate is sending out monthly emails reminding us of other classmates' birthdays, particularly those who have reached or are reaching the big seven-oh. I have a couple of years as I started school early and was one of the youngest in my class. I'm not sure what's so special about that particular milestone. One grandfather lived to be 96. It was only in the last year of his life that poor health ended his gadding about.  He consistently referred to people years younger as "that old man". I seem to have inherited his genes and believe that old age in a state of mind. 


But being a "senior citizen" has many advantages (besides discounts at restaurants and theaters). I have no agenda, no inflated idea of what I will achieve. I'm in no hurry to go anywhere or do anything. I've served my time serving my family, and now it's my turn to do as I please. (And I do.) And, oddly enough, the days aren't long enough to do everything I please. I recently started getting up an hour earlier to improve the odds! 

In short, I'm getting older--it's inevitable. But I'll never, never, ever get old.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Penelope doesn't blessed believe in ghosts!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

To all the Penelopes who, as little girls, read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and dreamed of growing up to solve mysteries.

Did Penelope Corinne Louise Kelley Pembroke read those books? Did she dream of solving mysteries when she grew up? Who knows? All we know is she lived almost 50 years without anything in the least mysterious happening to her, but then Tiny aka Sam walked into her life, and things started popping.

After narrowly escaping disaster a few times in The Bogus Biker, she thinks life will settle down again. Unfortunately, she can't stop thinking about Sam and wondering when--if--he'll turn up again. For all she knows, he may be doing hard time somewhere.

Meanwhile, life must go on, so when her best friend, Mary Lynn Hargrove (the mayor's wife) proposes to turn the town's first school, now an empty shell, into a community center, Penelope says she'll pitch in. That brings Sam out of the woodwork. He advises (warns?) her to back off, but he won't tell her why, so she digs in her heels.

After all, it's only an empty building. Or is it? Where are the voices coming from? And what's in the basement at the bottom of--you've got to be kidding me!--thirteen steps? Her father Jake says when he went to school there, whenever the boiler acted up, everyone joked it was the town's founder and builder of the school, Jeremiah Bowden, making trouble.

But Penelope blessed doesn't believe in ghosts.

Visit Penelope at her home on the web.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Penelope's FREE today and tomorrow!

Book #1 of the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, The Bogus Biker, is free on Amazon tomorrow and Tuesday! 




 When Penelope meets Tiny aka Sam, who's about as much of a biker as she is a belly dancer, life in Amaryllis AR will never be the same.








And Book #2, The Stubborn Schoolhouse Spirit, will be up on Amazon for Kindle and in print on Wednesday, July 31.



When Penelope agrees to help her best friend Mary Lynn Hargrove, the mayor's wife, renovate Amaryllis's first school as a community center, she finds the old building isn't quite as empty as it's supposed to be...and she's definitely not ready for what turns up at the bottom of the thirteen steps leading to the basement boiler room.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is there a story in Grandma's name?

According to stats, I'm getting tons of view at The Word Place. Thanks to all who've stopped by. However, there were only two entries for the free PDF or print of The Bogus Biker plus a $10 Amazon gift card--and one of those came by email. So--I need to find out if some people are unable to post on this blog. I've checked the settings without finding any problems, but there could be one. Would really appreciate anyone with a problem posting contacting me by email judy at judynickles dot com. I'm going to run this contest a bit longer just in case. (Scroll to previous post for info on contest.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
 This is a re-post from 2009, but I've had some comments/questions on why I chose certain names for the Penelope Pembroke cozy mystery series. Food for thought here. 

Recently I read an interesting writing exercise that asked the writer to come up with a name for himself/herself if he/she was:
  • a flower
  • a color
  • a musical instrument
  • an ice-cream flavor
  • a fabric
  • a city
  • a street or highway
  • a food
Taken all together, the answers could be the start of a new story--character, setting, plot, etc.

My mind drifted to--what else?--genealogy, and I began to consider all the different family names I've run across in 35 years of researching. Many of the names were passed down through generations. It would be interesting to know, however, how they got started.

  • My great-grandfather's name, passed on to his son, my grandfather, was Petillo.
  • Delilah was the name of my maternal great-great-great-grandmother.
  • My paternal great-great-grandmother's name was Oretha.
  • Great-great-grandpop's name was Freeman, obviously someone's last name--but whose?
  • And, of course, there was the usual smattering of not-so-unusual names such as Margaret Elizabeth, Susan, Louisa, Pattie, Nancy, and Mary.
According to my grandfather (Petillo!), his great-grandmother Delilah smoked a corncob pipe and would often ask him to bring her a coal from the fireplace to light it. She married Isaac Newton Leatherwood (I guess we don't have to wonder where Isaac Newton came from!) and their 10 children had pretty ordinary names. I wonder, though, if Margaret Elizabeth would have smoked a corncob pipe!

Do names affect character traits and personality? When you're choosing your characters' names for your latest story, do your choices have anything to do with the kind of person you plan to write about? Can a hero/heroine have a "sweet" name? Do "sweet" names deceive or define?

The antagonists in Grace Livingston Hill's books usually had fitting names. The one I remember clearly is Vashti. She was a piece of work!

Character names are important. They don't necessarily make or break a story, but they lend credibility (or not) to its content. So the next time you're looking for the perfect name, think back to great-great-great-grandma. You just might hit paydirt!

Resources:Behind the Name
Most Popular Names
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Bogus Biker - Chapter 1

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CHAPTER ONE
(Friday)

“I know what I heard.” Penelope Pembroke leaned across the table in the kitchen of the Amaryllis Bed and Breakfast, of which she was proprietor, and tapped the woven placemat with a well-manicured, unpolished nail. Blowing away the strand of honey-blonde hair falling across her nose, she readjusted the narrow tortoise-shell glasses perched on the end of that appendage, and leaned closer to her best friend Mary Lynn Hargrove, wife of the town’s longtime mayor. “I’m not senile, you know.”
“No one said you were.” Mary Lynn placated Penelope as she’d done since the first day they’d met in high school some thirty years earlier.
“You implied it.” Penelope reached down for the orange tabby nosing around her sneaker-clad feet and lifted him into her lap. “Abijah heard it, too.”
Mary Lynn rolled her dark eyes
 toward the hairline of close-cropped black curls. “The only thing that blob hears is the sound of the can opener signaling dinner.”
“He’s not a blob.”
“He’s obese. He’s going to keel over one of these days. Death by Feline Feast.”
“Oh, hush up.” Penelope stroked the cat, whose ample hindquarters hung over the edge of her lap. “Anyway, I heard what I heard.” The strand of hair drifted across one lens again, and she blew it away and tucked it firmly behind her ear, which set the long silver and turquoise earring swaying. “They specifically said the word ‘shipment’ and mentioned the Sit-n-Swill.”
“Roger Sitton gets shipments all the time. It’s a bar and grill you know. He doesn’t make moonshine in his bathtub or slaughter his barbecue out back.”
Penelope sat back and shifted the cat to distribute his weight more evenly. “These guys weren’t blessed salesmen, I’m telling you. They were, well, Mafia types.”
Mary Lynn snorted. “Mafioso? Then by all means call the police. Call the FBI. Call out the National Guard or maybe the Marines.”
The smirk on her friend’s face rankled Penelope, but she kept her cool. “I thought about calling Bradley, but he’s worse than you are. He’s convinced I lost it when I divorced his father.”
“He was fifteen then, and it got you a better settlement than if you’d waited on Travis to divorce you.”
“That’s true. I wasn’t so dumb, and I guess he knows that now. He just can’t admit I was right to dump his father, but the man couldn’t keep his blessed pants zipped. I put up with it as long as I could.”
Mary Lynn shook her head. “That’s a dead mule. So tell Brad about the men.”
“Since he got that fancy new title at the police department, he’s not that easy to talk to.”
“CID. Criminal Investigation. Detective Sergeant Bradley Pembroke. You know you’re proud of him, Pen.”
“Just so proud I can’t stand myself.” Penelope’s generous mouth parted in a wide smile. “So’s Daddy. I just wish his grandmother could’ve lived to see what he’s done.”
“Your mother would’ve been proud. So would old Mrs. Pembroke. She was crazy about him as I remember.”
“I think she knew Bradley wasn’t going to turn out like his father.” Penelope frowned. “You’re changing the subject. I know what I heard.”
“Then tell Roger.”
“Roger Sitton has lace on his drawers, for Heaven’s sake. He’d no more be involved in a drug deal than I would.”
“Well, that’s probably true, but he could be involved without knowing it. Anyway, if you’re not going to tell anyone, forget about it.”
“I’m telling you, Mary Lynn.”
“Which is about as useful as telling Abijah.” On cue, the massive feline lifted his head and stretched, then flailed his back legs to keep from sliding to the floor.
Penelope grabbed for him, and he snuggled in again, setting up a rumbling purr her father described as a distant freight train. “Don’t badmouth Abijah. No wonder he doesn’t like you.”
“He doesn’t like anybody but you, and nobody likes him, including me.” Mary Lynn took one last sip of coffee, slung her floppy zebra-striped bag over one shoulder, and ran long fingers through dark hair beginning to show a few streaks of gray. “I’ve got to get going. The new resale shop over in the strip mall is having its grand opening at two o’clock, and I promised Harry I’d be there for the ribbon-cutting. But I have to stop by the Garden Market first.”
“So you aren’t going to give me any advice?” Penelope’s slender body, still the envy of every classmate, wafted up from the chair like smoke from a pipe. When Abijah squirmed in her arms, she set him down. He stalked away and made it into the bay window in only two tries.
“I thought I just did.” Mary Lynn’s eyes ran the length of her friend’s five-foot-five frame. “I hate you, you know. You ate two kolaches to my one, and I probably gained five pounds.”
“You worry about your weight too much. Also, what you gave me wasn’t very good advice.”
“It’s all I have, and I really have to go. Thanks for the coffee and kolache, even though I like the peach ones better.”
“The bakery was out of peach.”
“Another time.” The mayor’s wife pushed open the back screen door and stepped out onto the terrace, the rubber soles of her expensive loafers making no sound on the smooth stones. “See you.”
Penelope gathered up the plates and cups and began to rinse them at the sink.
“Nellie.”
“Yes, Daddy?”
“Got anymore of those kolatsky things?”
“Kolaches. They’re full of sugar, Daddy.”
Jake Kelley emerged from the tiny hall leading to what he called his ‘lair’. It had been the quarters for the live-in housekeeper when he was a child, but after his daughter turned the family home into a bed and breakfast, he’d taken refuge there. “I want one anyway.”
Penelope shrugged. “You know where they are.”
Jake’s tall, lean body floated across the kitchen. The sunlight glinted off his white hair which he wore short enough to be convenient and long enough to be fashionable. He helped himself to the largest pastry left in the box and took a bite. “I really like the peach ones better.”
“They were out.”
“Maybe tomorrow.”
“Maybe.”
“Did those two young fellows leave right after breakfast? Anybody else coming in?”
“Yes and yes.”
“They seemed like nice youngsters.” Jake took down his favorite mug, the one with the hunting dogs on it, and poured himself some coffee.
“They were thirty if they were a day, and I don’t think they were very nice.”
“No? Left a mess upstairs, did they?”
“I haven’t been upstairs. No, I thought they seemed shifty.”
“Shifty?” Jake chuckled as he took his coffee and kolache to the table.
Penelope hesitated. At seventy-five, Jake was sharper than most men half his age, despite a stroke two years ago that had ended his employment as general manager of the Garden Market. He’d come back all the way, but by then the owner said it was past time for him to retire anyway. He hadn’t liked it much then, but in six months he’d liked his freedom a lot. She straightened from putting dishes into the dishwasher. “I overheard them talking about something that didn’t sound right to me.”
“Which was?”
“Something about a shipment at the Sit-n-Swill.”
Jake added sugar from the grapeleaf bowl to his coffee. “Drugs.”
Penelope’s eyebrows went up. “That’s what I thought, too. Mary Lynn didn’t get it.”
“Mary Lynn doesn’t think like you.”
“But you do?”
Jake looked up and grinned. “You’re a chip off the old block, darlin’.”
“Oh, Daddy, you wouldn’t recognize Jack the Ripper if he knocked on the back door and asked to borrow the butcher knife.”
Jake’s shaggy eyebrows came together in a straight line above his slate-blue eyes. “I knew a shoplifter the minute he walked in the market. I could smell him.” He took another bite of the pastry and chewed slowly. “Dry.”
“They were in the day-old bin.”
“Maybe you should call Brad. On second thought, maybe not.”
“My feelings exactly.”
“I’m sure glad you don’t think I’m over the hill, Nellie.”
“You’re not over the hill, Daddy. You’re not even near the top. But you know Bradley.”
“I know my grandson. So what are you going to do?”
Penelope sat down. “Nothing I guess.”
“Nothing, huh.”
“What can I do?”
“I haven’t had one of Roger’s Reubens in a long time.”
Penelope’s mouth twitched. “Neither have I.”
“Well, then, it seems to me after you check in tonight’s guests, you and I should mosey on over to the Sit-n-Swill and have one. And a beer.”
Penelope got up and wiped a few drops of water from the new granite counter top she’d had installed to replace the old-fashioned grouted tile. “I guess it couldn’t hurt.”
“I don’t think so.”
She frowned. “Daddy, do you really believe what I heard, or is this just an excuse for a beer and a Reuben?”
He shrugged.
“And what if something happens while we’re there, and the police come? I’d rather face a firing squad than my own son.”
“Nellie, I always told you not to cross a bridge ‘til you came to it. Besides, Brad wouldn’t arrest us. He’d have to take care of Abijah, and he hates that cat.”
Penelope twisted her mouth, then nodded. “All right, Daddy. We’ll do it.”


Penelope and Jake should have possibly rethought their foray to the  Sit-n-Swill. Find out why.

Contest:  Leave a comment with your favorite line(s) to be entered into a drawing on Friday for a free PDF or print copy of the book (your choice) and a $10 Amazon gift card.

The Bogus Biker 
available for Kindle