Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spotted on My Walks through Nature's Garden

There are always flowers for those who want to see them. (Henri Matisse)

I usually take a walk every day if at all possible. My dog, Oscar, would be disappointed if we didn't, although on some of the hotter days in summer, he sometimes looks at me as if he thinks I might have lost my mind wanting to walk when it's 90 degrees in the shade. Actually I try not to walk when it's that hot unless I can keep to the shade. Not for me, but for him. His black fur coat is hot.

But I love spotting gifts of nature when I walk. A couple of days ago, I found this beautiful pink flower. One stalk with all these blooms. No others anywhere around. I've never seen one like it before. It looks like a flower that belongs in a cultivated flower bed, but there it was on the edge of the hayfield in nature's big, wild garden. I haven't tried to look it up. Maybe one of you will recognize it and give it a name. 

I enjoy walking in Nature's garden. There are weeds too and sticktights or what some of you call beggar lice. You hear the whine of a mosquito now and again and flies can be worrisome when you get around the cows. But always there are sights to see and things to spot when I take a walk. 

I like sharing some of the things I spot on my Facebook page. It's like taking my friends for a walk with me. So tonight I'm asking you to walk along and see what we can spot. 
I always keep an eye out for flowers. The daisies are a favorite. They bloom with such determination and so cheerfully. It doesn't matter if I pick a few to pluck the petals. Another will pop up in its place. Tiny, more delicate looking flowers scatter color through the grasses.
Sometimes the blooms are small but so plentiful they carpet the whole field 

Then Kentucky's state flower, the goldenrod lights up the summer with color.

And among all the flowers are the butterflies. Beauty on wing.

Hope you enjoyed walking with me and spotting a few of the things along the way.

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. (Dale Carnegie)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hunting Down that Idea Fairy

Where do you get your ideas? That's a question I'm often asked, especially when I talk to young people. It's a question most all writers are asked at one time or another. Here's an answer I stumbled across last week. I'm not familiar with Sarah Zette's writing, but I have to admire her sense of humor here where she's obviously answering the question about where she finds her ideas.

 My joking answer to this question is that I leave a bowl of milk out on the back porch every night for the Idea Fairy. In the morning, the milk is gone and there's a brand-new shiny idea by the bowl. ~Sarah Zette

I might have to try that bowl of milk on the back porch, but you know, I'm thinking around here, I'd just attract raccoons. Maybe a chocolate bar would work better. If I was an idea fairy, I'd fly in for the chocolate and fight off those raccoons. 

But all kidding aside, where do you get your ideas is a fair question. It's a question I sometimes ask myself when I'm starting down a new story road and looking for an idea. Where will the next idea come from? And will it be an idea that can fly? And to be totally truthful, it's a question I sometimes ask myself when I've come to the end of a story road and reread what I've written. I think where in the world did that come from? 

The imagination is an amazing thing. You mix it with all those memories and impressions that have buried themselves in your brain and out pop ideas. You might have a Eureka moment and say, "I've got it!!" 

So you have the initial idea and then you invite in characters to show up to make the idea become a story. If I can bring those characters to life in my imagination, then maybe, just maybe, they will show me what happens next when I get stuck on the story road. Because that beginning idea has to grow and expand and put out branches to bear the fruit of the story that the reader will harvest.

So the question about where do ideas come from is not an easy one to answer. Oh, I can say things like ideas come from all the things you've experienced and from all the experiences you've read in stories and newspapers. They come from things you've witnessed your friends and families experiencing. And sometimes, they come from out of the blue. You can't trace them to anything. 

Ideas can be like mosquitoes buzzing in your ears or butterflies floating by on a breeze. Sometimes they come like thunderclaps shaking your house or they might be a mere whisper in the wind. So many wonderful ways to have ideas awaken inside you. 

One of the best ways for me to feed the idea mill is by reading. That’s what I’m getting ready to do to help my new idea grow legs to be off and running. It’s while I’m researching that my ideas can deepen and grow. So I definitely can agree with the following quote. 

 A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life. ~Norman Cousins

So many of my stories owe much to the books I’ve found at libraries.

Have you ever wondered about where writers get ideas? Or if you are a writer, how would you answer that question?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What's in a Name?

One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child's name and how old he or she is. ~Erma Bombeck

That's true for mamas and also for writers. I'll be giving a book talk and somebody will ask something about one of the characters in my book. They will have forgotten the name, but they expect me to remember. That's certainly understandable. They didn't invent them and live with them for a year or more while they were writing their stories. No, that was me, but sometimes the names slip away, especially if it wasn't a major character in the story.

You see, there are a lot of people to name in a novel. Of course you start out with the main characters, your hero and heroine. Then you start fleshing them in with family members and friends. Think about all the people in your own extended family. Add in the people you went to school with. Now the ones you've worked with. Oh, and all those people at church. And don't forget your Facebook friends. 

Names circle us like a swarm of bees. Sometimes the names stick and rise up to our lips when we need to speak the name. Sometimes the name is firmly entrenched in our brain, but it refuses to come out where we can say it. At least, not when we want it to. It generally shows up hours later while we're thinking about something totally different. The name will pop into our head out of the blue and sometimes we'll say we knew it started with a "J" or whatever letter. 

I have named dozens and dozens of characters. Some years ago, I started keeping a record of my major characters' names. That's supposed to help keep me from using the same names over and over. I tend to like some names more than others. 

I'm editing a book I wrote several years ago that never found a publisher. I decided I needed to change one of my secondary character's name. I have seen other writers ask their Facebook friends for help with name, so I decided to do the same. I asked what they would name the small town newspaper editor. He's the kind of guy that sort of rubs people the wrong way with his questions since they feel he's always trying to get a story out of them. But he's not a bad guy. He does want the town to do well, but he also wants to sell newspaper. He's in his late thirties and the story is set in the 1990's here in Kentucky. His last name is Leland.

I had originally named him Miles which I do like, but it's too much like my main character's name, Michael. Readers might get confused if they were reading fast about who was who. So I asked my Facebook friends what they would name this guy. And before morning I had over 80 comments. Now, after a few days, I've gotten around 125 names. 

So tonight, for fun, I wrote down all the great suggestions. The amazing thing is that in all those names, there weren't all that many repeat suggestions. Clark was the most suggested name with 7. Phil or Phillip was runner-up with 6. Most of the names were single suggestions. Everybody had a different idea of what to name my pesky little editor. I wanted a one syllable name and there were many suggestions that had me nodding my head and thinking, yes, that might work. But he's just one guy and so he only needs one name. I've already tried Lloyd. No one suggested that name. And Kyle. Two or three suggested that name. Those names didn't seem to fit. And so, right now I'm going with Hank. That was suggested by a couple of people. 

Hank Leland. What do you think? Does that sound like a pesky newspaper man who is always ready to dig for a story? If not, what do you suggest? 

Naming characters is actually a fun part of writing fiction. But I do like for the name to fit. Sometimes that takes some brainstorming before a writer can settle on the perfect name. And sometimes that name gets changed and then changed again. 

No wonder I can't remember some of my characters' names. Could be, I'm still considering changing those names. LOL.

Monday, August 11, 2014

On the Hunt for Bargains

Bargain - a thing bought or offered for sale more cheaply than is usual or expected.

Folks all along US 127 have been either offering or looking for bargains all week. The worlds longest yard sale goes from Alabama to Michigan with Kentucky right in the middle. Last week, scenes like the one above were scattered all along the road that runs through the county where I live. People set up booths full of everything but the kitchen sink and I imagine there were even a few of those sinks for sale here and there. Landowners with an accessible piece of property rented out spaces with an eye to this new cash crop and the hope that it wouldn't rain too much so that the bargain hunters' wouldn't get stuck in their fields. And the bargain hunters came. 

I'm not a yard sale person. Not even much of a bargain hunter. I shop when I have to - food, grandkids' birthdays and Christmas. I have been to yard sales a few times in years past. My daughter and I explored a few when she was first renting an apartment to see if she could find some cheap dishes, etc. I've even bought a few things I really like at yard sales, but I didn't dip my shopping toes into the 127 Yard Sale this year. My husband did. He likes bargain hunting much more than I do. Of course the bargains he's hunting are way different than the bargains I'd be hunting if I decided to join the shopping fray.
But there are other ways to find bargains besides on the 127 Yard Sale. Bargains pop up every day on the internet - especially if you are an e-book reader. Books show up free every day and sometimes are only free for a day so you have to grab them quick. Other times, they stay free for weeks, even months like my Hollyhill book, Scent of Lilacs. Still free on Amazon, Nook and

But that's not the only bargain going on with my books right now. My story set in Louisville in 1855 that has more romance than some of my other books, Words Spoken True, has been at the reduced price of 99 cents at Amazon for a couple of weeks now. May end today. I don't know, but right now it's a bargain. 

And then there's the e-book version of Angels at the Crossroads, the only nonfiction book I've written, that stays at a bargain e-book price of around three bucks. That book is a friend's powerful life testimony of forgiveness and redemption that shows how the Lord never gives up on us no matter how we mess up. Instead he puts people in our paths to help us choose the right direction when we stand at those crossroads in life. 

You can even find bargains out there in print books. The internet has made bargain finding in books so much easier. Unfortunately, that has also made it hard for many brick and mortar stores to compete, but that's part of the free enterprise system. For months now, readers have had the opportunity to buy the print version of Small Town Girl at for a low price. 

So the book bargains are out there. For my books and for many other writers' books too. The price per word of these bargains is almost too low to figure and free is free. Of course, they have to be words you want to read or the bargain isn't a bargain. But if you're a bargain hunter, you don't have to get out and fight the 127 traffic. You can just cruise around on the internet and find some book bargains and then settle down out on the swing or glider on your porch with a tall glass of sweet tea and enjoy some stories at a bargain price.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time for Front Porch Visits

True luxury is being able to own your time - to be able to take a walk, sit on your porch, read the paper, not take the call, not be compelled by obligation. ~Ashton Kutcher

Do you have a front porch? I grew up in a house with a front porch. We didn't have chairs on it. That would have gotten in the way of our rollerskating fun. It was the only slab of concrete around and my sister and I rollerskated for miles and miles on it while dreaming of sidewalks and blacktopped lanes that we could skate on to who knows where. But while we didn't have anything on our porch for sitting, my grandfather's house had a porch made for sitting and visiting awhile. 

There was a swing on one end. I can still here the sound of the chains groaning a little as we eased the swing back and forth with our feet. On the other end, itchy vines grew up strings to shade a two-seater wooden porch rocker. My grandfather's chair was a green metal one that had a spring to it when you sat down. Then another of those two-seater wooden rockers. Plenty of places for you to sit and for the neighbors to come rest a while in the shade and catch up on the news. 

I remember sitting on that porch breaking beans and hulling limas. My grandfather always kept a flyswatter in his hand to chase kill flies in between his nodding off dozes. He was already well into his eighties when I remember him best. I wish I had known what to ask him so he'd tell me stories, but he wasn't much for talking. There were a few neighbors who stopped by from time to time and were much for talking. I remember swinging and listening.

That porch is where I had my first case of extreme dog yearning love at around age eight or nine. My aunt, who lived with my grandfather, took in a black Cockerspaniel that had been dropped on our road, and all summer I walked to her house every day to see that dog. He would get up beside me in that two-seater rocker and lay his head in my lap. I loved that dog. I'll have to tell you his whole story another day. But I spent a lot of time on my grandfather's front porch that year rubbing Inky's ears.

A few years after my husband and I got married, we were able to build a new all modern conveniences house. It was ten times warmer in the winter than the old farmhouse where we had been living. We didn't have to draw water. Just turn a faucet. We had wall to wall carpeting. There was something almost amazing about getting up in the morning without your feet hitting cold floors, but carpet. It was good. But there was no porch - front or back. 

My husband, who moved around a lot as a kid, lived in some old farmhouses that had great porches. He's always believed a house needs a porch. Or maybe that a man needs a porch to sit on to take a rest and watch the end of the day happening. 

We still don't have a porch, buteventually we did add on a front and back deck. The next best thing to a porch, I suppose. Not so good in the rain or extra hot sunshine, but still a place for a rocker and a glider. A place for a hummingbird feeder and a tinkling wind chime. A place for flowers. A place to see and dream about the leisure of sitting on a porch. Sometimes a place to sit and enjoy the last little bits of the day.

I see front porches all the time when I'm driving through some of the older neighborhoods and some of the newer ones too. The furniture looks comfy. The shade looks deep. The only thing missing are the people. Maybe they're all sitting on their back porches. But I often think that we make our porches and our decks to match a dream of leisurely afternoons and then we never capture those precious hours for sitting and maybe reading a book or doing nothing but wait for a neighbor to come calling. 

What do you think? Do you love porches? Do you have a porch? If you do or ever had a porch, what are some of your front porch memories?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Bee and a Winner

I finally stumped some of you with my mystery picture. Last Sunday, most of you got the polar bear underwater right away, but this little bee had some of you coming up with great guesses that were fun but not exactly right. Linda and Danie had the sharpest eyes, although Linda thought the bee was on a sunflower. The most popular answer was an eye of something and I thought when I posted it that it sort of looked like an eye. You think that might be to scare away birds? You know, like this "eye" is watching you. Butterflies and caterpillars sometimes have eye protective markings. 

On to the guesses. Amy guessed eye of a chick. Lisa said a bird eye and Belinda said a bug's eye. Ola said eye of a bee, so she was sort of right. Nancee and Juanita used a little more imagination. Nancee said it looked like the eye of an animal reflecting a shadow of a bird and Juanita thought it might be a bunny's eye reflecting the sky. Great vision there, ladies. 

But they weren't the only ones seeing a little more. Judy thought there might be a dove or an angel above a bear head. I looked for that, but I guess I didn't have my angel eyes on. :) I loved Loretta's very sure answer of a bird's head. Patricia made me smile when she said it was Oscar's nose. I did have a mystery photo of part of Oscar's nose in one of my previous contests.

Britney thought it might be a chipmunk. Maxie came up with a moon peeking through something furry. Judy thought it might be a koala bear if it wasn't a stuffed animal. Melanie, Susan and RW also went for the stuffed animal. It does sort of look like a teddy bear. Faye laughed about her guess of something giving birth. She knew that wasn't it, but that was her first thought and then she was seeing a zipper somewhere. You know, if you had very many babies, a zipper would make sense. Right, Faye? LOL. I really liked Sue's different guess. While everybody else is thinking animals, Sue is thinking M & M cookies. 

I'm sure you can tell I was glad you didn't all guess right. Made the game more fun. Maybe I can be just a little bit mysterious after all! Besides, the guess didn't have to be right in order to enter the drawing, so all of you were entered. Some of you twice if you guessed on both pictures. 

And the winner is....

Elaine J wins Karen Kingsbury's book, The Chance and her choice of one of my books. (Elaine, I'll be in touch to see what book you want.) Elaine guessed on the polar bear picture and guessed right. Most of you guessed right on that one. 

I groaned a little when I looked at the first guess on my fuzzy little bee when Danie, right off, knew it was a bee. I was thinking, oh no, they're all going to get this one too. And after I pestered that bee until it's a wonder I didn't get stung. Then the fun began. I hope your guesses made you smile the way they did me. I never guess these kinds of pictures either. 

Thanks again for playing my mystery photo game. We'll do it again soon, but whether we have mystery photos or something else, you can be sure I'll be giving away more books and prizes soon. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can You Guess the Mystery Photo?

My plan was to post this early, but best laid plans. Sigh. I just have to admit it. I'm a burn the midnight oil writer. But tonight I have excuses. Really!! First we had a fellowship supper at church. I had to cook something. You can't go to a potluck supper with an empty dish, now can you? I took my zucchini mess. Doesn't that sound delicious? Actually it is pretty good and easy to make and uses up some of those plentiful zucchinis. I also made bread sticks, but somebody else brought yummy garlic Texas toast, so my bread sticks mostly went begging. That's the thing about potlucks. You never what kind of luck you're going to have, but at our church our pots are usually pretty lucky. Then I took some green beans fresh from the garden. 

That's the other reason I'm late tonight. I had to can the rest of those green beans when I got home from church. My canner holds seven quart jars. I had enough beans for six quart jars. I didn't want to do a less than full canning, so even though it was almost dark I hurried out to the garden to see if I could find one more quart of beans. While I was out there a neighbor came over to ask me something about my mom. Her mother is going to be moving into the room that my mother was in at The Lantern. What are the odds of that? Two women who were neighbors for over sixty years ending up living in the same room of a memory care facility. She said her mother is settling in well. So that was good news. But that slowed down the bean picking. Her grandsons were with her and they each had a baby rabbit. Talk about temptation! That got Oscar's nose twitching. He had just chased a rabbit out of the backyard and then these kids bring a couple over. I warned them not to drop those babies! Oscar's a good dog, but he is a dog.

Then my ancient canner leaked steam and I had to start over. Have I whined enough? LOL. But the beans are processed. The new mystery photo is posted up top. 
I hope this one isn't as easy as some of you found the last one. You can't imagine how tickled I was when one of you finally made a wrong guess. It's not as much fun when you all know the answer. And I really thought that picture would be hard. But obviously, quite a few of you have been to the zoo. No fooling you. It is a polar bear under water. But it could have been a white dog underwater the way a few of you guessed. Except I don't have an underwater camera and have a thing about keeping my head above the water. Here's the rest of the photo. The mystery photo was the bear's nose breathing out bubbles. I took the picture last year after the St. Jude Walk at the Louisville Zoo and see, Peggy, there is a grandkid. :) 

So now you can guess on the new picture. Remember, it's more fun if you guess first and then look at what everybody else has already guessed. They could be wrong, you know. They weren't last time, but they could be this time! Maybe I'm just not mysterious enough. 

But if you guess again (remember you don't have to have a right guess to be entered, just a guess), you'll get a new entry into the giveaway for Karen Kingsbury's autographed The Chance and the winner's choice of one of my books. The contest is open to U.S.A. or Canada and you must be 18 to enter. I'll draw for the winner Sunday, so get your guesses in. And thanks for taking part in my mystery photo fun. I'll try not to be a poor sport if you all guess this one right. LOL.