I love Erma Bombeck’s philosophy, and have a suspicion she qualified as a workaholic. Just sayin’, because for her to fulfill this quote, it stands to reason.

Are we using it all? I’m definitely giving it my best shot, to make up for lost time during those years when I knew writing was my vocation but wasn’t sure what to write. But we do the best we can at any given point in our lives, don’t we?

But all the way along, my novel fodder reserve kept rising higher and higher. And now, I’m working on another WWII story, this time a cozy mystery. Fun to concentrate on something entirely new, while rejoicing in a manuscript that has morphed into a published novel.

Land That I Love…career that I love, albeit late to the starting line!

Unexpected Writer

Some authors plan on writing as a career. Not so for Lisa Bell, our guest this week–here’s her story, and she’s offering a signed copy of THE INNER NEMESIS to one happy camper…I mean commenter. (:

Lisa and I contributed to a wonderful Christmas collection called CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE AGES, and she’s also offering one signed copy of this book plus a couple of others to form a Christmas anthology. We are celebrating this new release!

Take it away, Lisa! (Oh, and did I say I get to meet Lisa in person next week in Texas Hill Country?!?! Very excited here.)

I didn’t grow up dreaming of someday writing for a living, but I became an unexpected writer. In retrospect, I always enjoyed writing. People often told me I should write a book. Imagine my surprise when a corporate manager reviewed my first standard operating procedure and said, “Just because these are technical documents, they don’t have to be boring. Lose the passives.” Now, passives top my list of editor pet peeves, personally avoiding them as much as possible.

I don’t remember the exact moment of my paradigm shift or why it came, but one day, I knew. 

I am a writer. 

Saying that changed my perspective. At the time, I worked in the corporate world. After that day, instead of announcing my corporate position and timidly adding, “and sometimes I write,” when asked, I boldly said, “I am a writer. I daylight as a business analyst.” The mental shift, didn’t change me, but it altered my perspective. 

I left the corporate world intending to freelance write and edit books. God had other plans, and I became a magazine editor, which means writing and editing, plus a host of other responsibilities. Most of the time, I love my job. Having written hundreds of articles in my current position as an editor for NOW Magazines, LLC., my heart desires fiction writing. Recently returning to that passion, I find myself searching for time to work on a novel. 

My second desire, helping other writers, led to my side career as a freelance editor, but I love teaching writing skills and encouraging others in their writing. Somehow, I grew passionate about seeing others succeed. Which steered me to create two books designed for writers. Honestly, I designed the planner for myself because I couldn’t find one that fit my needs well.

What better way to help writers than with interactive tools? My Inner Nemesis offers a combination for journaling ideas, writing prompts and inspiration—perfect for use as morning pages exercises or when you need a break to get ideas flowing. 

A Day in a Writer’s World provides one-page per day for recording critical, important and pleasurable tasks. At the end of the day, assess your degree of success, and jot down notes you need to remember. 

Feel free to visit me on www.bylisabell.comor email lisabell@bylisabell.com

Cleaning Up

I’ve cleaned off my desk. Should have taken a before/after duo to show you what a mess it was–but I didn’t think of it.

Motivation for this sort of purge comes slowly, but finishing a major project helps. When we decided to entertain a group in a couple of weeks, my lazy “cleaning genes” ground into motion.

Once I start, satisfaction sets in with each handful of paper debris dashed into the recycling bin. But at first, the going is tough. You see, my writing process includes volumes of little notes I write to myself. The history behind the story must be clear, and that history, I jot down in a ridiculous amount of notes that end up on my desk.

Why not put it all in one notebook instead of using whatever scrap, envelope, napkin, etc happens to be handy when I make the discovery? I ask myself this, too, as yet another handful of notes meets its demise. The answer? I really don’t know. I’ve tried notebooks, and for some reason, always end up using whatever paper I can find instead. Perhaps it’s the image of Abraham Lincoln penning his Gettysburg Address…

A similar phase takes place in my mind during the weeks after completing a book. Now that Land That I Love has a cover (I just have to share it again!)

and a final edit, this is starting to occur. I’ve concentrated so intensely, it seems odd to be walking about like a normal person, and as I do, I notice how other things have piled up. In the past few days, I’ve cleaned out two closets–so unlike me.

We’re all unique–like this carrot that looks like two. But they wound around each other and were harvested and marketed as one.

Strange. Peculiar. Odd. Fascinating. Intriguing. Just the type of notes I write to myself–in my own simple way. But the growth and the goal are all that really matter.

Waiting and Watching

You’d think I was a kid at Christmas. Yesterday, the book cover options arrived and we made some decisions. Now, it’s time to REVEAL the COVER!

It’s like waiting and watching for growth in a cottage garden. One day you take a long look, and tada! Even with water pails in the picture, the effect is pleasing to the eye.

I am so grateful for my publisher’s expertise in many ways, but his cover creating ability sits right at the top of the list. And here’s the latest example, which captures the indelible bond between father and son so evident in Land That I Love.

Ahh…the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul. Soon, I’ll be able to share a purchase link, and then will travel to beautiful Texas Hill Country to launch this story.

Closer and closer

Phlox blossoms for weeks, needs only sun and rain, and comes in a colorful array. Next year, there’ll be tall hollyhocks against the fence, too. Cottage gardens are about enjoying the moment, yet looking forward with anticipation.

By the end of this week, Land That I Love should go to the printer. Like a garden, a manuscript requires thought, time and nurturing.

Do I love the characters who come to me? If love means embracing their joys and sorrows, accepting their foibles, and allowing them to be who they are, I would have to say yes.

Sure hope my readers love them, too!

Powerful Adjectives

Photos from our youth group trip to gorgeous Montana back country bring all kinds of over-used words to mind: beautiful, breath-taking…

But what about this mountain lake proves so inviting to the eye?

A crystalline sky, forest reflected on the water, a fallen log: all of these play a part. The collective effect helps us smell the pine, almost feel the water between our toes. Lance and I backpacked in this very basin about thirty years ago–incredible views!

This kind of editing keeps me busy right now, just before submitting Land That I Love to my publisher. The goal, to embellish each scene so it engages the reader, keeps me mindful of individual words and phrases, aware of the way each sentence begins and ends, and how paragraphs are organized.

It seems as if this process could continue forever–“I might could work on this manuscript until the cows come home,” as they say in Texas Hill Country.

For this very reason, deadlines are a good thing. Someone outside the process says “It’s time, you’ve done the best you can.”

Perspective on LAND THAT I LOVE

Our granddaughter had to get WAY DOWN LOW for this photo to work:

Here, she shot what we normally see, as well as the view looking up:

In researching Land That I Love, I’ve had to get way down, too.

Way down into German American history in the state of Texas. Way down into human skills of surviving loss and rising above bitterness. Way down into the beauty of nature and how it frosts our lives with joy.

From cottage garden lore to the history of Nottinghamshire, to World War II and how it affected American and British citizens even in remote locales, to learning spelling in a one-room Texas Hill Country schoolhouse- Land That I Love offers all these.

Coming in late August to a purchase site near you!

Trestles and Time

Leaving Fredericksburg, we followed the route early settlers took to find their new homes. A lovely expanse of live oak and pecan trees meets the eye just over the Padernales River, and this is where John Meusebach paused. He had relinquished his royal status back in Germany to emigrate, and accepted the responsibility of seeing many other immigrants to this new land.

“This is it!”

His pulse must have raced at the beauty surrounding him. Perhaps his horse snorted in agreement. Here, a fertile land awaited them–the kind of place where a man could provide for his family.

In 1938, the railroad had come as far as Llano County, but not into Mason County and Loyal Valley. By then, this little town had gone through a name change–earlier known as Cold Water Springs, it became Loyal Valley in the 1860s, as an expression of German settlers’ loyalty to the Union, even though Texas had joined the Confederacy.

Everett, his butler/friend William, and Donnie, a lad of three, rode over this trestle still visible in the countryside. (Thanks to my author friend Lynn, who had spotted it previously.) Farther on, the train used a tunnel now filled with bats, since in the early 1940s, the military dismantled the tracks and used them for the war effort.

With the help of a local woman, we located the former depot and got a feel for the spot where Everett and his family disembarked for the trip to Loyal Valley. After crossing the Atlantic, searching out a suitable property while staying with a friend in New York, and traveling all the way down to the Hill Country, they were more than ready for their new home.

If they hadn’t been able to move in, Loyal Valley offered rooms at this hotel, still standing today.

An Anfractuous Novel

Plots and paths can be anfractuous. They twist and turn but do not break (the English word comes ultimately from the Latin verb frangere, meaning “to break.”) Fracture, fraction, fragment, and frail all stem from Frangere.  But one of the steps between frangere and anfractuous is the Latin anfractus, meaning “coil, bend.” The prefix an- here means “around.”

At first, anfractuous was used to describe our ears and the auditory canal’s curves. In modern times, we speak of an anfractuous thought process or an anfractuous shoreline. With summer yarrow in full bloom, we might quip, “Oh those anfractuous blossoms that defy description!”

The novel I’m writing could be called anfractuous. Most plots wind around until they reach their conclusion, and I don’t often know the end when I begin. But this time–let’s just say I thought this story was finished about a month ago. And then. . . . well, I discovered a few more twists to make before we could write THE END.

Enjoy some photos from the ghost town called Loyal Valley, the setting for this story. Above is Hickory Creek, ear Stone Mountain, a gargantuan granite escarpment near the town. Our rancher guide told tales of climbing up there in his youth–his angel was definitely on duty!

John Muesebach, a German immigrant in the 1840’s, named Loyal Valley Cold Springs at first, but changed the name during the Civil War to prove the community’s patriotism to the Union. I wish I could be a travel-time mouse and view the gardens this industrious American planted–everything from peaches to olive trees. He definitely had a gift for growing.

I fell in love with the name LOYAL VALLEY right from the start and began to discover how much this little spot in Texas Hill Country certainly has to teach us.

Here, Lynn Dean and I pose with John’s statue as he makes peace with the warring Comanches of the area. In this highly significant act, he opened up a whole new world for thousands of fellow-immigrants waiting in the wings.

Much more to come about LAND THAT I LOVE.

Trip Tidbits

Back in North Iowa after five days in Texas Hill Country, I have photos! I’m very grateful to several people who made my research so easy and intriguing. First of all, Lynn Dean, who drove me around like a professional chauffeur. Here’s a photo of her with John Byerley, whom I cannot thank enough for showing us around Loyal Valley.

In front of the Loyal Valley Schoolhouse, John is taping the sole of Lynn’s boot.

This one-room schoolhouse, now owned by John, is where Donnie, one of the characters in my novel to be released in early September, went to school during World War II. His father, Everett, brought him to the U.S. along with his butler friend in 1938.

And here is the actual spot where German pioneer immigrant John Meusebach established his home in the mid-1800s, with fruit trees he planted still visible in the background. This incredible pioneer established many communities in the Hill Country, first by forging a treaty with the warring Comanche tribe.

This powerful leader led the way for thousands of immigrants to purchase land and make a living. As Donnie’s father gets to know this country, he realizes how much John Meusebach has to teach him from a century earlier.

We visited John’s gravesite, where the engraved logo, Tenax Propositi, declares what was required of these intrepid early settlers. Tenacious of Purpose. His life testifies to the incredible difference one person’s courage and fortitude can make.

More to come soon!