Finding a Way

If you’ve seen my FB page from yesterday, you know that last weekend provided an incredible experience. My co-facilitator and seventeen other writers at our Pine retreat proved the truth of our title, Writing Into Daylight.

Whether through memoir, other nonfiction, or fiction, we’re moving out of the shadows. I could go on about that metaphor, but would rather share a photo my husband took this morning in frozen northern Iowa.

Clearly, an ice storm has put this bird feeder out of commission. However, a tenacious squirrel awoke this morning with one goal: food.

Yes, he thought, it’s frigid and miserable, but this furry creature’s willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy the hunger roiling inside.

What will it take to reach his desired goal? He’ll do it. The hunger drives him, despite all odds.

For those writers at our retreat, this squirrel provides a picture of the writing life. Challenging, goal-oriented, lonely, passionate. We might have to go out on a limb, pardon the pun:

The deeper connection is that for some of us, writing equals sustenance, nurture. It’s our calling, our vocation, and even though risks present themselves, we must write.

All kinds of doubts and questions assail us. Do our words deserve to be heard/read? Does what we have to say really matter to anybody out there? Will our stories touch, nourish, encourage or warn readers?

Like this squirrel, we cannot know the answers before plunging into the work. But we take the leap, ignoring the voices, inner and outer, that proclaim us foolhardy. Perhaps we feel we’re hanging on by one claw, but sitting back and watching just won’t do.

At times in my leapsthe odds against success seemed far too high, the struggle much more arduous than I’d realized. In addition to the laborious task of writing, we’re responsible for promotion? We’re expected to swing out there with no net underneath, to seek potential readers? Yep, it is what it is. Might as well accept it.

But somehow, this process sustains us. Such an intriguing journey, replete with opportunities to toss aside the torch and give up. Yet also brimming with adventures, new contacts, and opportunities to grow.

I’m very grateful for our weekend adventure, all the chances to step outside my comfort zone, think outside the. box, and especially, new writing friends. Doesn’t get any better!

Last but definitely NOT least, I’m so thankful for Lance’s expertise with the camera–what a perfect SHOW he provided for us this morning!

Once in A Blue Moon

We just experienced a lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a “blue moon.” Lance set his alarm and caught some photos around 5 a.m. today.

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One of our slang terms comes from this phenomenon: To do something “once in a blue moon” is to do it very rarely: “That company puts on a good performance only once in a blue moon.” The phrase refers to the appearance of a second full moon within a calendar month, which actually happens about every thirty-two months.

Ties in perfectly with something I do as rarely as possible -prepare my part of our income taxes…ARGH! I put it off as long as possible, in spite of determining that this year, it’ll be different.

With far more right than left-brained tendencies, putting the past year’s activities into concise columns is no fun. But this necessary accounting is…well, necessary.

Yesterday I completed the final edit of my next novel, All For the Cause, before submitting it to beta readers. The cause, of course, is World War II, and now I have time to work on the cozy WWII mystery an author friend and I are co-writing.

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The moon holds a certain mystique…does it really affect human behavior as specifically as we often hear? For me, taxes have zero mystique, but almost always some mystery.

But sending my heroine and hero off to be critiqued also gives me pause. Have I been faithful to their their deep-seated motivations and goals? Have I taken into account their idiosyncrasies, even ones that might drive readers crazy? Have I honored their devotion to the war effort?

Stan, the hero, truly challenged me, since I’ve never fought my way through the jungles of Bataan, been wounded, or gritted my teeth and determined to heal completely so I could return and participate in the liberation of tens of thousands of G.I.’s taken captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.

I gave my best effort to comprehending what he went through, including interviewing an incredible WWII veteran who lives quite close to us. His story enlivened Stan for me, and provided details I’d never have found any other way.IMG_4666

So onward with this writing journey. We’ll see what my beta readers have to say and make adjustments. If past manuscripts are any indicator, there’ll still be plenty of editing to do.

No matter how much time and energy the process takes, I’d far rather do this than tax preparation! And just for good measure, here’s another intriguing photo taken two days ago from under the Mogollon Rim.

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Singing the Winter Blues Away

What a treat to have Margaret Kazmierczak, my online author friend from across the Atlantic, with us today. Brew yourself a cup of hot tea and enjoy her musings on winter. And leave a comment if you’d like to win an e-copy of her memoir – with a definite U.K. flavor and humor. 

Why do we call it the middle-of-winter blues – blue? I see no blue outside nor inside! Personally, I believe we ought to change it to the middle of winter greys. The sky is grey; the atmosphere is grey, people’s faces are grey, clothing is grey, the snow, if we get it in the South of England, is grey and slushy, and the days are grey with fewer hours of daylight – do I need to go on?

We eat more than we should and decide that we need to lose weight. So then we get the weight loss blues/greys.

Woe is winter with its rain, cold, damp, grey weather. Welcome to my England – actually, that’s not true as my winter is far from grey. The only grey is my hair! But it was not always like this. I too suffered from the blues for a long time until I realised that January 1st was just another day and February a step closer to brighter mornings–therefore, I didn’t need to put a blue-grey tint to these months.

Grey is a matter of opinion or perspective. Winter always leads to spring. Nature needs to die to reinvent itself. The gorgeous colours of Autumn give way to the life spine of a tree, its scars highlighted by the sun.

Landscapes become visible without the foliage concealing the beauty beyond. There is crispness as you walk, a fresh painting of a spider’s web glistening in the low sunlight. Ice producing dazzling displays of rainbows in fragmented puddles.

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Snowflakes whirl in the wind, dancing to the heavenly music of the angels.

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Birdsong greets me to a new awakening.

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The flowers now gone promise to rise again in Spring in a celebration of hope.How can this season be blue/grey?

We need a break in the seasons, to reassess our lives. Are we at the ending of a story, or at the beginning? Winter allows for both, the blues followed by the yellows. How long you remain in the blue will depend on your winter.

Winter is a great reminder; it tells me of how fortunate I am to live in a country where we have heating at the click of a switch. We can snuggle under duvets in the safety of our homes. Water comes out of a tap, and the air is relatively unpolluted. Christians can freely worship, and there are life choices we can make each day without fear.

I need winter to remind me that without death I cannot begin again. Nothing is permanent…only God.

January is often a difficult month for many, with the bright lights of Christmas doused. It is easy to sink into the dull months and respond accordingly. But what if we shone brightly during the downpours and sing in the rain, so to speak? How many sad faces could be turned upside down into a smile?

I don’t do New Year resolutions, but maybe this year I shall target the blues with a sunshine beam to get the happy juices going in my fellow human beings. Perhaps the seeds will break through early this year if we turn our faces to the Son and remember that after the blues (the passion) comes the resurrection. Now, that is something to celebrate!

One of my favourite experiences is walking into my home after escaping the frozen outdoors and feeling the warmth hug me. Peeling off my coat, scarf, hat and boots and flopping into a comfy chair with a steaming cup of hot tea. It is by far the epitome of joy in winter – a spirit lifter.

And that is indeed one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone else who is suffering from the middle-of-winter blues. To be a spirit lifter. To share a picture of hope in a person’s life. To show the beauty of winter in all its glory, because nature never stops creating breathtaking pictures.

Country Folk of Another Era

Reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale has given me an even deeper appreciation of the way simple country folks suffered in the early years of World War II.

When we say country, we visualize rural American farm families. But in France in the early 1940’s, thousands of peasants tended their gardens and vineyards, cared for their children, and enjoyed a simple pastoral setting.

Then, suddenly their freedoms were swept away by the brutal Nazi occupation.

What’s interesting is how people came from all walks of life to help the French Resistance change the tide of the war. One of these, from my Women of the Heartland series, hailed from Iowa farm country. Used to the sight of corn and soybeans ripening for harvest, Kate Isaacs is thrust into the midst of unthinkable horrors.

Unthinkable but very real. Her land-centered background serves her well as she treks back woods trails to avoid the Gestapo, delivering vital messages for the Resistance. So does her heritage of valuing hard work and tenacity. You can’t take the country out of a country girl, right?

Admittedly, this “country,” replete with mountains and deep valleys, is different from Kate’s moorings. Along the way, she views incredible structures like the Abbey of St. Pierre at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, built in the ninth century. She gasps at this architecture and takes heart at the eternal message of hope engraved in this incredible structure’s entrance.

If you need some more historical fiction to get you through the winter, may I suggest…

 

The Ins and Outs of Life

A friend of mine wrote, “I really hope the New Year will see changes in my attitude. I have to stop w/ the pity parties, the hatred toward the consequences of my choices or lack thereof. There’s enough good in my life. I may not have all I expected to have in life at this age, but what I have, I want and I need to care for it.”

Perspective. That’s one of the gifts of aging. Of course, nobody wants to talk about aging, but things go better if we keep on learning.

Many birds here under the Mogollon Rim enjoy eating acorns – this one is a Stellar Jay one of the small, rounded nuts in its beak.

IMG_1923The woodpeckers have learned they can’t use our outer walls for a granary, to store the little acorns for winter food, although they certainly made hay while the sun shone. But our trusty bird netting surrounding the whole house has thwarted their storage intentions.

IMG_1829A few years back, we discovered about three hundred and fifty holes in our house…beak-sized and drilled with great intensity over the months we were absent. And each hole contained a treasure in woodpecker language: food.

These little 1/2 inch acorns pepper the mountain oaks around here, but who would have thought they’d end up in our house? Lance filled the holes with some foamy goo he found at the hardware store, and after it hardened, the netting provided a way OUT of being attacked.

A way out…just what we needed–we’d tried everything, hanging shiny CD’s from the eaves to scare the acorn-carriers away, etc. The birdies, of course, still sought a way in, but have had to accept what they cannot change, while we had to change the things we could. 

In this new year before us, and those two phrases depict many of our desires. Sometimes we seek a way in…into a deeper relationship, into a more serene existence, into success. Other times, a way out describes what we need. Still other times, we need to embrace acceptance.

Perspective…just another way of looking at things. I’m going to try to remember this in 2018.

 

Root Canals and Crowns and Christmas…

Today a lowly tooth underwent a transformation–a very pleasant, welcome change for me. Last Friday, I had a root canal. We often use this experience as an example of the WORST, but the surgery truly was the best, relieving unrelenting pain. And today, the saved tooth received a protective covering known as a crown.

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What a process, and with the help of the friendly folks at Burgmeier Dentistry, I chronicled some of the steps.

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A myriad of required tools20171222_091446plus precision, patience,

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skill and experience (thank you, Doctor KYLE!!!)

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some intense heat…

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and voila! a perfect fit and the ability to eat normally again.

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What does this have to do with World War II or the Christmas season? For one thing, I really enjoyed chatting with the staff today, several of whom have a great interest in the forties era.

And of course, Gratitude for GOD WITH US…no matter what we’re experiencing.

I’m so thankful for the sacrifices of thousands during the era of my novels, sacrifices to ensure our nation’s freedom and future. And Christmas? This holiday focuses on a priceless gift, with gratitude at its very heart.

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May your celebration this year be deeply meaningful and filled with peace. 

Joys of Christmas Past

Last week our community held a gathering for people to share their Christmas memories–some ninety-plus year-olds joined us. Can you imagine remembering the Pearl Harbor attack being reported in a radio news flash? 

Here’s a photo of my first Christmas. Before Charles Schulz cried the phrase, “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” my brother and I posed beside one. In this 1951 photo, we look pleased and proud of our find along one of the ditches bordering our farm.

 

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Mom looks happy, too, with the war over and never a hungry moment on the farm, like those she’d survived in her Depression-laced youth.

The war had ended five and a half years earlier, and good times were on the upswing. If you lent yourself to back-breaking farm work, you could make it. If anybody can identify the auto in the background, I’d like to know the year and make. Behind the tree sits Grandpa’s green Ford farm truck.

Like most children, my brother and I knew only the present: a loving mother, a hard-working dad, a roof over our heads, food and clothing. No fear for the future, no sense of the past…only this present moment in time.

Release Day

I’m researching my next novel deep in the heart of the Philippines, but pausing today to celebrate the release of A PURPOSE TRUE, the culmination of Addie and Kate’s story. My order of the new book is scheduled to arrive today, so I will post a picture of me hugging the UPS or FED EX delivery person, if at all possible.

Thanks to everyone who follows my work and encourages me in this writing endeavor. Seventy-six years ago on this day, the United States suffered great loss at Pearl Harbor and entered a long and costly war. I hope to keep people remembering what our ancestors contributed to the effort to halt the outbreak of evil across the world.

And as you follow Kate and Domingo through Southern France in their work for the Resistance, may you sense their growth through trial and tribulation–and the blossoming of their mutual commitment.

Today I’m visiting The Over Fifty Writer, where you may leave a comment for the giveaway of an e-book copy of A Purpose True and learn more about my long journey to this momentous day. http://www.pattishene.com/theover50writer/504

 

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Playing in the Minor Leagues

Recently I’ve gotten to know Rhoda Preston, my neighbor. Even though she has a lot on her platter, as you’ll see here, she always has a smile for me when she’s working at her desk, and she keeps her door open. 

One commenter here will win a copy of Rhoda’s recently published non-fiction book about the Old Testament Minor Prophets, Playing In The Minor Leagues. The title alone makes me want to read this–and it would also make a good gift for someone interested in the scriptures.  

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The Rev. Dr. Rhoda Preston is a United Methodist pastor, author, and former preschool editor at the United Methodist Publishing House. Her most recent book, Playing in the Minor Leagues: A Look at the Minor Prophets, explores what the twelve Old Testament minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) can teach us about the essential game of life. How did they address God’s major concerns for the world? How might their insights strike home with us today? Each prophet is presented in easy-to-understand fashion, placing each into historical context, providing in-depth commentary, and showing connections with New Testament Scriptures. Each chapter includes discussion questions for group study. Copies of the book are available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions. Additional articles on the prophets can be found on her blog, rhodapreston.com, and on her Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/rhodaepreston/playing-in-the-minor-leagues-minor-prophets/.

Several years ago, during the Christmas season—in celebration of the wise men who followed a star to Bethlehem–our congregation introduced the tradition of “Star Gifts.” A Star Gift is simply a paper star with a word written on it. During our worship service, ushers pass Star Gifts to the congregation using our traditional offering plates. Instead of placing something into the offering plate, everyone is invited to reach in and take a star.

“Don’t intentionally choose a star,” we’re told. “Just reach in and grab one. Consider the word on that star to be God’s gift to you for the coming year. Take the Star Gift home and hang it up where you are sure to see it every day. Each time you glance at the star, ponder the significance that word might have in your life, and how God might be speaking to you and guiding you through that word.”

Every star in the offering plate contains a different word. It might be imagination or strength, courage or forgiveness, honesty or flexibility, integrity, humor, humility, hopefulness, peace….

Since I serve as the pastor of two separate congregations, I received two Star Gifts this past year. One said “Listening.” The other said “Helping.” I took the stars to my office, posted them on my bulletin board, right next to my calendar. Each morning I pray: “Lord, in everything I do today, give me a listening heart and helping hands. For You are a God who listens and helps, and I want to follow You.”

Sometimes my schedule can get so busy, so hectic. And when folks stop by my office, I may seem pre-occupied. “I hate to bother you…” they’ll say. And that’s when I realize: it’s time to stop what I’m doing and give this person my full attention. It’s time to listen carefully, and to help as best I can. God doesn’t want me to treat people as interruptions. God has given me the gift of just enough time, and the ability to make a difference. And I am so grateful, Wise and Generous God, for that gift!

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You can enjoy more of Rhoda’s writing at her blog, rhodapreston.com

 

 

 

A NOVEL IDEA! Kathy Cretsinger

What a creative way to co-write a story, Kathy–enjoy this, everyone. AND, Kathy, who is also founder of Mantle Rock Publishing, is giving away either a print or ebook of Smoky Mountain Brides. Just leave a comment to qualify. 

In 2012 I could borrow Martin Luther King’s words, “I have a dream.” I’m afraid my dream was not the same as his. I had a dream to publish a book, and I did. Since I told a class at a conference that no one would tell me I couldn’t do anything, I was not going to be defeated in publishing my book. That was all I wanted to do, publish my books. That changed rather quickly. Before long I was publishing for other authors.

 

Back in 2012 I saw that new authors were having problems in getting their book published. The larger publishing companies were cutting back on manuscripts, and most authors didn’t want to self-publish. That’s where we stepped in to offer them something that was from a small publisher. Mantle Rock Publishing LLC publishes from twelve to fifteen books a year. Our goal for 2018 is for twenty books. We’ve opened a new line of Fantasy/Speculative books, and one Fantasy will go out in February.

The Fantasy line is in addition to our Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Cozy Mysteries, and Romantic Suspense. We will have our plate full. We hope to be able to publish all of the books within six months of a signed contract.

My real dream had always been about writing. When my kids were small I’d tell them stories about growing up in a cave with a dinosaur as my pet. Our oldest went to school and told her teacher the story. The teacher promptly told my child that it was a story. She emphatically told her that her mother didn’t lie.

I love putting words on paper and have since elementary school. I love developing a story. That’s how Smoky Mountain Brides came about. I wondered if two girls who were best friends since childhood could plan a wedding at Christmas on the same weekend.

Christmas-BridesPam Watts Harris agreed to collaborate with me and the two stories of Kayla and Becki came to life. Two girls who lived in different parts of the state became engaged at the same time and each wanted the other to be their bride’s maid/matron of honor. They had different lifestyles, different thoughts of their wedding, but basically the same values. This is how we did it.

Kayla was Pam’s main character. Pam wrote her book until we got to the wedding. Becki was my main character, and I did the same as Pam. We swapped manuscripts toward the end, made sure we had everything right. We each wrote our wedding scene, and then we put them together. It wasn’t that difficult. It was a lot of fun.

Our website is mantlerockpublishingllc.com and you can click on the blog for a pop-up to sign up for my newsletter. We also do a podcast each Monday. Our books can be bought on Amazon.com. You can purchase Smoky Mountain Brides at https://www.amazon.com/Smoky-Mountain-Brides-Katt-Anderson-ebook/dp/B075QQLKW6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1508946988&sr=1-1&keywords=Smoky+Mountain+Brides

Thanks Gail for having me on your blog.