Monday, November 30, 2009

INTO THE HOLIDAY SEASON

For years it's been my goal to finish Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, so that the following four weeks can be free for enjoying the season. Since the advent of the Internet, that's become much easier to do. By beginning around Labor Day online shopping can be crowded easily into days devoted to writing.

No standing in line on Black Friday for me. Never have I been someone who likes to shop. In fact I detest it. I'd rather be hung in the town square by my heels than spend an hour shopping. My husband is better at shopping than I am. He's the one who finds all the bargains when we journey forth to pick up supplies and food.

Bet you thought all women were born with a shopping gene. Well, not this one. My loves, after spending time with family, are cooking, driving and wandering the countryside, writing, reading and watching movies. Discovering shopping online has saved my sanity.

Last week, I was invited to spend an afternoon with two writers who hoped for some input into their desire to write better and maybe one day be published. Rowena and Barbara and I had a fine time discussing the craft in which I've been involved for 25 years. I tried to share knowledge with them where I could. Barbara was visiting from Chicago, and her friend Rowena had attended one of my all-day workshops last year. After we finished we had tea and shared several slices of pie left over from Thanksgiving.

They then presented me with a set of nesting baskets hand made in Korea. They are lovely and I'll always treasure them and remember our afternoon. To me, this is a part of what this business of writing is all about. Sharing with each other; helping those who are struggling to get started or hoping for publication.

From now through most of the winter, I'll probably hibernate, though on pretty days I may be found traveling, taking pictures and making some videos for promotion of my next books due out in 2010. My daughter has agreed to go along to help film the videos, so I hope to have some ready to post in late winter. Meanwhile, I guess I'd better find a few places to post them in addition to the standby of Facebook.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Losing a Friend

Early this morning we learned of the passing of a dear friend and terrific writer. Lynn Carney will be missed by many of us who've known her for so many years.

I first met Lynn when she walked into a night class I was teaching for the University of Arkansas on Writing the Romance novel. A beautiful young woman, she was enthusiastic, soft spoken and eager to carve herself a niche in the writing world. She certainly did that. The first time she read from her work to the class I knew she had a natural talent for writing.

This excerpt from an award winning short story The Shores of Oblivion: Comfort isn't just a word. Sometimes comfort is a bittersweet hope, like the flickering yearnings that warm you on those dark nights of your soul. When I was born, my mother named me Comfort. It was Mama's way of compensating for the misery of a life that held no joy.

Published in Voices, Vol I Published in 2008 and edited by Delois McGrew and Lou Turner

Sadly, Lynn didn't live long enough to see any of her novels published, but several of her short stories won awards, and one was nominated for the Pushcart Prize this year. She had stories published in the anthologies, Voices and Echoes of the Ozarks, and one year finalled in the Writers Digest Short Story Contest. Given the time, she would have become well-known and loved as a fiction writer.

But Lynn didn't have that time. For years she had suffered from congestive heart failure, but she fought valiantly and never gave up to the complications inherent in that sort of health problem. She took up photography and won some awards there too. She designed and wrote an inspirational website which defines who she was so well.

Most recently she became a member of a music group and wrote their newsletter for them. Almost every week she and her husband Mark went dancing, and she was a delight to watch as she embraced life to its fullest.

I'll miss Lynn a lot. It was startling to see a message from her to me on Facebook, written only hours before she passed away. She wished me a happy Thanksgiving and told me to give my hubby a hug for her. I'm sorry I wasn't able to return the wishes. She was gone all too soon.

She told Mark that she wasn't afraid of dying. She knew that her good friend Lois Spoon, who passed away several years ago from breast cancer, would be waiting for her, along with Mark's mother, to whom she was close.

It's difficult to lose a friend, even more difficult when she is so young and vibrant. Go with God, Lynn and I'll see you someday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

DREARY DAYS OFFER TIME TO RUMINATE

For the past two weeks we've been blessed with warm, sunny weather and I've spent time soaking up some Vitamin D or simply enjoying my new patio just outside my office. But yesterday the fog and rain crept back into our Ozarks, and today the temperature started down from the 70s into the 30s. The only place I want to be now is indoors with the heat going and bundled up in sweats.

I'm sitting at my desk thinking about what I'm going to write next. Every Tuesday brings a deadline for my weekly historical column, Wandering the Ozarks, in our newspaper, The White River Valley News. Recently the Arkansas Gazette merged with the Morning News in Northwest Arkansas and I wasn't sure what that might mean for my column. I've been writing one now for about 20 years, besides spending 9 years as a reporter/columnist for a small weekly and a stringer for one of the dailies recently involved in the merger. It seems, though, that our small paper will continue as before as will those who write for it. So guess Tuesdays will go on as usual.

The monthly article for Life In the Ozarks, a tabloid newspaper containing news and history from the Ozarks, has gone online, and my column, Shadows of the Past, continued. Since it's online, there's a lot of room for story and photographs, which I enjoy sharing. I've collected photographs for the past 20 years and have a good collection of old one room schools, churches, bridges, family gatherings and cemeteries in both Washington and Madison County.

One of my latest books, The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks, soon to be published by Old American Publishing, will contain some 137 photographs, both new and old, from a four-county area: Washington, Madison, Crawford and Franklin Counties, with a jog into Carroll County for some President Obama ancestral history. Putting it together was a pure joy for me. For a year I interviewed folks, dug out old interviews, traveled the four counties taking new pictures and spent a lot of time writing the stories that are contained in its pages. I'm so anxious to hear from the publisher as to a release date.

Another book I worked on last year was Arkansas Meals and Memories: Lift Up Your Eyes to the Mountains, to be published by Goldminds Press in Springfield, MO. It contains authentic Ozark recipes, some very old, as well as stories about being raised in these Arkansas Ozarks. It too should be published in 2010, but I don't have a date.

Both of these books were a pure pleasure to write and I hope my readers enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Recently our critique group published its first anthology of short stories called Skipping Stones. Over the past few years other groups I belong to have also published anthologies written by members. This is truly a fine way for writers to get their work to readers. Ozarks Writers League just published the fifth volume of Echoes of the Ozarks, which has become very popular. Voices, edited by Delois McGrew and Lou Turner, is another anthology that carries some fine short stories by some well-known and unknown authors.

As a result of being published in Ozark books, I've been asked to speak to a group of teachers at Lake Ft. Smith State Park next week. They want me to talk about what it was like to grow up in the Ozarks before, after and during the Great Depression. My mother was raised here after her Dad was transferred from Montana to Arkansas by the Frisco Railroad in 1922, so I have a wealth of pictures and stories to share. I so enjoy speaking to groups interested in our history.





Monday, November 09, 2009

There's No Such Thing

Plans fall by the wayside easily for writers, and I've learned there's no such thing as catching up. Something always happens to detour the planned journey. Thankfully, The weather has been sunny and warm for a little over a week, so I soaked up some Vitamin D every day.

Upon returning from our trip out west, I had originally planned to start some badly needed house cleaning. Windows needed washing, spider webs holding everything together nicely needed swiping down and many other things attended to. However, I came home to a spotless house, sparkling windows, not a web in sight. All taken care of by my one and only favorite daughter. I gratefully scratched that off my to-do list. She's a much better housekeeper and organizer than I am. What a wonderful surprise.

So I was left to loll about in the mornings and do some this-and-that work on the computer. This week I decided I'd been lazy enough, and so was baking a favorite cookie recipe when the TV started static(ing). Watching cookies bake while searching for the DTV phone service number, calling them and dealing with those automated responses that usually don't actually serve a purpose, I managed to get them in and out of the oven without burning or even overcooking.

After convincing the tech that we couldn't repair our problem, I fixed dinner and finished the cookies. He'll be here in the morning, which means watching CSI Miami in bed tonight.

At last it was time to get to my writing schedule. Blogs come first on Monday. This is not a particularly interesting entry, but it just goes to show you that the writing life is not always glamorous, and more often than not, our day is just like anyone else's. Not often are we wrapped in the arms of a sexy cover model, or signing books for long lines of admirers, or speaking to huge groups of adoring fans. I have done all those things on occasion, but most of the time we write, promote, rewrite, market, rewrite, make phone calls, rewrite, etc.

Now, back to NaNoWriMo, which means I'm trying to finish the bones of a novel in a month. Then it'll take me a year to fluff it out. Maybe something exciting will happen in my world this week, like an agent call and sign me, or an editor knock on the door and ask for my latest novel, but I won't hold my breath. I'll just write.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Catching Up

All last week was filled with catching up on projects left to rest on my desk while we were gone. I missed a couple of deadlines after returning. A new volume (#5) of Echoes of the Ozarks is due out soon, and I was supposed to have ordered my copies November 1. I planned on doing that as soon as I returned, but didn't get to the order blank in time. A Christmas list loomed. As I shop online it took a day or two to get that out of the way. We only have three grandchildren and one great-grandchild, our daughter and her husband and each other. Small family, but it still takes time to think about just the right gifts and find them. That done, I turned to some writing tasks.

Thursday, Nov. 5, I'm due to read from one of my books on a blog-radio program, so had to get caught up on everything to do with that. It's listed on my Facebook pages if anyone is interested. The Lake Ft. Smith State Park has scheduled me to speak to teachers later in November on growing up in Arkansas, so I got in touch to see how many would be there. Learned that 30 have signed up so far, but there may be more. The gift shop there carries all my Ozark books, so I checked to make sure they have enough copies.

It's time to order some post cards for early promotion of the 2010 books, so I got on Vista Print and designed a nice card using one of my Boston Mountain photographs. I ordered 100 just to make sure I like them, as this is the first time I've ordered cards from them. Usually order from Modern Postcard but they use a book cover for the card, and I don't have that this early. I liked that I could upload my own image for the face of the card, and that the 100 were free except for a minimal charge for using my own image instead of one of theirs. Vista Print does a good job on business cards, so I may use more of their products during this promotion.

Next will come an update of email addresses to my newsletter which is handled by Authors Den, so I can send out announcements when I get a release date. I'll also bring my snail mail addresses up to date for mailings. Using post cards rather than book marks seems smarter to me because they can be mailed or handed out. Leaving a large blank space on the back of the card lets me add stickers with various types of information from release dates to book signings to appearances as these events roll around.

It seems that this week's blog concerns more writer's information than I usually put on my journal, but these are the things that have come to mind this afternoon. And they are things that need doing, so I guess it's okay to share them with my readers.

It's been rather quiet around the homestead since we returned. Other than the raccoon visits, we've settled in to rest and get back in the grove of our normal schedule. We had quite an adventure last Thursday night, though. The weather was the usual, rain, rain, rain as the day wore on. We were scheduled to leave around five o'clock to attend our weekly critique group in Fayetteville, about 25 miles from home. Creeks were rising, roads overflowing and no sign of letting up when we left. At times it rained so hard we could barely see the highway. Our route to town is a scenic highway which has been a bit neglected lately. The center and outside lane markings haven't been repainted in quite some time. At five it was already so dark from the heavy thunderstorms and low-hanging clouds that we could hardly see. Then add to that the downpours, the drive to town was quite an experience.

The road follows the west fork of the White River both coiling in great curves. Up ahead we saw lights blinking and began to slow down. Half the road was blocked by heavy equipment trying to clear the road of a slide that included a huge concrete watering trough that had washed out of the bluffs. Four bridges are also in the process of being replaced, so we worked our way cautiously through those detours. Water ran everywhere, including all over the road.

Fayetteville itself is situated within a cluster of seven hills on the Springfield Plateau north of our Boston Mountains and water pours down off these hills, using the streets to do so. Rooster tails sprayed in all directions as we made our way through town, trying to stay out of the worst of the runoff. Thankfully, we approached the church without incident, though the water was hub deep. We ran inside and saw no one else there. Probably no one would come out in such dreadful weather.

Wrong. Soon, they began to arrive, running inside, some laughing others drawing great sighs of relief. A huge crowd was soon assembled. How amazing that so many would come out on such a dreadful night. How could they be so daring? I guess writers are just brave souls and given a chance to gather, nothing short of a catastrophe can stop them. Or maybe they wanted to do something besides sit inside their houses and watch it rain. Again.