Thursday, March 31, 2011

SPRING PROMOTIONS ARE UNDERWAY

Though it's rainy and gloomy, spring is indeed upon us. Grass is green, trees are budding and flowers are blooming. I'm still cold, but that will change shortly. What this weather has brought are requests for me to make appearances with my books. I expect them to slow down, this full year after publication.

April is looking good, and I'm looking forward to taking some drives and meeting bunches of new people. The gas situation notwithstanding, driving around in the Boston Mountains is still one of my favorite pastimes. Next week brings a trip to Alma and the genealogy folks down there in the Arkansas River Valley, then a visit to a local historical church known as Baptist Ford, where members want to talk to me and check out my books.

Saturday is my all day workshop at Ozark Folkways. I have openings this year, probably due to the high gas prices, and would welcome some last minute reservations. Please do not show up without calling Ozark Folkways. If we don't reach our quota and have to cancel, you'd be disappointed and I would be too. You just might be the one who puts us at the quota mark.

We'll spend the day writing, working individually with each writer on their project or helping writers come up with something to write. With so much input from everyone, you'll be surprised what you can come up with.

The following week, I'm going to Tulsa to speak to those super members of the Tulsa Night Writers. This group has been around a long time and many of the writers who belong have become good friends over the years. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

That Saturday I'm scheduled to be a greeter at the celebration of the anniversary of the Civil War battle of Fayetteville. They're putting me out front under the trees at the lovely and majestic Headquarters House, where I can hand out brochures and also show off my books. Later that morning, I will be presented with a plaque for being honored earlier in the year as a Distinguished Citizen of the Washington County Historical Society. It will be quite a day, what with the re enactments scheduled to be presented.

It's obvious that I'm going to be rather busy this year, what with plans to publish my back list to Kindle, Nook and other ebook readers, plus finishing another book. But it's something I really enjoy doing, and it beats the heck out of retiring and sitting around knitting, watching TV or staring out the window wondering what to do with myself.

Hope everyone has a wonderful spring planned, and I'm sure I'll see some of you somewhere, sometime.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

A VIDEO BLOG? WHAT A GOOD IDEA . . . EXCEPT

Did you ever do something that the minute you did it, something told you it was a mistake? Sure you have, we all have. That's what happened to me last week when I plugged in my Flip video camera to download the videos from our free conference. I wanted to post them here. As you can see, that isn't happening, and I'll tell you why.

If you feel like an illiterate when it comes to the computer, then you definitely aren't alone. I've used a computer to write with since the late '80s, but some of this new technology is totally out there beyond my reach.

On to my story. I've never had a problem making movies (that is, editing videos, splicing them together, cutting out bad spots and coming up with a decent video to post) that is, not until I made the mistake of clicking "Upgrade" when I was notified in an urgent voice (yes, computers do speak to me) that I needed to upgrade my Flip Video software. If you haven't already done this, don't, not unless you're prepared to sit for hours trying to figure out how the heck to use it.

Firstly, the Flip video people have decided they know how to make movies better than the Windows Movie Maker. They don't, and before they sue me for saying that, let me add that it's probably all my fault. I don't know how to do it. However, I soon (several hours and many curse words later) learned that if I want to use Windows Movie Maker with the new software I have to download yet another program that will allow me to do so. Google told me this.

Okay, hey, I can do that. Sure, I can. Downloading from the Internet is something I know how to do, thank you very much. However, that program is so complicated I can't find out how to transfer my video to Movie Maker. They do that on purpose, you know. They don't want me to use Movie Maker anymore, they want me to use their movie software, which doesn't allow for clipping, or as far as I can tell anything but turning the existing video, warts and all, into a movie.

The Word people have done the same thing, but I still use Word Perfect, which is a subject for another day.

Yes, I've always been a bit paranoid, but this is ridiculous. I wanted a Flip Video camera because of its simplicity, not because I'm a budding movie mogul who's studied computer programing and become an electronic genius. Well, guess what? It's no longer simple. While I can shoot videos with a great deal of ease, and download the results into my computer quite simply, that's where easy ends.

But I've fooled them, I'm pretty sure. I have friends in high places. Friends who know a lot more about this "sh*" uh-oh, never mind, than I do. And a wonderful writer friend has told me she'll help me figure it out. I'm even going to make a cheat sheet so I don't forget before I get back home from our meeting. She made her own movie trailer, so I'll bet she can help me. If she can't, there are others who probably can. And when I learn how, I'm going to tell the world, so these people can no longer carry out their evil plan to put Windows Movie Maker out of business.

Being wise to how the written word can be misconstrued --- I may not be a computer genius, but I do know writing --- I'm going to add here that my tongue is inserted deeply into my cheek for this little piece. I'm not really an angry writer turned raving maniac out to get back at the Flip people. I just want to be left alone with my little simple camera and I wish I could unload that new program and get my old one back, that's all I wish. If anyone out there knows how to do that, email me under an assumed name to protect yourself against retaliation.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BACK ON THE BACKROADS

A couple of weeks ago the newspaper I occasionally write a feature for asked me to do a series on the cafes located along highway 71 through Washington County during the Fifties. They said, "make it like those you read about route 66." Back in those days there were no McDonald's or Sonic's, just small roadside eating places owned and operated by one person or the entire family.

How interesting, for I'd have an excuse to hit the back roads in search of folks who remembered the era. First it's get on the phone, call people I've interviewed to see if they know someone. After 20 years of talking to folks and getting stories for several newspapers, my contact list is long and valuable. On top of that, I know who is apt to have the information I need.

So one of the first contacts I'm referred to turns out to be a woman who worked as a cook in almost all the small cafes within a few miles along the route. My appointment with her is set for a Friday morning at 10 a.m. and here are the directions to her house. "We're off highway 74. Just come until you see two big black mailboxes with a paper box in between, then turn right. Don't go to my neighbors but just keep on coming till you get to our house."

My question, "Is that before or after Blackburn Church."

Her reply, "Oh, no, we're this side of Blackburn Church."

Mmm, this side. I had to presume that she knew where I lived and would put me on the right track.

So I gave myself twenty minutes to get lost, even though if I could drive right to it, ten minutes would be enough. The day dawned sunny and warm, a gorgeous spring day. The air smelled of newly turned earth and green grass. Along the highway, great plots of jonquils shone golden in the sunlight. In Arkansas, one easy way to spot all the old home places are the fields of jonquils, planted there one long ago day by a young wife while her husband cleared and tilled the fields of their new farm. The jonquils planted by my mother after she and my dad married and they moved into their log cabin, continue to bloom today.

I quickly discovered that there were many sets of two black mailboxes with a paper box in between. My contact probably never noticed that before. So at each one I slowed to a crawl to note the name or if a road turned off there. Luckily highway 74 doesn't carry much traffic up in the late morning, and I soon found the correct set. I turned off and it didn't take long to be very grateful I have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. One spot was so steep they'd poured a slab of concrete for a few hundred feet so one could get traction climbing it.

After curling, climbing and descending several times, I topped out in a wide field on the top of one of our Ozark mountains. There sat their house surrounded by jonquils. She later told me that the old home place had been out in the expanse of front yard and they weren't finished clearing it up yet. Much like our home, they had built almost on top of the old foundation.

We had a wonderful visit and I gathered a lot of information about many of the small cafes, all good fodder for my series which is scheduled to begin next week. Since then I've visited with another woman, this time the original owner and cook of a small cafe. I'll save her story for later. Over the years I've enjoyed this part of my job almost as much as the actual writing, and I'm so happy the newspapers continue to want my work, especially since I don't have to report to work and sit in their office all day.

Monday, March 07, 2011

MORE DAYLIGHT ON THE WAY

Next Sunday heralds almost my favorite day of spring, the one in which we turn the clocks forward making our evenings of light longer after we quit work for the day. Some folks are irritated by this, but I say, "Hey, bring it on. I can hardly wait." It's neat to arrive at evening meetings while I can still see where I'm going. Or those evening book signings when I've never been there before, are so much easier to locate. Even my GPS can't jump out and standing in front of the building point and yell, "You're here, dummy."

Our critique group's upcoming yearly free conference promises to be a lot of fun and a learning experience. I always look forward to meeting old and new friends in the crowd and listening to the speakers, enjoying lunch shared with everyone and hearing news. We've been doing this for about 8 years now. It's our group's way of giving back to everyone who has helped us along the way by paying it forward. Dusty and I, co-chairs of the meetings, split the afternoon to give workshops about the craft. This year we're calling upon our members to present the morning workshops, sharing something they've learned that should benefit attendees. It'll be a fun though exhausting day.

My first signing of this year will be in Paris. Now I'll bet you didn't know I was an international star. Paris, Arkansas is located not too many miles east of Ft. Smith in the Arkansas River Valley, so it's not a very long drive. Besides, it's in the morning, so I don't have to worry about running out of daylight.

The Gattis Logan County Library invited me to spend some time with readers on an upcoming Saturday morning. They had to order more copies of my book because it was so popular in the library. Those reports are nice to hear.

Wednesday I'll travel over to Terra Studios east of Elkins to deliver an order of books. This is one of the prettiest places to visit. Located on the eastern border of Washington County, almost in Madison County, the park is so beautiful, and the little critters that hide out behind trees and bushes are entertainment for adults and children alike. Visitors can also watch the creation of the popular glass bluebird of happiness. The visitor's center is filled with the most glorious glass and pottery items. If you've never been there, put a visit on your calendar for the upcoming spring days.

Also on my calendar this spring is a visit to the Night Writers in Tulsa, OK. Haven't been there in a while, so am looking forward to seeing all the many writers who belong to this active group.

April is shaping up to be a busy time, which is fine with me. I was saddened to learn that the popular Books In Bloom celebration in Eureka, Springs has been cancelled. This was a terrific place for writers as well as readers and I hate to see this happen. However, Arkansas Authors Showcase will be in session as usual, and I'll add the date and more information as this event grows closer.

This journal today has become more a calendar of events to celebrate spring. Join me next week when I'll try to have something more interesting.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

JONQUILS HERALD SPRING



At the top, an ornamental pear that survived the terrible ice storm of 2009. Below our Tulip Tree, otherwise known as an Eastern Magnolia. Both in bloom last spring.

After a particularly brutal winter, patches of green adorn the yard and golden jonquils, known locally as Easter flowers, cover the southern slopes. Trees broken by the snow and wind have been cleaned up through the efforts of our sweet daughter and her hubby. If not for her, my Easter flowers would be buried under old dead weeds. She spent an afternoon cleaning out our flowerbeds and making sure all the brush was raked away from the hybrid and old fashioned jonquils.

Some of these flowers in bloom on this sunny afternoon have been in the yard since before we built our house here in 1972. Heaven only knows of the happiness and tragedy they've witnessed over all these years. And out in the side yard are iris we dug from my grandmother's yard before she moved from her house and came up to live near us in a mobile home.

I remember as a kid the glorious lilies, iris and fragrant lilacs that adorned her yard. As I recall my grandmother, she would rather work in the yard than in the house. One time, when she was in her late 70s, she climbed up a ladder to her roof to clear away some broken limbs. What makes this particularly remarkable is our young son-in-law found out what she was up to, and he said he'd finish up the work before she fell and broke something. At the top of the ladder, he missed a step and tumbled down into a rosebush. He came away with only a few scratches. It was truly a favorite video moment, if only we'd had a camera at the time.

Many years have passed since then, and now our daughter and her hubby do our yard work. Last weekend was "stop the encroachment of the woods into our yard" day. It doesn't take long for sprouts to ease their way under the fence and into the grass. Like sneaky rodents, they strive to take over. It's often said that if a place was left untended for a year here in the Ozarks, no one would be able to find the house.

It's looking a lot better around here and I'm eagerly awaiting the blossoming of redbuds and dogwoods that will soon adorn the mountains like a blanket of lace. Such beauty is truly a sight to be thankful for.