Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The "And Then Some" Principle

My youngest daughter lives by the “and then some” principle. Simply put, it is the notion that God loves us so much that He gives us what we need…and then some. We ask for something and He gives it…and then some. 
Oldest Daughter and Youngest Granddaughter
offered total support!

As a parent, I understand reasonable requests and I certainly know there are those times when my own children have been so humble in asking for something, Tom and I wanted to give them more. When we love God and we’re not greedy, He gives us the desires of our hearts…and then some.

I experienced those gifts this past weekend. I planned a launch for my second novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joe. 
It was a difficult time in a sense. It was the first time I would do something like this since Tom died. I prayed to get through it without tears. I prayed for strength. I prayed for people to show up.

This launch wasn’t about me as an author. It wasn’t about the book. It was about taking a step forward. It was about doing God’s will. It was about trust.

My Team: Mom and 2 of My Daughters
But I serve an “and then some God.” 

I prayed to get through it without tears. In fact, the day was filled with laughter. 

I prayed for strength and God gave me a double measure of it. 

I prayed for people to show up. They did. People from all facets of my life: Family, friends, and neighbors. People I knew from schools where I taught, friends from the square dance community, people I know from several churches. Lots of people. 
Early Guests: I sold out of books in minutes!

I wasn’t alone. Not only did guests arrive but my daughters and mother helped me in every area of the event. They worked as a team –a well-oiled machine. You would’ve thought it was their business.

We sold out of Libby’s Cuppa Joe in the first twenty minutes of the two-hour event!

Available on Amazon
Guests paid in advance to receive copies on order. They lingered in the coffee shop. We took pictures and shared stories. And now I am seeing posts on Facebook from those who tell me how much they enjoyed the morning. 

The book is getting great reviews. I’m energized once again to write…To publish… To continue taking those baby steps forward.

And then some.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Time For Everything...Turn, Turn, Turn

When I was young…and that seems like yesterday in some ways…there was a popular song performed by a group called the Byrds. Here are some of the lyrics:

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under heaven 
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
and a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to build up and a tiem to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, A time to gather stones together
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn,turn)
and a time to every purpose under heaven

The song was based on Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1-8. It was a long time before I could read the passage in the Bible without wanting to insert “turn, turn, turn” at the end of each line. 

Longer still before I began to understand the universal and powerful truth in the verses. 

My camper became my writing retreat.
This week I found out that some damage done to my camper is extensive. So extensive it isn’t worth the reapirs. That may not seem like a big thing to most people, but its loss is significant to me in ways most people cannot understand. 

Tom and I bought the camper the summer before he died. We used it three times that summer and the plan was to spend January and February in Naples, Florida during 2015. That much further south than our home in Tampa is warmer that time of year. We’d sold our house in Ohio so we’d be “footloose and fancy free.” It sounded exciting and fun.

We had plans. But as the Bible says…or in this case, as the Byrds sing, there is a time for everything. “A time to be born and a time to die.” Tom’s time to die came in October that same year.

There’s also a time to deal with practical matters. I didn’t know what to do with the camper. I knew I couldn’t haul it anywhere unless I could drive without ever turning right or backing up. I first tried to sell it but that didn’t work out. Then I learned I could have it moved it to a seasonal campground and keep it there, camping in it whenever I wanted.

My "office" at the camper.
So in 2016, my camper was moved to a beautiful campground in Ohio called Pine Cove Campground near Wilmington. I could camp there whenever I liked between April and October. And I did. I could hear Tom’s voice saying, “You should do this! ”Sometimes I camped alone…though in a campground like this one there was always something to do and new friends around. Sometimes my family or friends came to visit. One of my cousins lived near the place where I kept the camper so it turned out to be a wonderful time for us to reconnect. Often, I would go up to the campground that summer and write during the quiet moments when my camping neighbors weren’t there. (Most people use the campground on weekends.) 

That camper served me well. 

I had plans for this summer at the campground. I hadn’t seen many of my fellow campers in a long time. During the second season, I moved into a new house and then turned around and moved to Kosovo. This summer was going to be different. I pictured myself at my little writing retreat churning out new books now that I was writing again.

But then there was damage to the camper. Water got in. Water is not good for campers. The damage was extensive. When the man I called on to make the repairs told me how bad it was, I cried. Right there on the phone. Poor man.

You see, the camper represented a piece of life I’d lost. It represented a connection to Tom and the dreams we shared. But as the song says, “turn, turn, turn.” There is a season for everything and a time I need to turn around and head a different direction. 

My daughter called me on the heels of my learning how extensive the damage was to the camper. She said, ”It served you well during a season of life when you really needed it.”

I halfway expected her to say, “turn, turn, turn” but she didn’t. But I am doing just that. I’m turning a different direction. I’m learning how to make it in this world alone. It’s the season of my life.

Turn, turn, turn…

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Weather Patterns Track Like a Good Novel: Characters Deal with the Storms of Life

February 2019: Florida
Recently, I enjoyed a couple of weeks in Florida I loved the warm weather and was saddened to return to a chilly start to spring in Ohio. I am fascinated by weather patterns.

I tracked last year’s hurricane season with what I’d call “educated interest.” You see, I spent my formative years in Tampa. Hurricanes were a part of life.

Native Floridians and locals, at least those who have lived there for a great while, respect the storms. They are, however less intimidated by hurricanes than people watching from the outside. In fact, I’ve heard old timers say, “The water’s too low. We need a good hurricane.” 

“Northern Transplants” tend to worry over the storms the first year or two, but slowly settle into the rhythm of the season. Shelters are open and full from time-to-time with an array of people making their home in the Sunshine State. Rarely do Snow Birds worry over the storms since they are likely somewhere in Ohio or Michigan during the hurricane season. They’re playing with their grandchildren and watching the weather reports with a sigh and a “glad we’re not there now” attitude.

Spring Has Arrived in Florida
I’ve found this is true in the opposite direction as well. My Florida family will cringe when I mention we have snow. Even the lightest dusting of snow conjures up a blizzard in their minds. They shiver and wonder why anyone would choose to live in the north. 

This year, however, as I watch the weather patterns of summer in the south and winter in the north, it is with a different perspective. I watch as a writer. No, I’m not contemplating a story about natural disasters. 

I have been working on a suspense novel. I have my protagonists, I have an emotionally injured antagonist and a detective working on a missing persons case. I have a plot and a few subplots. I’m throwing some red herrings in here and there to keep the reader wondering who is at risk and who is the culprit. Even I can get lost in the tangle of words and story lines. 

I am busy typing away when I look up at the television weather report. The storm tracking system offers an array of possible scenarios. What catches my attention is the graphic on the news. 

March in Ohio 2019
As I study the image, I realize it is a template of my book. 

The seemingly harmless wind and flurries from the west will likely turn into something frightening and unpredictable. The possibility of power outages in outlying areas, like subplots, leave me like a reader a bit uncomfortable but knowing all will be well in the end. And then there is the sudden drop in temperatures.  I look outside. It is totally calm. Still. Quiet. Safe. I build a fire in the fireplace.

I watch. Nothing happens…until there is one flurry. Then two. I go to sleep under a quilt my grandmother made and wake up to a blanket of white on my lawn. It is March and the snow is not welcome. Much like Florida when the powerful wind…full of rain and the county next door’s stripped shingles and shattered trees move across the state, my heart races and I cry, “Mercy.”

And then…as quickly as it came, it leaves. We pick up our lives (or in this case, the characters in the book), shake off the innocence we once had about the storms of life, and move forward forever changed.

But that’s me. Other people probably just saw a storm.

Be sure to leave your comment below...and don't forget to order your copy of Libby's Cuppa Joe! CLICK HERE  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Scribbling in the Sun

I know we are all getting excited to have a break in the weather. We’re gearing up to plant flowers in our gardens and eyeing the new summer clothes hanging on racks in our favorite stores. 

Spring came early for me this year.
Scribbling in the Sun

At one of our ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter meetings last fall, a member shared information about a writing conference in February. A cruise leaving out of Miami. I was all in.

Most people think of Florida as one big beach. Or they only know it as the home to Disney World and orange juice. But Florida is so much more. I grew up in Florida. Florida is my home. 

It was fun for me to stay in the family home once more. Before heading to Miami I enjoyed sharing a bit of “old Florida” with my ACFW friends. We picked star fruit from a tree and enjoyed its sweetness. We ate Japanese plums and walked the country roads taking pictures of the flowers and birds. 

The cruise was wonderful and informative. It was time and money well spent. But when I returned to Tampa, I stayed a few days longer than my friends from Ohio. 

I visited with family and high school friends. 
Flowers along the drive
I reconnected with my church family at First Baptist Lutz…the very church where Tom was baptized and we were married. 
I traveled to Dunnellon with my mother to see dear friends who live near the Rainbow River. The river is crystal clear and icy cold.
I ate Cuban sandwiches.
I took long walks.
I scribbled in the sunshine, soaking in every ray I could before heading back to Ohio.

To me, Florida is so much more than beaches and Disney. It is home.

So what did I scribble? Yes, Libby’s Cuppa Joe releases March 8 and I’m excited about that. The early reviews look great. I have two more books at different stages in the works but in preparation for the conference, I crafted a new story. It’s a sweet (read “clean”) romance between a young man and young woman who happen to live in Florida. In a place that looks remarkably similar to my hometown. 

I completed the first and second drafts before the conference. Now I’m sitting in the sunshine by the lake going through the manuscript with a goal to fine-tune and edit. I’ll likely put it aside for a few weeks when I return to Ohio so I can read it with fresh eyes and make even more revisions.

It will be a way I can share “old Florida” with more friends. Friends like you.

So gear up. Spring is coming. Get ready to do your own “scribbling in the sun.” And while you wait, you may want to read Libby’s Cuppa Joe. Grab it HERE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

This Time Last Year...Perspective

I have times in my life where I stop and say, “Wow, this time last year I was …” Of course Facebook nudges people along that path from time-to-time by posting memories “only you can see.” And there are major events that shape us in such a way we forever recognize the date as an anniversary. 

I had one of those moments this week. You see, this time last year I was living in Kosovo. I was teaching fourth grade and this week, this very week one year ago, I went with friends to the celebration of Kosovo’s ten-year anniversary as a nation.

As part of our work in social studies, my fourth graders interviewed people who lived in the region “before the war,” “during the war,” and “after the war.” They interviewed people about what it was like when Kosovo declared independence and the day they officially became a nation. They could do that. I can’t go back and interview people in 1786 about America’s birth as a nation ten years out. 

My students talked with people who lived in the area when it was known as Yugoslavia. They talked with people who lived there through the war years and with others who moved elsewhere during the war, leaving loved ones behind and not knowing if they ever would return. They talked with their parents who were just coming of age when the tiny country raised its flag for the first time.

Some of my students recorded their grandparents talking about their lives. From personal experience I know those recordings and the perspectives their elders have will be treasured.

So why am I posting this now? I’m a writer. I know the power of “story.” When we’re in the midst of living it, we don’t always recognize the power of our own life experiences.

Last week, my youngest daughter needed help with childcare one day. My mother went with me so she could spend some time with two of her eight great grandchildren. They call her GG. It stands for Great Grandmother. 

GG and five-year-old Jo were snuggled together and visiting while we waited for Jo’s sister to come home from school.

Jo said, “GG. You’re a great, great, great grandma.”

“Well, no, I’m a great grandma,” GG said. “I am your mommy’s grandma and your great grandma. When you grow up and have a little girl, then I will be her great, great grandma.”

Jo thought about it for a minute, “But you’ll be died by then, GG.” 

We’ve laughed about it. But the truth is this, our own personal history slips away from us. I want to encourage my readers to write down your story. What events shaped you into the person you are today? Where were you ten years ago? Or even five years ago? 

Where were you this time last year? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Show Me You Love Me

My Sweetheart
For Valentine’s Day I don’t want candy or flowers. Like most women, I really don’t need more stuff. Remember the old saying, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” It’s true. Tom didn’t take me out to eat for Valentine’s Day. We could do that anytime. He didn’t bring me trinkets or glittery cards. He knew me. He showed his love for me every day, not just one day a year. And he supported me in every way. He encouraged me in my education and in my work. He encouraged me in my writing. 

I don’t give much thought to Valentine’s Day anymore. My sweetheart isn’t around. But when asked how I wanted to celebrate this year, I didn’t give my usual reply, “Nothing…I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day.” This time I decided to let my friends and readers know exactly what I want this day (or week) of hearts and flowers and sweets.

I could call this: How to Show An Author You Love Her…or Him

1. Buy a book….No need to go to a bookstore and ponder which one would be best. If you don’t’ have one in mind, click HERE…It will take you to the preorder page for Libby’s Cuppa Joe, my newest novel. (Just sayin’)

2.  After you read a book, leave a review. Reviews are like gold. They don’t have to be long or intricate. “I like it because….” Or “I didn’t like it because…” Be specific. The very reason you didn’t like it may be the reason someone else will want to read it. Numbers count. (Of course if you really don’t like one of my books, I might cry…but only for a minute. It’s your review. Write what you want.)Your review can be on Amazon or Goodreads, for example. 

3.  Tell your friends about the books you read. That can be a post on FB or a Tweet. It could be talking with friends over coffee. You choose. Sharing books with your friends is spreading love all around.

4.  Invite an author to speak for your group or organization. Host a coffee and invite an author to share. 

5.  Ask your book club to read the book. Ask your library to order it.

6.  Show up for events where authors are featured such as bookstore signings and festivals. We love to see those familiar faces.

7.  Donate a copy of the book to your church library.

And if I’m the author on your list? I’d be happy with any of these. Of course I could settle for time spent with you –my readers –and a cup of coffee… And this:  I invite you to share this post with your friends. Just another way to say, "I love you."
Have a Wonderful Week!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

"Lucy...You Got Some Splainin' To Do"

Last week I wrote a blog about “my new romance.” If you didn’t read it, you can find it HEREIt turns out quite a few people did not read the post itself. They read the title.  “Warming Up Winter: A Sweet Romance in My Life”

Responses confirm the notion that a title is powerful. I had messages from friends telling me how happy they were I had found someone. I had people wanting more details about the man and how we met. Many offered words of encouragement and at least one said she was praying for me to find happiness in this new relationship.

But remember, those comments came from people who only read the title.

A great number of people DID read the post to get the real scoop, making it one of my most popular writings on A Novel Creation. Their comments were also interesting and encouraging. Some called me a prankster and said I had fooled them, but most thought it a great introduction to my latest writing venture. Their words were encouraging. 

The result? In the one week since I shared that post and received those comments, I’ve written a little over twenty-six thousand words. That’s over 4300 words a day for six days of writing.

I never write that much in a day. Well, I rarely write that much. It may have happened a time or two. But not several days in a row. 

It could be because I like the story. Or the characters. 

Kendall took this shot of me
 in my "Savannah Office"
It could be because I spent four of those days in Savannah in a nice hotel with no responsibilities during the day except to write to my heart’s content. (Though I will confess to watching a little HGTV since I don’t have cable at home.) The Savannah trip was with my daughter who was busy with a conference during the day.

Those are contributing factors, but I know myself. I have been able to keep the writing momentum going because of the encouraging words of my readers. When someone says, “I can’t wait to read it” or “I’m hooked” I want to write.

When I have people saying, “Write, write, write!” or “Finish, finish, finish!” and “I want to read this!” I want to write.

Your words are powerful. Not just for me but for everyone around you. Positive, encouraging words can create incredible momentum for everyone you know.

So here’s the bottom line…If you want to read this romance novel…keep those encouraging words coming!