Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Truth Behind the 10 Minute Novelist

I belong to several writing groups. One that meets online via Facebook is called 10 Minute Novelists. When I first joined, I wondered what the notion of a ten-minute novelist meant. 
Write a novel in only ten minutes a day? Sure.

Use ten-minute intervals or snatches of time every day? Yes. 

Or was it for writers like me who can only sit still for ten minutes at a time? Of course.

What I found was a community of writers trying to fit in their passion for writing into any bit of time they could carve out of an already busy schedule. 

I found an honest group of writers muddling through the process of writing and publishing and fulfilling their dreams.

I found people willing to share what they were learning in the process. 

I found people who can laugh together as they share an invisible table of snacks via the internet.

I found both experienced and inexperienced authors offering words of wisdom.

I found people not afraid to speculate on possible answers to impossible problems. 

I found authors who celebrate each other’s successes

And I have found friends.

I found people who have prayed with me and over me when my husband died suddenly. I found people who offered me words of encouragement as I struggled to find my way back to writing. I found a group who celebrated any small success I had with the same enthusiasm as the release of a new novel. 

This group reminded me through their support what writing is all about. It’s about sharing our life stories. It’s about creating happily ever after endings if we choose even if they do not match reality. It’s about inventing or reinventing ourselves as we move through life. It’s about appreciating the power of the printed word. It’s about losing yourself in a world you create….for at least ten minutes every day.

Note, A version of this post was shared on the 10 Minute Novelist blog in 2015.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Love is Patient. Love is Kind

This past week we buried my sweet Aunt Ruby. Aunt Ruby was eighty-nine years old. Her health had been failing but she was determined to make it to ninety. She told her doctor as much a few days before her passing. Her body gave out, but her spirit never gave up. 

I was asked to share thoughts about my aunt at the funeral. I decided to share some of those thoughts here as well. I want to honor her and remember her, yes. But in gathering my thoughts on Aunt Ruby, I learned something about myself and the woman I want to be as I walk this life. 

When I first began preparing my talk for my aunt’s funeral, several words and phrases came to mind. Words like “trustworthy” and “hospitable”; phrases like “gentle spirit” and “quiet strength.” 

A Woman of Noble Character
The words that surfaced reminded me of the woman of noble character described in Proverbs 31: 
            “…she brings her husband good and not harm…”
            “…she gets up while it is still dark, she provides food for her family…”
            “…she sets about her work vigorously…”
            “…her lamp does not go out at night…”
            “...she makes clothing for her family and covering for her bed…”
            “…she is clothed with strength and dignity…”
            “she does not eat the bread of idleness…”
“…charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised..”

I share those phases because each one describes my aunt. One would be worth mentioning. Any woman would be honored to be described by one of these phrases, but the truth is that I had to select only a few from the long list in the chapter. Aunt Ruby was a woman of noble character. 

But is There More?
As I was working on what I would say at the service for my aunt, I shared my thoughts with one of my daughters. Aunt Ruby’s life brought to her mind, words from the New Testament in Galatians 5 verse 22 where Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, piece, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

Yep, that’s my Aunt Ruby.

This year, I’ve been working to memorize the twelfth chapter of Romans. In that chapter we are instructed to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer, …and to practice hospitality.”

Yep, that’s my Aunt Ruby.

Patience Learned, Patience Cultivated, Patience Practiced 

But as I went to through the days leading to that point in time when we would all gather to say our final farewell and share our memories of a life well lived, I realized one quality, one trait emerged over and over in the scripture I chose and in my aunt’s life: Patience.

My aunt loved to fish. Fishing takes patience. Aunt Ruby learned patience as she baited the hook, dropped her line in the water and waited. 

She raised a garden to feed her family. Gardening takes patience. Aunt Ruby cultivated patience and demonstrated faith as she planted seeds, watered, waited, weeded and watered and waited some more, watched the plants bloom and waited still longer. Eventually, the vegetables grew and ripened. She’d pick the fruits of her labor to feed her family with fresh bounty as well as preserve the rest for use later. 

Aunt Ruby worked as a seamstress for a high-end dress shop. She altered clothes for customers. Sewing a garment at any level requires patience, but meeting the needs and demands for people who are paying for the service requires a big dose of patience and much needed grace. Fabric can be unforgiving, sewing machines can break, and a job that should take minutes winds up taking hours. I’m sure there were times when my aunt was frustrated, but she put the patience she learned to work for her. She did what she had to do. She was loved and respected by her employer, coworkers and clients.

Patience isn’t necessarily a gift. It is a learned behavior; A behavior or trait to be cultivated and practiced.

Maybe in this instant world we live in. This place where we connect with people instantly all over the world through technology and expect our food to be instantly ready for us when we are hungry.  Maybe in this time when we expect…no when we demand… to have the answers at our fingertips and become frustrated when it doesn’t happen. Maybe we can learn from Aunt Ruby. 

Maybe it’s time we do a little more fishing or plant a garden. 

You see patience is more than something we wish we had or something we wish others around us practiced. Patience is the thread that holds us together.It is the first quality used to describe love in the thirteenth chapter of the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

“Love is patient, love is kind.” I Corinthians 13:4

Thank you, Aunt Ruby for helping me to see this. Thank you for a life well lived.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Sneak Peek: Behind the Scenes

Libby's Cuppa Joe is 6 Months Old This Month! 
In celebration of Libby's birthday, I decided to take my readers behind the scenes of Libby’s Cuppa Joe
I’m often asked about where I get the idea for a story. The ideas for me are easy. I look around and imagine the story behind what makes a person think and act the way they do. But crafting a story? Crafting takes research. Come with me behind the scenes in the crafting of Libby’s Cuppa Joe.
The Setting Libby’s Cuppa Joe takes place in a coffee shop in Door County, Wisconsin. I had visited Door County as a tourist. To assure accuracy, I researched the Wisconsin peninsula on-line. I gathered information about the calendar of events in the communities there and used a map to think through the places and roads my characters would travel.
The Coffee Shop Running a coffee shop is a bit beyond the skills I acquired with my Mr. Coffee. While I enjoy drinking coffee and love the ambience of a quaint coffee shop when I’m traveling, I was clueless about what goes on in the commercial kitchen. I first contacted a friend who runs the coffee shop at the university where I taught. He gave me great technical advice. I found trade shows available for the industry online. Although I couldn’t afford such events, I gleaned great information and good questions from the websites and promotional materials. I took those questions to a sweet couple operating a coffee shop near where I lived in Florida during the writing of the book. 
The Cookies I knew I wanted to serve sweets in Libby’s Cuppa Joe coffee shop. I started with what I knew. I baked coffee cakes and cinnamon rolls. I decided these foods, though delicious, weren’t cost effective for my main character, Sonja Parker, who is, like me, learning the business. I settled on a recipe my mother gave me for Breakfast Cookies. I baked them and tried adding ingredients to make them even more special. My husband loved this part of the research and encouraged me to continue my work!
Kringle My daughter lives in Wisconsin. A pastry common to the area where she lives is called kringle. The traditional kringle is made with an almond paste though more contemporary versions are filled with fruit. This research proved to be messy. I had flour and sticky dough everywhere. My finished version of the flaky crust may not have looked pretty, but it was delicious. Since I had trouble making it, I knew Sonja would find it difficult. I brought help in by way of a young woman named Melissa. She helped Sonja in the coffee shop not only in creating the intricate kringle pastry, but to offer kindness and love to Sonja who most certainly needed it.
Grab Your Copy Here!
Character Names Sometimes readers ask me about the names I choose for characters. One rule of thumb writers often use is to make sure main characters don’t have names that begin with the same letter. We don’t like to confuse our readers. I have two other little tricks up my sleeve. I determine the ages of my characters then decide what year they were born. On the internet I can find popular names for that year. I used that for several of my characters in Libby’s Cuppa Joe. I chose Sonja’s name for two reasons. I looked for a name that was both popular for her age but also indicative of the European heritage of many of the people who settled Wisconsin.
A Power Outage It is important for characters to face stress from time to time. I read of a couple of power outages in Door County so I threw one Sonja’s way. I made it happen in winter and caused the freezing conditions to break pipes in her establishment. What a mess. I’m not a plumber and had to do quite a bit of digging to figure out what Sonja had done wrong when she closed her shop for the winter months and what she had to do to fix it.
The Kenosha Connection I have Sonja visit with her parents in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She visits the library there, goes to the doctor and to church. I don’t need to use my imagination for this one. Here is the “behind the scenes” fact: My daughter lives in Kenosha. My visits there helped me in the crafting of Libbys Cuppa Joe.

How Libby Got Her Name When I started writing the book I researched names as I said before. One of the names I found for the year the original proprietor of the coffee shop was born was Shirley. I have a cousin named Shirley so I thought it a good way to give a nod to her. I started the writing of Shirley’s Cuppa Joe. I wasn’t far into it when my youngest daughter said she would pass over a book with that title. She thought I needed a more contemporary name. I put the problem out to readers of my blog. There were several options offered. One was “Livvy.” I changed it slightly to become Libby and tested it with my readers. I’ll find a new way to nod to my cousin.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Downton Abbey Within Me

The Downton Abbey movie is scheduled for release later this month. Some of my friends and I are already planning to go to the theater the minute it opens. In light of recent conversations I’ve had with my friends, it seemed appropriate to share this post. Disclaimer: I first crafted this Downton Abbey post for Karen Wingate’s blog Grace on Parade five years ago.
Another Disclaimer:
Not Downton Abbey
but a church in Budapest.
I liked it.
Accepting Who You Are….Gracefully
(and realizing it’s a blessing)

I recently took one of those silly on-line quizzes to find out which Downton Abbey character I would be were I living in that era. Silly, because the quiz asked questions such as “Which color do you prefer?” Easy. Which animal do I like? No problem. Which gift card would I like to receive? Piece of cake. 

Some of the questions were a bit harder for me. For example, the quiz put up pictures and titles of movies and music albums and asked me to select my favorite for each of those categories. I hadn’t heard of most of them. And there was the question about which adult drink I preferred. Since water wasn’t a choice and I don’t drink alcoholic beverages, I picked one that looked pretty.

Obviously, the quiz is not based on sound scientific research principles. I knew enough about research to know I shouldn’t trust the results. But there it was. Only a few clicks away I discovered I was not Lady Mary –a character whose quiet ways I admire, but rather, Daisy Mason, scullery maid turned assistant cook.

I was devastated. I envisioned myself living in the main house with an elegant room upstairs. Instead, I was destined to do what I’ve done for most of my life: get up early, cook for my family, clean up the kitchen, work hard, and try to do what I’m told to do. 

Others taking the test were reporting their results on social media. Hmm…better to act as if I didn’t take the quiz than to admit to my lowly state, right?

I was silent. Then I watched the final episode of Downton Abbey for the season and the verses from Proverbs 31 came to mind. I opened my Bible. This description of a wife of noble character says “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family…” (v.15) and “She sets about her work vigorously…” (v.17) “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”(v. 20) “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (v. 27)

And think about verses 28-30. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Maybe Daisy isn’t such a bad choice for me. I would like to be known for having a servant’s heart. I work hard and I try to be obedient to God. Daisy? I may not know much about music and movies, but I know I prefer coffee and cookies over tea and crumpets. Breakfast cookies to be exact…maybe I’ll head back to the kitchen… I guess it worked out after all. 

By the way, the recipe for Breakfast Cookies is found in the novel
They are delicious! Trust me!