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Saturday, December 26, 2015

How Do You Spend The Day After Christmas?


'Tis the day after Christmas, and several of my neighbors are doing target practice, getting familiar with their new 'toys.' At times, it sounds like a couple of them are firing cannons. The sounds of gunshot are coming from at least four or five different directions.

With all this firearm paraphernalia nearby, I don't know whether to feel threatened or protected. I consider myself fortunate that distance and forest isolate me from all that activity. Hopefully, only sound can travel the distance from their targets to me.

I'm wondering, when someone sets up a target for practice, do they take into account the distance a stray bullet will travel? So far, I've not heard the sound of a bullet whizzing past. In the past however, I have had that experience.  Another neighbor two houses over decided to warn away a stray dog with gunshot. I just happened to be in the bullet's line of travel. My yell got his attention and he quickly did a disappearing act.

So far no bullets have come my way but we have discovered a number of golf balls in the past. A neighbor used to set up in his back yard to practice his drive. He had a powerful swing and managed to send  golf balls across a half-acre field, the road, and into my front yard.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Morning Musings

Unseasonable weather drew me to the front porch for my morning coffee time. Through a gap in the treeline, I watched brisk, southerly winds drag high clouds across the sky. A gray overcast sky foretold of rains predicted for later in the day.

The calm surrounding me as I sway to and fro on the porch swing holds a multitude of sounds. To the west, a distant train signalled its approach to a country road crossing. A few minutes later, my neighbor's rooster crowed out its morning call. And overhead, a squirrel chittered down at my two black cats, Sammi and Midnight, as they maintained the distance between them all the while vying for my attention.

'Shalom' reads the sign hung from the arbor designating entrance to our front yard. My talented husband built the structure some years back after I put in a request. With only a picture to guide him, he used natural materials from our land to construct it. The sign was a joint project and peace really is a constant companion here on my country acreage. Frequently, new visitors will comment on the peace they feel upon stepping into my world.

But, living in the country also has its disadvantages. Neighbors are far enough away that I have no clear view of their houses. Stormy weather often brings a disruption in our electric and phoning supply. We must travel distances for any shopping or recreational needs, which is sometimes annoying.  I'm thankful for the recent advent of internet service, making purchases online available. It does simplify shopping, epecially for larger, once-in-a-lifetime purchases.

Some would bemoan the inaccessibility of culture and entertainment venues such as movies and museums, but one soon learns to find pleasure in the simpler pleasures country living offers. There are fields and forests to explore, with something new to discover all the time. The fleeting glimpse of deer browsing in the distance, the buzz of various birds that congregate at our feeders, coming unexpectedly upon an unknown flower blooming in the wild—all these occurrences and more bring a rewarding feeling.

Well, that first cup of coffee is finished; time to move about and get the day started. So, the welcome doormat is out if you ever have need to pause in your busy city life. Stop by and we'll sit together on the front porch, enjoying life.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Exlploring New Creative Worlds

I've been exploring a different area of my creativity lately. I recently took up the pursuit of oil painting after an absence of over forty years. The last time I picked up a brush was previous to the birth of my second son who is now forty-eight. My, how time flies!


Above is a painting completed when I attended a painting party sponsored by a local community action group, LoveBig Sandy. It was a fun time and very helpful in building my confidence.

Earlier that day, I stopped at a shop called Art World www.artworldLongview.com and spent a half-hour asking questions and getting technique tips. Susan was really gracious and helpful. They also offer what they call an 'open class' where anyone is welcome to come spend a couple hours painting under a teacher's supervision and assistance. I'm considering attending a time or two if my schedule allows.

In the meantime, I've been dabbling on my own. My little cabin has had to 'stretch' a bit to accommodate this new pursuit. I'm also realizing the need to re-learn everything I ever knew about painting with oils.

And how is my writing doing, I hear you ask? The latest novel, Not Bound By Blood, is presently in the editor's hands and I'm anticipating a contract from my publisher with the goal of a spring 2016 publication. The second in my series of fictionalized biographies for Young Readers, temporarily titled Harriet Tubman, is still in critiquing mode. However, now distracted by this new venture, I have yet to begin writing the third in the series based on the life of Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy.

The energy and enthusiasm for my newest stress-reliever has fueled a new project - I've begun the task of doing the illustrations for a proposed children's book; a story about this ramshackle old man who lives in a ramshakle house and his adventures with uninvited guests. 

In the meantime, here are a couple oil paintings I've indulged myself with the past few weeks.
                           

 This last is still a work in progress.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Meet Midnight

Now, for all you extreme animal lovers,you probably won't want to read this posting.

Meet Midnight, the cat that recently adopted us. I didn't name her - a relative visiting from out of town, who shall remain nameless, gave that name to the cat.

It was early last Monday morning. I was headed for the toolshed to find a replacement coupling to fix a broken hose.  A car-load of family members had driven in (two hours, one way) to give my husband and I a hand with yard chores we hadn't been able to keep up with. Chore of the day were the huge piles of deadwood gathered beyond the pines to be burned. When I released water to the connected hose extended to the burn area, it broke.

I spotted a solid black cat nearby as I approached the toolshed. Thinking it was our current resident, I called out a hello to Sammi. But when it rose and stretched, I saw my mistake. Sammi came to us as a rescue kitten with a stub tail. I never knew the circumstances of that deformity. This cat was smaller and had a long luxurious tail. It followed me back to the group where the cat-lovers there made a big fuss over it. In fact, it followed me everywhere that day, dogging my footsteps and causing me to stumble a couple times.

Now, I knew adding a second cat to our household was a no-no. I tried to ignore it even though it showed much affection toward whomever allowed it in their lap. All day long, that cat remained the center of attention.

Company left at the end of the day, but not that cat. It was right there at my back door the next morning, and the next morning, and the next morning. Entering my house became a battle because that cat was swift to take advantage of the slow-closing screen door. A couple times it slipped past despite my efforts. Then I had to catch it quick and put it out before I opened the door to the main part of the house.

Meanwhile, Sammi, who usually asked to go out and would be through the open door in a flash, got the surprise of her life. When confronted by this strange cat just outside the door, its hissing intimidated our cat who tucked tail and retreated. We resorted to Sammi exiting by the front door until this cat figured that out and managed to play keep-away there also. Would you believe it became necessary to distract the stranger at the back door while my husband let Sammi either in or out at the  front door?

Anyone who lives in the country knows dropped-off animals are a regular occurence - all of our pets over the years have been rescued strays. Don't feed it and it will go somewhere else...right? By Thursday I couldn't stand it any longer...I opened a can of cat food.

For the past three days of steady drizzle,that cat has remained just outside the back door. It perches on top of the wooden box covering the faucet, protected by the roof's over-hang. A whole week later, Midnight is still making its presence known every time anyone approaches the back door. Today an empty box has been set up in the corner for additional shelter.

Please,someone, take this cat home with you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanks-giving Post


Could not let the day end without sharing some of the things I'm thankful for. Many of you have been blessed to spend this day and share a meal surrounded by family and/or friends. For as many years as I can remember, it's been my husband and my custom to drive a hundred miles to be with extended family on this special day.However, this year is different. Because of diminishing health, my husband can no longer make the journey. 

This year we spent our day and enjoyed a simplified Thanksgiving meat at home, just the two of us. Over the years, I've reduced the effort required to prepare our meals. I no longer browse cookbooks or collect recipies. 

But, today I went the extra mile. My day started with the making of a sweet potato pie, using a fantastic recipe given to me years ago by a dear friend from Georgia. Earlier this week, I'd purchased a Cornish hen as a substitute for turkey knowing it would be ample for the two of us. A cup of stuffing made with bread crumbs and an assortment of seasonings filled the cavity to fullness. It provided just enough stuffing for two.

Next came a dish of peas and carrots swimming in Bernaise Sauce. Actually, the sauce was a left-over from a previous meal but made the vegetables just a bit more special.

When I check the pantry shelf, I was disappointed not to find a can of jellied cranberry sauce. This is a staple in our household; we eat it all year round.

I thought about rolls - always keep some on hand in the freezer - but decided it might be a deterrent to dessert.

And so, with a half-glass of wine to wash it all down, we sat and enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal. 

As the day comes to an end, I've come to the realization that attitude is everything. I could have made myself miserable and my husband feel guilty because of changed circumstances. Instead I chose to do what I could to make the day pleasant...and enjoyed myself doing so.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Its Way

Well, it's official. My latest work is finally in the publisher's hands. I've chosen to send it toWhite Bird Publications, a mid-sized publishing house that has done such an excellent job on several of my recent releases.

Titled Not Bound By Blood, this novel is about two girls with totally different ambitions who connect in high school and despite sometimes being separated by continents, maintain a life-long friendship.

As is normal for me, this novel doesn't drop easily into a recognizable genre. So it will probably be categorized as women's fiction. Those familiar with my work know I am not a "genre"author. My stories are driven by ordinary characters who experience extrordinary circumstances in their lives.

Also in the early developments is a children's story/coloring book. More about that later.

With Not Bound By Blood on its way, I can now concentrate on a historical figure who captured my attention some months back. Right now I'm in the research stage...no words on paper yet. But soon will come that excitng time when I set about recording the extraordinary life of Belle Boyd, A Confederate Spy. I'm including a link to http://www.biography.com/people/belle-boyd if I've peaked your interest.

Belle Boyd, A Confederate Spy will be the third  fictionalized biography in my series for Young Readers. She  accompanies George Washington and Harriet Tubman...both already completed. Pretty good company, if I say so myself.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Choice of Drink


I get teased a lot about my penchant for coffee. I'm one of the lucky ones that can start my day with a cup of hot brew, drink several cups a day, and like to end my day with a steaming cup with none the bad side effects many people experience. Not to defend myself, but only to satisfy my own curiosity, I took a few minutes to look into the product that is such an important part of my life.

Caffeine, I found out, is a naturally occuring drug that is found in coffee, tea, and drugs. Colas have caffeine added to give these drinks a little "zip." Decaffeinated coffee have some of the caffeine removed; they still contain at least 2%. The first decaffeinated coffee was Sanka, a contraction of the French term sans caffeine. A cup of brewed coffee contains up to 180 mgs of caffeine. Instant coffee (which I drink at home) contains roughly two-thirds as much, and teas even less. Noncola drinks such as Mountain Dew contains 53 mgs.

Did you know caffeine is used in aspirins and acetaminophens to enhance their painkilling abilities? When ingested, caffeine's full effects are felt within fifteen to forty-five minutes and leaves the blood stream after five or six hours. The British have it right. The best time of day to have a cup of coffee or tea is at the traditional "tea time." Your body's internal clock is peaking around 4:00 p. m.

Recent medical research has touted some of the health benefits of caffeine. I won't go into the details; you can go to this site if interested: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270202.php Coffee may be protective against type 2 diabetes. Coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson's; coffee consumption can lower the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver; and drinking coffee in moderation protects against heart failure. 

Now, excuse me. It's time for my nightcap...coffee, of course.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Darning Needle...Huh?



I was stopped for a light while driving home from a town run and caught sight of a dragonfly zooming through my file of vision. When growing up, I always heard them called 'darning needles.' This turned on my curiosity switch so I've been checking out the origins for both names.

One piece of folklore that does seem to ring true is the "Devil's Darning Needle", a name used to frighten 
small children with the threat of having their mouths sewn shut if they misbehaved.

A species of insects that have inhabited our planet for almost 300 million years, dragonflies and their family 

belongs to the Odonata family. Odonata comes from the Greek word for tooth as Odonates were believed 

to have teeth. While dragonflies don’t have ‘teeth,’ they have strong mandibles that they use to crush their 

prey. 


The dragonfly normally lives most of its life as a nymph or an immature. It flies only for a fraction of its life 

and usually not more than a few months. The dragonfly can move at an amazing 45 miles an hour; hover like

 a helicopter fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side.The dragonfly’s 

scurrying flight across water is thought to represent going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the 

deeper implications and aspects of life.

As a predator, they eat many insects that might plague your home and yard, including mosquitoes, houseflies,ants and bees. including  In China, people associate the dragonfly with prosperity, harmony and as a good luck charm.

However, the origin of their name is a bit of mystery.  In a book written by Eden Emanuel Sarot in 1958 
entitled Folklore of the Dragonfly: A Linguistic Approach he theorized that the name dragonfly actually 

came about because of an ancient Romanian Folktale.According to Sarot, the peasantry of that time actually 

viewed the Devil’s Horse as a giant fly and that they may have started referring to it as the ‘Devil’s Fly’ 

(instead of Devil’s Horse). He stated that the Romanian word for Devil was "drac," but that drac was also 

the Romanian word for dragon.


My thanks to http://www.dragonfly-site.com/meaning-symbolize.html#sthash.im6T940z.dpuf for supplying 

much of this information. Now you know more about dragonflies than you ever wanted to know, right?

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Necessary Evil

I've spent the past two days revising my latest work-in-progress, Not Bound By Blood. Other than a mild case of eye-strain, I've survived. I may need to go through the manuscript one more time, focusing on something obvious my reader pointed out--an excessive use of the word 'as.'

We authors all appear to have our favorite word, or overuse some familiar form of sentence structure. At one time, mine was that ubiquitous word 'that' and it took a bit of vigilance to break myself of the habit. So, apparently, this is another little quirk I need to bring under control.

Did I hear someone ask what Not Bound By Blood was about? Happy to oblige. I conceive of the novel as a story of a life-long friendship. It begins in high school when Blanche LaRue and Miriam Meyer meet. Blanche is a flamboyant redhead whose all-consuming goal is to become a world-famous actress. Miriam is a long-distance runner who is discovered while still a teen. With a teacher's encouragement and a lot of training, she qualifies for the Olympics which are held in Berlin in 1929.

The story idea began when I came across something about Betty Robinson who won the first Olympic 100 meter for women.  I'm not sure how Blanche insinuated herself into the story,but you know how sneaky some of these characters are. 

I actually began writing this story in 2000; got a couple hundred pages written then got halted in the writing because of the difficulty of taking these two friends, one in small-town America, the other in a Broadway production appearing in Paris at the time of its occupation, through the war.

The manuscript sat on a shelf for years until I made the decision this year to finish writing their story. What I'll do with it next is anybody's guess.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ah-h-h...What To Do?


Spoke with a friend who is in an envious position. Her novel is near to publication and she's considering her choices. A couple agents have expressed already interest in acquiring her work (multiple novels actually.) A mid-press publisher is awaiting her possible submission...and she's even working toward the possibility of self-publishing by acquiring a book cover design of her choice.

My how the book publishing industry has changed in recent years. When I first stepped into these swirling waters many years ago, the acceptable practice for someone seeking their primary book publication was to first acquire an agent. That was because most major publishing houses had notorious rejection records for what was then called 'over the transom' submissions.

Back then, agents held immense power and never lacked for new clients so they could be selective when taking on new ones. It was a catch-22 situation - you couldn't get accepted without an agent and agents were difficult to acquire.

The advent of digital publishing has turned the publishing industry upside-down and 'those that were' are now scrambling to maintain their toe-hold in the industry. With the blooming of self-publishing, the walls have come tumbling down even more.

My friend expressed anxiety about getting published because of her age but with authors more in control of their project's future, even that hindrance has dissipated. If you've got the energy to do the required, there's no need to prove your eligibility to become an income-producing machine for others anymore.

The really important factor to success is a well-crafted work and passion for your book. In this new world of publishing, there's no telling how far those two factors will take you.

By the way - if you're looking for a quick read, my collection of short stories, The Stirred Pot, just came back into print (courtesy of CreateSpace, of course.) http://www.amazon.com/Stirred-Pot-Collection-Short-Stories/dp/1517070104/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1445097126&sr=1-1&keywords=gay+ingram

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When In Doubt...

Sometime a blog topic will just scream to be written. Then, there are times like this week when all thoughts of writing anything are buried beneath a heavy to-do list. So, I came to this site today rather empty-headed. Duh! Did I just say that about myself? Oh well, if the shoe fits....

When the brain goes blank, I can always fall back on a  reliable practice ...I will count a few blessings I experienced this week.
  1. For my birthday, on Tuesday, which turned out to be a day of rest and relaxation in the midst of a very hectic week. My Facebook friends showered me with over 100 best wishes for which I am quite thankful.
  2. For my supportive and considerate husband who overcame his present condition's restrictions and arranged for me to receive a lovely basket of flowers on that special day.
  3. For the competent and capable talents of a young man who spent eleven hours over two days assisting me in cleanup efforts. Well, to be honest, I assisted him. I admire his confidence in keeping the machinery operating so the five dead trees lying across the fence were cut up and hauled away. 
  4. For the encouraging words from my first reader of the recently completed novel Not Bound By Blood. This project started way back in 2000.
  5. For the strength and endurance to complete the gathering of brush piles and loading them on the trailer. After a summer spent mostly at a computer, it was good to be physically active again. Losing three pounds over those two days was a good thing also.
Looking back, it certainly was a busy week; I even managed to fit in three meetings and a trip to Tyler lastly on Friday to get hubby enrolled in the Veterans' Medical Services program.

And perhaps, there will be time to start the research for a future project next week.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Remember Mai Lin?

I just took the time to look at responses by readers of my  latest, Mai Lin. Perhaps you'll be interested in what they said about this story.

"This is a wonderful book written in period. I love how well the characters are developed, especially Mai Lin. This is the kind of book that once you pick it up, you won't want to put it down until you're finished."  Ruthie at www.facebook.com/clark.ruthie?fref=ts

"A wonderfully entertaining read told from the viewpoint of nine year old Mai Lin as she grows up.By ladycamper 

"Mai Lin's story is poignant. Mrs.Ingram did a fabulous job taking me to San Francisco right before the earth quaked in 1906" from Phyllis A. Still.

"Mai Lin: Another New Beginning by Gay Ingram is an easy, comfortable novel drawing the reader into the life of an eight year old Chinese girl." ByGaland Fox Nuchols

And one more from a male perspective: "I loved reading this book. I could picture this book as it was playing like a movie in my mind. Everything from the earth shake to people running through the streets just as if I was in a movie theatre watching it on the big screen.." By Steven

O'm ever so grateful for those readers who took the time to post a review. Thanks, folks!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tweaking Tips

In recent months, I've spent a good amount of time editing manuscripts from several growing-in-the-craft writers. Their subject matter covers several different genres but its come to my attention there are a few things in common. Below I've listed some pointers we all need to remember when we are writing or revising.

  • It's important to read lots of good writing to assimilate a rich vocabulary and absorb what good writing is all about. The correct word to use is not always the first that comes to mind.

  • Forget the exclamation marks. If your scene's actions are power-packed, the reader with feel the emotion implied.

  • Long sentences generally slow down the story's pace. Do you really need to join those two thoughts with an 'and'?

  • Don't just move your characters physically through the action, show how it affects them. Readers want to feel along with your characters.
  • Don't forget dialog is important but people usually move about while speaking
Sometimes it's the not so obvious changes that make all the difference. So, keep on tweaking.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Is It Fall Yet?


Can you believe it? Here we are approaching the final week in September, and my part of the country is still experiencing ninety-degree days with no rain in sight. The leaves are leaving their trees crisp and  brown--no fall color show this year.  The crunch of dead leaves underfoot is a sure indicator that fall-like weather will eventually arrive...that, and advertisements for the up-coming Yamboree in nearby Gilmer.

Whether we see fall weather or not, the calendar is saying NANO is just around the corner. Shall I try my hand or will I pass it up this year? Can't decide. Not that there isn't a possible writing project on a back burner. In fact, my stack of research books on the coffee table is just waiting for me to make time to dig in.

For some weeks, its been editing the manuscripts of several clients that has occupied my time. I've enjoyed the challenge of reading genres that I'm not personally interested in writing myself. But you never know, I might just rise to the challenge sometime in the future.

In fact,  I received a phone call today from someone inquiring as to the possibility of ghostwriting a true crime. I agreed to look over the material but not sure I'm the writer for the job. I'd be interested in feedback from my readers. What do you think?

I'm finally getting the hang of my new Notebook. I've found it quite convenient for working in comfortable positions rather than at a desk...like stretched out in bed. In fact, since my better half is glued to the TV, I think I'll make a quick retreat to the bedroom and add a few lines to my daily pages. Happy writing and reading, everyone!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Funny How Time Flies

A reminder from blogger-extraordinaire Renee Groskreutz reminded me of the need to visit with you folks more often. Seems like the more years a person acquires, the quicker they fly by. Wasn't it just yesterday I posted about playing catch-up?

Perhaps I can blame the cooler temperatures for distracting me, enticing me out of doors to do repairs to the damage done to garden beds inflicted by our heat-searing summer. 

Or perhaps the life-changing installation of a ramp by the fabulous volunteers of the non-profit organization, Texas Ramps this past Saturday took all my attention. The weather-resistant ramp will now give my incapacitated husband access to the out-of-doors. Why just yesterday he attempted to achieve his immediate goal of making it as far as the tractor shed with the aid of his rollator. Unfortunately, he only made it three-quarters of the way before running out of air and energy. But there's always tomorrow.

But enough about the twists and turns that life brings me - what you probably are more interested in is what's going on in the writing part of my life. I'm pleased to announce that I've been wearing my editor's hat pretty steadily recently. Three new clients keep me engaged and on my toes.This is an occupation that brings me much satisfaction - helping new writers learn the craft of writing and helping them polish their works in progress.

At the moment, my writing hat is on the shelf, taking a breather after the consuming work of completing Not Bound By Blood. That manuscript is now in the hands of a reader as I anxiously await reactions and feedback for my efforts.

But not to fear, another project is in the works. I've ordered several reference books to start research on a fictional biography of Belle Boyd, a teen-age Confederate spy. Her story will be the third fictional biography for Young Readers. It joins George Washington; From Boy Surveyor to Soldier and Harriet Tubman. Hoping to publish all three as a trilogy to a major publishing house.

One can hope, can't one?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Playing Catch-Up

Yes, it has been a bit of a while since my last posting here.

Yes, life's events did manage to interrupt and cause me to travel a new highway.

It's been a bit stressful as we adjust to my husband's recovery from lung cancer and his new lifestyle.Suffice it to say, it's become necessary for me to carry a bigger load of the daily routines and chores. This has eaten into the time I have available for pursuing my interests such as writing, social media and blogging.

But...he has made baby steps back even though I have to accept he will never be able to do the things he used to do. Things like working with wood in his barn, crafting small furniture and odd things. Things like driving the big tractor that has been parked for over a year and a half except for the one time our son did some emergency brush-hogging close to the house area. There will be no more tree-cutting or firewood splitting for this man.

And that has been a hard adjustment to make. There was a long period in the beginning when I questioned whether he could maintain his will to live because of how useless and helpless he felt.Hey! When you can't even tie your own shoes, that's a pretty hard adjustment to make.

So he's made some progress, gotten the slipping-away pounds stabilized. With the help of physical therapy, learned the exercises needed to rebuild his strength until finally he's able to get beyond the back door and walk as far as the birdbath and feeder to keep those filled. That's real progress, folks!

And now that he can do more for himself again, I perhaps can get back to what I love doing the best...writing and sewing blankets for the homeless. Just have to do it in blocks of time when he doesn't need my presence. Life is a series of adjustments, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Getting Back Into The Groove


Busy, busy, busy...isn't everyone these days?

But now that the 2015 NETWO Writers' Conference is over and done with -- and for those that attended, wasn't it a powerhouse of information and marvelous presenters? I'm always delighted to hear from experts in the writing/publishing world and to meet new folks traveling this journey with me.

Then I've had to contend with the personal challenge of a husband in and out of the hospital a couple times since the first of the year and taking over some of the chores I always depended upon him to get done.

Now, I've got to get geared up for the approaching release of my latest, Mai Lin: Another New Beginning, which has a release date of May 12th. Anyone who's had a book published recently knows the promo and marketing has been dumped in the author's lap.

I say all that to ask you, my subscribers, if I have your consent to add your email address to a mailing list. I'm hoping to make use of the services of Mailchump to help get the word out about Mai Lin. I hope you'll all take a moment to respond with a hearty "Yes."

Another of my goals is to become more consistent on this blog with a desire to share with you something of interest and informative, I hope, at least once a week. Hearing from you about how I'm doing will be a tremendous encouragement.

So for now I'll close with this tidbit from Sol Stein: "In our daily work and play, our senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell define the world for us. Don't let your senses atrophy; don't take your senses for granted."
         

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Another Promotional Venture

Recently I was invited to come speak about my books and life as an author to the 20th Century Club in Gilmer. This was a new experience for me. Even after all these years, I still fight to overcome my reluctance to talk to strangers about myself.

The group of ladies were so warm and welcoming that I soon felt at ease. They had asked me to talk specifically about Troubled Times, a novel that had been written and published quite a few years back. In fact, this is the book that took me to visit my alma mater Norwich Free Academy to address the joint high school classes there. But that's another story. Perhaps at a later date I'll write about the book tour I arranged.

With no prepared notes other than the selection of a couple passages I'd decided to share from the book, I rambled on about the story I chose to tell and my motivation for telling it. A bit intimidating for this transplanted Yankee to be explaining to a roomful of Southern Belles.

But that familiar Southern graciousness filled the room and when the questions came, it pleased me to hear such thoughtful responses.

All in all, it was an enjoyable experience, especially the delicious spread urged upon me after the meeting. Most especially rewarding was the eagerness to own copies of my books which I just happened to bring with me.

And to think, this all came about because a fellow author had invited me months previously to set up a display of my books at her store when the town was holding a special event.

It all comes down to taking advantage of the opportunities offered and never let your personal sense of inadequacies hold you back.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Lost Weekend


Finally breathing normal after the fabulous mini-vacation I had last weekend. Above is a photo of Rosevine Inn, a bed & breakfast located in nearby Tyler, Texas but the picture only hints at what this place offers. My sister and I spent two nights there and enjoyed the most relaxing, comfortable, hospitable place I've ever had occasion to stay at.

She drove from San Antonio just to share this marvelous experience with me. The whole package, rental car, gift card for expenses, and two nights at a bed & breakfast for the both of us was a generous, loving Christmas present to my sister from her family. Whoopee!

Owners Becca & Bert built the place in 1986 and over time have perfected the art of hospitality. Decorated to have the feel of a 1930's home, Rosevine Inn offers its guests all the modern amenities with a lot of fun surprises. Who would believe a fully-functional player piano, which I spied soon after entering. The host, Bert, immediately pulled out rolls of perforated paper and soon had the instrument tinkling out old familiar tunes.

The weather didn't co-operate to allow our indulging in the hot tub but some of the other guests did enjoy a lively game of Bocce. More fun times were to be had in the two-story red barn on the property whose game room included a pool table, board games, and an area to relax around a fabulous stone fireplace. 

Most special were the sumptuous and delicious breakfasts, served at our convenience. We spent our free time  shopping, indulging at Starbucks and of course, sampling a few of Tyler's fine restaurants. All in all, a great time of relaxing and unwinding was had by both of us.

It was hard to leave on Monday morning, but duty called and reluctantly we returned to our waiting families. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cool as a Cucumber


Cucumbers are one of my favorite summer vegetables.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Cool here means imperturbable rather than having a low temperature. Being calm and composed, self-possessed in a stressful situation.

The phrase ‘cool as a cucumber’ (c.1732) embodies ancient folk knowledge that was confirmed by science in 1970. The inside of a field cucumber on a warm day is 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature.

The phrase was first recorded in John Gay's Poems, New Song on New Similies, 1732: "I ... cool as a cucumber could see the rest of womankind." http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/38500...

The term “cool as a cucumber” is actually derived from the cucumber’s ability to cool the temperature of the blood. Also when applied topically, cucumber really does cool the blood and eases facial swelling, which is why cucumbers are so popular in facial regimens. This information came from http://www.thetowndish.com/2013/07/15/10-facts-you-didnt-know-about-cucumbers/

This site also informed me that if you have a hard time drinking your eight glasses of water per day, try munching on some cucumbers. They are made up of 95% water! And remember, place slices of cucumbers over your eyes to smooth that puffiness!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Like Blogging


Never said I would admit this,but I like blogging. I've been told a blog is simply the best, fastest, and easiest way to create your online persona. Well, only time will tell if that's true or not.

I've learned your blog posts should all serve larger goals. Aimless blogging is almost as bad as not blogging at all. So I'm going to try and focus on particular topics, such as writing, odd sayings of our English language or other things that influence my writing. Maybe even something a bit more personal once in a while. 

It's been said more people will enjoy reading it if the writing is more approachable. Try to include glimpses of your personality in your writing to make them feel more comfortable with you.

Advice is to be organized really well. I chose a working title that opens the door to a variety of subjects and hints at the sometimes incongruity of situations.

Other recommendations are: don't copy-and-paste and not give credit where credit is due. I must remember to link back to the actual page from when I capture the information I share. To cite someone's content on Twitter, I can just include a "via @username". If I publish a post from a guest blogger, I should always mention the guest blogger's name, give them a short bio, and  include a link to their website.

Most importantly, I need to take the time to shape up my post. Preview the post and fix any typos, run-on sentences, or accidental its/it's mistakes. 

I must keep reminding myself that there will always be more things I can do to make my posts better. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks



Words and paper go together like ham and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, Mom and apple pie. The cave painters of the Neolithic Age use earth walls, the Egyptians invented papyrus. For eons, man has been putting marks on a solid surface or paper in an effort to communicate.
 In my opinion, nothing can replace the scratching sound of a pen on paper, the march of black marks across a blank line, the heft of a bound book, or the rustle of a turning page.
Then came the digital revolution and the's tilt shifted a little more, gained a bit more of a lean.
Now we find ourselves awash in a flood-tide of instant communicating, black markings on a white screen that can  morph in a blink of an eye into four-color images. Combinations of symbols and letters now replace a well-constructed sentence as we feverishly expend energy and consume time, trying to verify our existence and remain a constant in others' consciousness.
As an author, I still choose written words to communicate, to share with others what is important to me, to allow others a glimpse into life as I experience it. I fear I will never relinquish that simple act of taking pen in hand and using ink on paper to express my thoughts.
Although I realize I must move with the times, use the tools of the present as I do at this moment on my computer's keyboard...but, dang! It's hard for an old dog to learn new tricks.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

A to Z of Branding

There's a lot of advice out there for those who are newly published. One of the "hip" suggestions you hear frequently is the need to create your BRAND. Following are some of the means available to accomplish that goal.

Authenticity – nothing but the true you
Blog – an insightful website
Content – valuable content
Define your audience – focus on their needs
Email List – develop one and use it
Focus – define your brand and focus on niche audience
Graphic – create classy, tasteful design s
Help Others – find ways to be helpful to others
Influencers - seek out leaders and be of value to them
Join – find and join groups; get involved
Keywords – to help Googlers, build a list of keywords and use often
LiinkedIn – a have-to for professionals
Media – identify most useful to you and use them
Network – make connections locally, regionally and globally; spread your business card
Opine – make your stand known; don’t be bland
Questions – ask for help, ideas; be a good listener
Recognize – acknowledge everyone who assist your success
Slogan – create a catchy phrase that expresses what you have to offer
Teach – build your brand by becoming a trusted teacher
Understand triggers – learn the importance of reaching emotions
Voice – develop a unique voice
Win Friends – the key to word-of-mouth publicity
eXamine – analyze your results and build on successful attempts
You – write conversationally; “you’ is the reader
Zeal – nothing creates success like enthusiasm

I don't recommend anyone attempt to accomplish all these tips immediately - nibble away at the list and take on only what you're comfortable doing at first. Creating a brand to be recognized by is a long-term project.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Enjoying Fickle Weather


While my extended family hunkered down under the onslaught of Blizzard 2015, I took advantage of our sunny 70-degree weather to do more yard clean-up work. It's not that I'm insensitive to the distress of others, my turn will come with the July and August months when our part of the country will be enduring 100ยบ days for weeks at a time.

This is the only time of year I don't appreciate the many trees on our acreage. Besides the thick layer of fallen leaves that needs disposing, what I most detested are the sweet gum seed balls. This year's harvest has just started dropping. A glance at the bare branches overhead tells me there are lots more to fall. Their indiscriminate scattering are a real pain underfoot because the solid object doesn't give when you step on it. When it's working time and I walk to my little cabin this time of year, my progress resembles the stumbling of a drunken sailor.

I took time to wander about the garden beds that look dismal about now and was delighted to discover the early paperwhites have just started opening their fragrant buds. Thinking to cheer my sister in Conn., I snapped a picture and emailed it to her.

In another part of the yard, the early daffodils have pushed up several inches already and the flower buds are already fat with promise. However,what usually happens is that about the time they're just about fully open, one of our famous fronts from the frigid hinterlands comes blasting through and puts everything in a frozen state.

So...I guess weather changes are just something you have to learn to live with. As far as I know, no one's been able to tame Mother Nature yet.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

A chain's weakest link

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link"
I'm interested in digging out the background and origin of sayings we take for granted. Here's what I learned about this phrase. 

It is a literal fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In 1786, Thomas Reid wrote his 
Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man” wherein he stated:

      “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of 
       the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

This proverb has a literal meaning, but often when it is used, the 'weakest link' is referred to is usually figurative and applied to a person or technical feature rather than the link of an actual chain.

 Cornhill Magazine published an article in 1868 that contained this bit of advice:

      “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link; but if you show how admirably the last few are
       united … half the world will forget to the security of the … parts which are kept out of sight.”

 The only proverb I've come across that is remotely similar to this is a Basque saying; 

      “Haria meheenean eten ohi da” which translates into “A thread usually breaks from where it is
      thinnest.”

My only conclusion I can come to is to make certain all links in my chain of reasoning are solid and firmly established...but, be especially convincing with the latest arguments because that is what people will remember.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pictures On My Refrigerator

Does anyone remember the craze of collecting magnets to decorate your refrigerator? My mother gathered so many there wasn't a bare spot to be seen. You could trace my parents' travels by the magnet she picked up in gift shops every time they stopped somewhere.

A refrigerator's surface makes an excellent gallery for many items, including pictures. Over the years, I've taken advantage of the refrigerator in my kitchen to post on permanent view pictures I don't want to hide away in a album or drawer.

I just paused long enough to go examine what's in my refrigerator's display. It surprised me to learn the pictures there span four generations. The oldest is a group shot of my four sisters and I taken during a rare family gathering. Considering we siblings reside in places from Connecticut to Arizona, our get-togethers as adults, especially the opportunity to spend a weekend just we sisters, no extended family, have been very few. Can't recall how long ago this shot was taken, but has to be before 2000.

Only one of my sons has his picture posted prominently. I'll have to remedy that and I know just the shot I'll print and post. A niece recently sent me a picture of my older son taken while he was away at college. It catches perfectly this grown-up who never lost touch with his inner child.

The next generation is represented by my three grand-daughters. High school picture of the sisters and first day of third grade of the other. Since their families reside cross-country, spending time with them doesn't happen often.

There's a whole group of my great-grands, Lexi & Joshua. They are only a year apart in age and my favorite is the one of them in their latest Halloween costumes.

I like having the pictures such a prominent part of my every day. Each time I pass or open the door is an occasion for remembering.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Burying The Hatchet


There are times I come across a well-used phrase and I just have to satisfy my curiosity and learn its origin. Back when I was researching my novel  Twist of Fate which is set on the western frontier,I came across the expression "bury the hatchet" in my study of American Indian tribes.

Well, I knew that expression is often used in reference to a problem being resolved and the forgetting of past hurts.

What surprised me was to learn that many tribes would actually bury a tomahawk as a symbolic gesture of peace. Not all Native American practiced this ritual, but those that did took it seriously. In fact, if for some reason hostilities were renewed, the tomahawk just might be dug up as a declaration of war. Among the Indian Nations, burying a tomahawk  proved to be a more binding peace ceremony than those "peace" treaties the white man continually made and broke.

I've not taken the time to seek out a tomahawk...don't have a running battle with anyone at the moment that needs resolving. Not sure if any toy store stocks guns and tomahawks these days. I'm suspect our 'politically correct police' have outlawed them long ago.

Monday, January 26, 2015

An Old Saying


"Take down a peg or two"
Ever wonder where this saying came from? I did, so I went looking. All the early citations of the phrase have a religious context; for example:

Pappe with An Hatchet, 1589 - "Now haue at you all my gaffers of the rayling religion, tis I that must take you a peg lower."

 Joseph Mead's Letters, 1625 - "A-talking of the brave times that would be shortly... when... the Bishop of Chester, that bore himself so high, should be hoisted a peg higher to his little ease."

Samuel Butler's Hudibras, 1664 - "We still have worsted all your holy Tricks,... And took your Grandees down a peg."

If the pegs were some religious artifact, it isn't clear what they were. Various quantities and qualities have been measured by the use of pegs. It has been suggested that the pegs in question here were those used to regulate the amount of drink taken from a barrel, or those that controlled the hoisting of the colors (flags) of ships. Either of these might be correct 

In all my wanderings, I really didn't come up with a satisfactory explanation. But, when I hear that expression used, I have no problem understanding its meaning, do you?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your name is mud

"Your name is mud"
Ever wonder what this phrase is all about? I did and went looking for an explanation.

Dr. Samuel Mudd is widely reviled for his part in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He is the doctor who gave medical help to John Wilkes Booth's broken leg acquired in his escape after shooting Lincoln in 1865. Mudd was convicted of being Booth's conspirator, although the evidence against him was ambiguous and circumstantial, and many historians argue that he was innocent of any murderous intent.

However, 'your name is mud', was in general circulation long before Lincoln was assassinated. 

The word began to be used in a figurative sense as early as the 16th century to refer to things that were worthless or polluting. That usage was later extended to apply to people, as listed in the 1703 account of London's low life, Hell upon EarthMud, a Fool, or thick skull Fellow.

The combination of meanings of 'decaying and worthless' and 'extremely' was enough for the association of it with someone's name to become an insult - hence 'your name is mud'.