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Thursday, October 12, 2017

It Happens In Threes


What do you write about when life is a series of road bumps? And why do they always come three-at-a-time?

Compared to millions of people inhabiting this earth, I have a wonderful life filled with possessions that should remind me of how well off I am. But, when those same machines created to bring ease and comfort start to malfunction, I tend to bog down in stress.

It started with the act of adding window washer liquid to my newly-acquired Kia's tank. As the serviceman poured, I noticed a steady drip down below. Result? A leaking tank needs replacing.

Last week I opened my washer's lid to find the clean clothes standing in water. When my son had time to check it out, his recommendation was a circuit board needed replacing.

Recently fall arrived with a 40-degree drop of temperatures in a matter of hours. Needing a little warmth to take off the chill, I struggled to get the pilot light lit on my propane heater. Nope. Had to make-do with a portable space heater temporarily.

So, I started looking for the lesson in all of these inconveniences...and that's all they are, temporary inconveniences. I still have a roof over my head, food in the house, clothes to wear, and money in the bank. Well, enough money to pay my bills anyway.

I'm not mechanical so whenever something breaks down or malfunctions, I call for help.

My first realization was how much I depended on my now-gone husband to keep my life running smoothly for the fifty-nine years we were married. Then I gave thanks for a capable son who lives nearby and is always ready to come rescue me despite a ten-hour workday. And I know there is a world of people ready and willing to share the gifts they've been endowed with by God.

I've come to understand there will always be bumps in the road of life. My response is to just accept these short-lived troublesome times and keep reminding myself of how blessed I am. This too shall pass.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Benefits Of Travel



Just returned from a nine-day visit to the East Coast, Rhode Island specifically. I love to travel but circumstances had prevented it for some time. Yes, unfamiliar situations can be challenging.

Like getting into a 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid with no introduction and being expected to drive this modern vehicle. Guaranteed to get the adrenaline stirred. Like driving Interstate traffic at night while learning how to turn on headlights and windshield wipers. Like depending, for the first time in your life, on Google's impersonal phone voice to get you to your destination ninety miles away. Like pulling out the manual to find the latch release for the gas tank and learn the tank's capacity so you can tell the attendant how much gasoline you need to fill the tank.

But, the pleasurable experiences far outweigh the stressful ones. Meeting someone you've been friends with since high school days for lunch and not opening the menu for the first thirty minutes. Getting together with two sisters; sisters you live 2,000 miles away from and its been years since the three of you have been together. Returning to a well-loved stretch of beach just to stand and watch the waves crash along the shoreline. Strolling a narrow street between homes that were built in the 1700s.


Traveling allows me to store up sights and smells that are not a part of my regular world. The salty tang of ocean air; a hidden walkway consisting of granite markers commemorating the ministers who have served a local church since 1711; a tucked-away bay cluttered with anchored boats sitting out choppy waters; climbing the stairs to a modern third-story condo.

All fodder to feed a fertile mind when the time comes to put words to paper.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

All In A Writer's Life

In the midst of preparing a manuscript for re-publication, I'm taking a break. Thanks to a generous gift from a precious family member, my wish to see siblings in far away places is being realized.  

This Saturday I'm flying to New England to visit a sister who lives in Rhode Island. While I'm there, another sister who now lives in South Carolina will be visiting a daughter living nearby. It has been several years since we three have been able to get together and I'm ready for a lot of talking and catching up.

I look forward to this break from the demanding physical work this summer as we cut down trees and cleared the way for my son's house to be moved onto the property. Now, the end is in sight and before the heavy season of book events is upon me, I thought I'd do this getaway.

Already I've committed to three events in October, added to my goal of getting Living With a Depressed Spouse back in print because the publisher went bankrupt. Saturday, October 14th, I'll join other members of East Texas Authors-Connect at the Hawkins Oil Festival in the park/pavilion area. After the parade, come by and say hi.

On Thursday, October 19th, I'll be participating in the Longview Art Walk. Several of us will be set up in Citizens National Bank from five to eight. This will be my first time to take part in this happening.

Although I've been invited for the past seven years to join other authors at the Gathering of Authors that takes place in Texarkana, this is the first year I've been able to attend. I am so looking forward to what promises to be a grand weekend, visiting with lots of author friends and meeting, face-to-face, others whom I've known only through Facebook.

So look for an announcement sometime toward the end of October for the re-release of Living With a Depressed Spouse. It's a blend of memoir/self-help/informational book that offers much to anyone who finds themselves either coping with or living with someone suffering from depression.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Tale of Two Bookstores

Out and about yesterday and I stopped by two local bookstores as different as day and night. I'd driven past Gladewater Books many times and never took the time to check it out. Oh my...what I had been missing out on.

Located on Main Street in a long, narrow two-story brick building probably built around the turn of the century, Gladewater Books is chock-a-block packed with books. With its inventory of over 40,000 books, this store is also the home of Alibris.com, an online bookseller. Floor-to-nearly-ceiling shelves form a delightful maze but Pete Adams, the owner, eagerly takes you to whatever section you're seeking. All books are reasonably priced and I look forward to making this store a favorite place to browse.



A brand-new bookstore just opened up in Kilgore called The Bookstore. It also houses the Coffee Cherry that dispenses yummy drinks. Located in a historical home on Houston Street, Stephen (a lawyer & author) and Paige (occupational therapist) Woodfin have poured their hearts into this new venture. The stately former residence exudes charm and welcome with books galore both old and new. The fact that they encourage local authors to bring their books to sell just makes they special people to me.

So...if you're the kind of person who adores the smell of bound paper, here are two hangouts to discover. I know you won't be able to stay away.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Considering A Name Change



Since this seems to be a year of change for me, perhaps I should consider a new direction for this blog. Would love to get some feedback on that consideration.

When I first began writing these postings, I had no idea what topics I'd address. I chose 'Comparing Apples and Oranges' with hopes it would indicate the broad range of subjects I hoped to write about. Over the years, I've vacillated from writing advice to curious word origins. There have been posts about my progress as a published author and a sprinkling of anecdotes about family and friends.

In the meantime, I continue to plod along, trying to adjust to the shake, rattle, and rolls my life is experiencing at the moment. With the recent addition of a teenage granddaughter to my household, a whole new world has been revealed. You see, this is my first experience with a female sharing my life as both my children were boys.

Then there's my son's house purchase and all the work and turmoil connected with its move from another site to our property. Forced to make the sad decision of cutting back trees, and even cut down some older ones, allowing both house and the power line to be set in position. We are three-quarters of the way and the results have left the property looking like both a hurricane and a tornado passed through.

It's been a physically-demanding summer and yet, I've managed to move forward with my writing efforts. With the release of George Washington, From Boy Surveyor To Soldier (https://www.amazon.com/George-Washington-Boy-Surveyor-Soldier-ebook/dp/B0748JBX3D/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8) this month, I'm plunging into the maddening world of promoting and selling of my books.

Speaking of books, let me tell you about the newest bookstore in our neck of the woods. Local author Stephen Woodfin and his wife Paige recently opened The Bookstore and Coffee (https://www.facebook.com/thebookstoreinkilgore/) If you're anywhere in the area, do go by and welcome this fabulous addition to the community.

Now, it's off to today's chore - taking my granddaughter round to apply for a card at a couple libraries in the area. Yes! She's a reader who likes the feel of paper in her hands.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just Checking In



Have you ever noticed how quickly the days slip by when life gets complicated? I thought getting used to widowhood would take some adjusting. Funny thing is, I just haven't had time to do that. Life just kept getting in the way.

When my granddaughter moved in temporarily shortly after my husband died, there was the need to rearrange the spare bedroom from his man-cave to a teenager's bedroom.

Then came the brand-new experience of shopping for a replacement car...one of those things my husband always did and I just got to approve his choice. By the way, I am loving my Kia Soul. It's a more compact car than I'm used to driving. Hubby always went for the heavier, more solid Buick or Oldsmobile.

Barely having time to get used to those changes, my son's dream of owning his own house came true. He found one just the right size for he and his daughter. The catch? It had to be moved to our property and since I owned the property, I got totally involved, both financially and physically.

First came all the paperwork and legalities of a bank loan to finance the operation. Then came the actual physical move which included some tree removal to allow the house's access to the new site. Granddaughter and I also spent a few hours removing the skirting so the movers could slide their l-o-n-g steel beams beneath the house.

Have you ever watched a house move down the highway to its new home? Quite an experience complete with police escort through the middle of town.

So, the house is in place. The trench dug for the water line and water connected from the well. Now, we have six major trees to remove so the electricity company can install a high line from the street to the house.

Have I mentioned how intense life has been? Oh, and by the way, my latest writing effort, George Washington From Boy Surveyor To Soldier (https://www.amazon.com/George-Washington-Boy-Surveyor-Soldier-ebook/dp/B0748JBX3D/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8,) has its publishing release in just a couple days. Check it out.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

When The Facts Aren't There

I've been working on a series of fictionalized biographies about American figures. My first, George Washington, From Boy Surveyor To Soldier, has a release date of Aug.15th and is now available for pre-order from Amazon. (Shameless plug!)

The personality whose life I'm presently working on is Belle Boyd, a teen-age spy for the Confederacy. Somehow, sometime, I caught a mention of her antics and she grabbed my curiosity. But, it's been a struggle to write her story factually.

There is only one authorized biography, plus the book she wrote herself about her war and prison experiences. Not much to draw on.

I can find a lot of anecdotal information on the early part of her life, much of which I can verify through similar resources. But there are huge gaps in what her life was like after the War Between The States ended.

So what to do? If this were a novel, It would be challenging to take those vague allusions, flesh them out with my imaginings, and create an entertaining read. Was Sam really the father of her first child? Why did Belle renounce the child later when she had additional children from another husband?

Can I make use of that one reporter's comment about her husband being found drunk on the floor? What's the real story? And what about the hints of her exorbitant spending practice?

But this is a biography, not a novel. I strive to be historically accurate in my writing.

Guess the only answer is more research.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I've Been Invaded


Just as I settled into my retirement years, along came a twist I never anticipated. Circumstances beyond my say-so determined my thirteen-year-old granddaughter move in. To say my sedate lifestyle was greatly altered is an understatement.

From converting my recently-deceased husband's man-cave to a teen's room with shocking raspberry walls, each day brings its own surprise and need to adjust. You have to understand, I live in an almost-ninety-year-old farmhouse; it wasn't constructed to accommodate this age of technology and all the electrical appliances we've come to depend upon. 

We spent most of a day moving in a computer from my 'little house' to her grandfather's desk which remained in the room she took over. My workstation is now temporarily arranged in what used to be the dining area. Somehow I managed to accommodate both printer and a small desk in that confining area.

The move came about in stages. Her final items settled in yesterday. The dilemma arose when came time to find a landing place for her fish tank. She had rescued these two active goldfish over a year ago when they were being sold as bait. That makes them important and special.

A heated discussion issued because she wanted them in her bedroom and there wasn't any electrical source for the three items necessary for their support and survival. After a couple attempts elsewhere in the house, the fish tank eventually got set up in front of my vintage china cabinet.

Now comes the challenging task of sorting and organizing the chaos of teenage accumulation. But, we'll take it one day at a time and somehow, it will all work out...because that is what love does.
 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Life Is All About The Curves


Have you noticed? Just when you begin to get a glimpse of a smoother road ahead, life throws you a curve.

It's been six weeks or more since I lost my husband and my life situation changed. I'd begun to plan some projects that had been on hold for those years my husband needed caring for. Now, I thought, there'll be time to seriously write, perhaps even complete one of the three stories I'd nibbled at for so long. But, then came the curve.

Some of you may know the backstory regarding the long eight years we were denied contact with a granddaughter. And how, through a series of events, my son and I once again had Carlie in our lives. The wheels of justice move slowly, but God is good and faithful to perform that good work in the life of one who loves Him. So the good book says...and I believe it.

In just a week or two, whenever all the legalities are fulfilled, my granddaughter will become a temporary inhabitant of my home. I say temporary because another major event taking place is a soon-to-be-moved-onto-our-property house for my son and granddaughter.

So instead of arranging my days to please my mood, I'm re-arranging furniture, painting walls and buying a bed as I turn my husband's former man-cave into a teenager's bedroom.

Not to say the writing has been neglected. I recently signed a contract with White Bird Publishing for the first of a series of fictionalized biographies about American heroes. The first one is George Washington; From Surveyor to Soldier. The next, about Harriet Tubman, may come out early next spring while I continue work on Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy.

Life's twists and turns are challenging...but I've never avoided a challenge.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Finding My Way


For the past two and a half years, I pretty much put my writing life on hold. As my husband's COPD worsened and we were told the doctors could do nothing more for him, my life focused on creating a comfortable life for his remaining time.

On the day of our fifty-ninth wedding anniversary, I awoke to find he had died in his sleep. I am so greatful for that period of preparation we were given. He was able to get his affairs in order and make all the necessary arrangements ahead of time, saving me much stress and anxiety.

It's been five weeks of re-evaluating, re-assessing, and catching up on things that weren't important enough to do during the interim. Things as mundane as house-cleaning and down-sizing.

I wasn't able to write during that stretch of time, but I did take up a hobby that I'd set aside when my second son was born, over forty years ago--oil painting. It helped me through those times when I just needed to check out for a bit.

Last week, I discovered a renewed interest in some characters that have been waiting in my computer for my return. This week, I pulled out a completed manusript and sent it off to my publisher, hoping the response will be a contract for publication.

As I re-connect with my circle of writing friends and begin to make plans to become more active, I'm finding myself a bit hesitant to plunge back in. In a way, I treasure the reclusive lifestyle I'd grown accustomed to.

As I see my social calendar begin to fill, it makes me realize I may have to repack those oils and canvases again. Not sure, I want to give them up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confession of a Journal-er

I have a confession to make–I am a daily journal-er.

Some years back a copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way came into my life. I devoured it and took her advise to write what she referred to as 'Morning Pages.' It's an exercise designed to develop the ability to write anytime your hand grips a pen. I determined to set aside a specific time in my busy life to sit at my desk, every day, and fill three pages of a notebook in handwriting.

Did you know hands lose the memory of writing when they become accustomed to typewriting? Writing those 'Morning Pages' not only trained my brain to associate a pen-in-hand with writing, but helped my brain to slow down and capture the flood of ideas.

The real art of writing lies in commitment. Writing is an exercise in repetition. If you don't set aside time to write, life soon gets in the way. The more times you show up, the better your chances the story will show up also. Over the years, this has proven true for me.

As a writer of historical fiction, I find myself spending eons on the internet, snatching from here, there, and anywhere, those tidbits of details that lend authenticity to my stories. Later, as I sort through the barrage of information I've accumulated, writing out the descriptive passages by hand helps me mentally envision the scene I'm describing.


I wouldn't encourage anyone to read my journals—filled as they are with mostly a record of daily life. But, occasionally inspiration will attack and I freely write my thoughts and wonderings about the story-in-progress or perhaps some future project. Those words are permanently inscribed on the page, waiting for me to come back at a later time and incorporate a sentence or two that is just exactly what needed saying.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Always On My Mind


For those who are not aware, (and if you're a Facebook friend, you already know) My husband died on March 30th, the occasion of our 59th wedding anniversary. It was an extended illness that eventually wore out his heart and he stopped breathing.

I'll bet you are curious as to why I've posted a picture of Willie Nelson. Well, Paul prepared for his end, including specifying what songs would be played at his memorial service. At the top of the list was Willie's famous song, You Are Always On My Mind. I lost count of how many times he reminded me of that.

As with most marriages, ours was a mixture of trials and blessings, but we were always certain of each others love. Rest in peace, Paul. As I told him in my last goodbye, "You done good, Charlie Brown."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Questions That Arise


 Most people think that a book is a simple, commonplace object — words on a page, one page after another until you reach the end. What’s complicated about that? 

 But then, when you decide to publish yourself, the picture becomes murkier. You begin to realize there are many decisions that go into making a book. The questions start, and never seem to stop: 
• Hardcover, paperback, ebook? 
• How big a book? 
• Where to sell, and for how much? 

 Then it gets even more confusing: 
• What should I do first? 
• How long will it take? 
• How do I stay on track? 

If you are considering self-publishing, each one of these questions needs to be addressed and answered. There is no one correct answer. It is you, as the publisher, who must do the research, learn the options, and make the decision. 

With the help of the internet, there are gobs of resources you can go to that will help you make the right decisions. Here are a couple sites to get you started in the right direction. Disclaimer: these are the top sites that popped up when I googled ‘self-publishing tips.’ 

 http://goinswriter.com/self-publishing/ Jeff Goins even offers a free e-book on how to build an online audience;  Jane Friedman at https://janefriedman.com/self-publish-your-book/ provides a How to Self-Publish Your Book website. At  http://www.cnet.com/news/self-publishing-a-book-25-things-you-need-to-know/ , David Carnoy talks about 25 things you need to know about self-publishing.

In this day and age, just writing the end on your manuscript doesn’t mean the author’s work is finished.  



Monday, March 13, 2017

It's All About Networking

Writing has always been a lonely occupation. I learned a lot in the past reading books written by accomplished teachers. In fact, over the years I amassed an impressive library dedicated to the craft of writing. In recent years there's been a deluge of informative stuff available, mostly free, on the world wide web.

But, the act of writing is a lonely occupation. There comes a time when you just need another friendly face to talk over your gains and losses. I've come to the conclusion that networking should be a necessary part of the writing lifestyle.

For example, here are just a few nuggets I acquired this past week through networking. I learned of a free workshop in my area as a result of a friend's Facebook posting. (https://www.wordwriters.org/events/)

A writers' group I belong to presented a program, with live demonstrations, on fight jargon. (You never know when one of your characters will need to express themselves in Tai Kwon Do jargon.)

Another writer friend shared the advise she received considering the future of her book published by the now-defunct Tate Publishing. When she queried them their response was, “... to go ahead and republish through Createspace. When ready for it to go live, send Author Central the old ISBN number and the new one, and they would phase the old one out.”

None of this information would have been available to me if I'd confined myself to camping out in my little house and ignoring the rest of the world.


So, break out of your shell; join a writers' group, find a Facebook group page and become a member, go to that conference or workshop, meet other writers, and continue to grow your craft by sharing with other lonely writers.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Other Side of Writing


So a copy of my latest efforts is in the mail from my publisher. Now comes the more demanding part which I dread but have learned is a very necessary activity - the promoting and marketing.

I have no reluctance when it comes to plunking myself in a chair, fingers on keyboard, and letting the words flow. Its this other half of what makes a book a success that twists my stomach into knots.

For now I need to spend my time creating a concentrated blitz of email announcements and press releases, flood twitter and deluge my Facebook friends - all for the purpose of calling everyone's attention to the new book. 

Promoting and marketing a book means calling attention to yourself. It means speaking out in every situation, announcing who you are and what you've done. All this self-promoting is to get people interested enough in you and your latest work so they'll shell out some dough and buy a copy or two.


So, what's an author to do? If we want our new book to be read, we do everything necessary to get this latest production noticed. And isn't that part of the reason I continue to write? To share my thoughts, my imaginations with others?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Considering What Keeps Me Writing


What is it that keeps me plunking down words, fingers tapping keys, clenched hand pushing a pen across a page? 

Certainly my accumulation of rejections -- especially the ones resembling nothing more than a mass produced product – do more to feed my disappointment than inspire me to keep on writing.

Success in getting published may come along, sometimes with months of famine in between. Yet, even as I savor a sense of accomplishment and brandish the flag of recognition, those instances aren’t what drives me to my writing pad.

The magic happens each time I set aside time to create words; each time the tip of my pen, or fingertips pounding a keyboard, produces squiggles and curves that morph into understandable language. That’s when I find myself connected to a force beyond myself.


As I witness words accumulate on paper or my computer screen, it’s a reminder that I am connecting to the Source of creativity. It is this awareness of being part of something beyond my ken that keeps me going. 

Every time something newly created flows out of the deep center of my being, feeding my flickering flame of inspiration into life, I'm filled with a sense of fulfillment for being alive.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

One Lovely Blog Award

What a lovely tribute from a long-time author friend, Patty Wiseman. She writes The Velvet Shoe Collection, An Unlikely Arrangement, An Unlikely Beginning, A Unlikely Conclusion, and An Unlikely Deception, set in 1920's Detroit. Here's her link address so you can go learn more about her and her series https://www.facebook.com/Patty-Wiseman-Fan-Page-122326897827176/


Want to be nominated? All is takes is being a blogger. Here are the rules:
  • Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
  • Add the One Lovely Blog Award emblem to your post.
  • Share seven things about yourself not found in your bio.
  • Pass this award on to as many people as you like, up to 15.
  • Include these rules
  • Inform your nominees.


Now, on to those seven never-been-disclosed-before tidbits about me.

1.  I'm the mother of a terrific son, a grandmother of two awesome young ladies, and the great-grandmother of two precious cuties. We lost an older son, David, a few years back when he died in his sleep at the young age of fifty.

2.  I wish I were as physically active as I was twenty years ago. (Well,who doesn't?) Back then I cared for huge gardens--growing food and herbs--helped maintain our acreage by trimming shrubs and helped my husband cut, split, and haul the mountains of firewood needed to keep our home warm.


3.  Continuing to look back, I raised chickens, ducks, turkeys and rabbits at one time or another. And yes, I did the butchering and cleaning of all as well as the preserving and cooking.



4.  I still consider myself a transplanted Yankee even though I've lived in Texas for almost sixty years. 

5.  I met my husband-to-be at a Saturday night dance sponsored by the VFW. Dallas-born and in the Coast Guard at the time, he was attending Engineering school in Connecticut. Believe it or not, it was love at first sight for the both of us.


6. I recently picked up my paint brushes and began dabbling with oil paints after a hiatus of over forty years. If interested, you can see results of my efforts on my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/gayingram/my-creative-efforts/.)
7. I've never been much interested in sports although I do enjoy watching the Olympic competition in swimming and gymnastics. In fact, my recent novel, Not Bound By Blood, was inspired by the first American woman to win gold in track. 

Nominees:
Author Jim Callan (http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog/) A terrific mystery writer