Friday, August 29, 2008

friday quote

what do we live for,
if not to make life
less difficult
for each other?

George Eliot

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 19:19

Thursday, August 28, 2008

snakes, snails, puppy dog tails

Life with boys is never dull. Sometimes I wish it was. In The Frontiersman's Daughter I have a young boy named Ransom. I took his name from an obituary of a very old man here in Washington State. Sometimes the old archaic names are the most interesting - in this case it was Ransom Dunbar Clarke. I think my Ransom is a lot like my Paul - never dull!

Yesterday it was raining (yes, again) and Wyatt was out with friends riding bikes. Since Paul has a slight rain allergy he stayed inside with Mom. Mom was trying to write which goes very well with all the bad weather here. But Paul has a penchant for interrupting and so he called me back to Wyatt's room where he had out his microscope. Boys have interesting minds and think in ways girls never do - at least I'd never do this. Since he couldn't find the glass slides he took a baggie and placed his specimen on that under the scope. But the light was burned out so he took a flashlight and positioned it just so on a Hardy Boys book. Voila! The light shone onto his specimen. He was quite proud. The specimen was quite yucky - red and black and weird.

"What is it?" I asked.
He pointed to his leg where something seemed to be missing. "My best scab!" he said.

Fast forward to after supper. Paul likes to take looooooonnnnggg showers. But he never comes out clean. Another boy thing, I guess. I still haven't figured out what he does in there. While he was drying off I heard him call out "Wyatt, come here. I think I have maggots!"

I looked right at Randy. Normally I would jump up and run right in but I don't do worms. Turns out little Paul had lots of little black worms all over his back and arms (all this after a shower!). He was trying to wash them off in the sink and admire them at the same time. Wyatt was trying to decide what kinds of worms they were (there are so many here). Luckily they left the microscope in the closet. After two more showers and three clean towels the worms went away. Randy thinks he picked something up in the woods or from our 2 dogs and 2 cats.

As I said, life with boys is never dull. My friend Ann's son and daughter-in-law just had twin boys. I sure hope they don't read this blog:)

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord ... Psalms 127:3

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Since coming back from that Kentucky trip, I did a word count on my second book. Mercy! I hope my editor isn't reading this. An average novel is about 100,000 words. The Preacher's Daughter is at 150,000 which is a novel and a half. Sigh. So my new occupation is whittling - fifty thousand words or so to be exact.

I wish I was one of those spare, lean writers who have no fat in their manuscripts. This one is extra hefty. But then The Frontiersman's Daughter was, at one miserable point, about 500 pages and 170,000 words. But I have some time yet as the manuscript isn't due till next year. Maybe this third book will be lighter.

Reminds me of this quote by Oscar Wilde:

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

Wilde was known for his wit and this comment is surely tongue-in-cheek. If only my whittling was as simple.

Monday, August 25, 2008

still raining...

Life in Washington state is never dull! Yesterday we had torrential rains and lost power for the day. My computer battery was low so that meant no work for me. We had a wonderful church service and then just as I set Randy's chili dog down in front of him at lunch, the lights went out. It seemed someone flicked some heavenly switch as the rain poured even harder.

I looked out at our very green overgrown garden and thought of all the canning that isn't happening. Really, there is some strange gardening phenomenon going on this year. If I went out with a magnifying glass I might be able to detect a green bean or two. And our corn is simply laughable! If you blow hard you might take those skinny stalks down. But we have a bumper crop of potatoes and peas and marigolds. WET is the watchword.

In desperation we got in the car and drove 45 minutes to the nearest Home Depot. It's a great time to shop for a grill. My mom gifted us with one of those wonderful outdoor fireplaces called a chiminea so we picked out one of those as well. Mom, if you're reading this - thank you!!! I haven't had time to call you yet this morning. It is a lovely bisque color and we can't wait to use it, once it stops raining. It came with a little warning to not use in the rain. Hmmm. Not to worry. Randy is making a little hat for it - a finial of sorts - at work.

We aren't shoppers so anything like this is a big deal. That we purchased two things in one day and actually got them crammed into our Jeep seems just short of a miracle. The boys rode home with the big clay chiminea between them in the back seat and it kept them from getting physical which seems to be a problem for 9-11 year olds.

We weren't home five minutes when the power came back on. Bliss! But I was too tired to do any writing. Plus I just discovered a terrible little secret about this second book. More tomorrow ...

Hope your Monday is sunny wherever you are:)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sunday thoughts

Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with Your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in Your name. -Blaise Pascal

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God. -William Carey

Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Friday, August 22, 2008

fun questions and answers

1. When did you start writing?
About age 7. My Mom said she found me sitting in my Dad's home office with a book about ships and I told her I was writing a story. It was all uphill from there!

2. How many books have you written?
Seven and 1/4! I may be forgetting one! I recieved a contract when I submitted my fifth novel.

3. What genre?
All 7 1/4 books are historical fiction which is my favorite genre to read.

4. What is your writing style?
Intense! I would love to write funny stories like some of the "chick-lit" so popular today but I'm really a very serious person so "intense" is all I get.

5. What kind of writing schedule do you keep?
My favorite time to write is in the mornings but I find myself writing at all hours except 9pm to 5am.

6. What themes emerge in your writing?
I love to write about fathers and daughters. I didn't intentionally set out to do this but found that that was exactly what I'd done in my last two books. I've begun my third in the series and it is once again - surprise! - about a father and his daughter. My first book with Revell is entitled The Frontiersman's Daughter. I'd actually prayed a lot about the title and my publisher couldn't have picked a better one. I have an interesting theory about why I keep returning to this theme (or it keeps returning to me) but I'll save that for another post.

7. What books do you like to read?
There are so many! I will say that Jane Eyre is the only book I've loved enough to read twice other than the Bible. And then there is Catherine Marshall's Christy. Currently I'm James Alexander Thom's biggest fan but I think Liz Curtis Higgs can't be beat for historical fiction. If I named them all this post would be eternal!

8. What's the most surprising thing about writing?
For me, it would have to be the physical aspect. When I write for several hours it feels like I've run a marathon. I am very, very tired. I don't know why this is except that you pour so much mental energy into your work that it exhausts you. I sometimes wonder if other writers feel this way.

9. Favorite writing moment?
You're kidding, right?! Signing that contract!! Knowing the Lord opened the door, not because the publishing world needs another historical fiction novel or a Laura Frantz but because He did it to delight my heart and is willing to use someone like me to tell His story.

10. Any writing dreams?
I think the pinnacle for a writer would be winning the Christy Award. This recognizes some wonderful authors and is named for Catherine Marshall's fictionalized account of her mother's life as a schoolteacher in the Smoky Mountains. Actually my dream is to just keep writing for as long as He calls me to write.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

little by little


It's 8:12 a.m. and the world outside my window is wet. Washington State is an amazing medley of greens all year. I've been trying to think of reasons to like the rain right now and have come up with a couple of things - it is giving me a break from canning all those green beans and beets! I used to put up a couple of hundred of jars every fall which my granny would laugh at as she used to can 50 plus quarts of pickled beets in a day! My favorite thing to can is chow-chow because it is so colorful in the jar and goes so well with soup beans and cornbread. I make some mean dill pickles with jalapenos and garlic too. Canning is sort of a lost art and I'm afraid I'd rather read and write than be in the kitchen. But the larder is low.

I am back at work on this second book. I love the story and hope readers do too. Now that The Frontiersman's Daughter is the official title of this first book, I am calling this second book The Preacher's Daughter which sounds a little plain but fits the story well. Did I mention I've now entered the realm of reading glasses? They really do help a lot! And they make me feel quite bookish, like the librarian I once wanted to be.

So I'm back home (or at my home away from home), trying to catch up. September is looking a little overwhelming with canning, schooling, church activites starting up again, etc. But as Aesop said, little by little does the trick. And we have that wonderful promise that I've grabbed hold of once again from Philippians:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

goodbyes and all that

Flew back from Kentucky to Washington this weekend where the pilot told me it had been 103 degrees on the tarmac at the Seattle airport. I wanted to cry as it was cold and foggy when I came in. Bless Randy - he had finished the deck and so I admired it in the rain (it was pouring by the time I got home). You'd think after living here a few years I would just accept the fact that it is downright dismal weather-wise most of the year but my southern roots always rebel.

Glory be, but the boys loved camp. And the girls loved the boys. It must start young these days. And this was a Christian camp but it seems the love bug bites regardless. Paul, who just turned 9, told me about a little girl named Grace, age 8, who just "wanted to snuggle me all week." He said he told her no every time. Mercy! Maybe she was just feeling homesick. I'm glad I didn't know this going into it or I might have kept them home!

I so missed my granny this trip but know I'll see her again. She would have been 98 this year. I went to the Berea cemetary and was glad it didn't affect me at all. When you are a Christian there is such hope. I knew she wasn't there - just a cold, stone marker. And I knew she wouldn't want to be back on her front porch waiting for me to come home. I thought of what she said to me once when she was well into her 90's. She told me she often looked in the mirror and was startled to see such an old face staring back at her when she still felt like a girl inside.

It makes me think of what the Bible says about our lives - we are all just a breath, like a flower that springs up and then fades. That truly puts things in perspective and reminds me of how wonderfully long eternity is and all that awaits us when we leave this life. Ours souls never age even though our bodies do. They are eternal. And one of the most amazing aspects of being eternal is that there are no more goodbyes. Ever.

Friday, August 15, 2008

the buzzel abates ...

Spent the day with George Rogers Clark in Louisville. The 1790 home where he spent his last years is near the banks of the Ohio River and if any old house should be haunted, Locust Grove is it. He was a remarkable man with a tragic ending. If you need to satisfy any curiosity on that score, read James Thom's Long Knife.

I finally got to Locust Grove today about noon via Indiana (I got lost) and then ended up at the very gates of the very busy Kentucky State Fair which just opened. But finally I found my way to George. Locust Grove is right out of Eden, truly. I tried to imagine the old estate as it would have been at the end of the 18th-century before all the concrete and cars, etc. I walked around the grounds but didn't hear one dove. The old brick house has a huge porch and is surrounded by rolling green hills and huge trees. I am too tired to entrance you with great adjectives tonight - so all you get is green hills and huge trees.

Then I backtracked to Frankfort, Kentucky's small capital, and went to the wonderful Museum of Kentucky History. I learned some really neat things! For instance:

For those of you with snakebite, beat some black ash leaves and bind to your wound, then make a tea of the bark.

A bushel of salt cost 20 schillings, a mare 7 pounds, a quart of whiskey 1 pound six pence.

I found some more great research books and joined the Kentucky Historical Society. Also bought a quill pen to go with my great-granny's ink well.

As I drove all over the southern sphere in complete comfort in my air-conditioned car, eating breakfast at McDonald's and lunch at Wendy's and getting an iced coffee at day's end, I wondered what Daniel Boone would have to say about my getting lost and eating fast food all day. It would have taken him several days travel to go to Louisville and he might have had some jerky and cornmeal in his saddlebags. And he would have been HOT atop his horse as it was a sultry 87 degrees today.

Now back home to pack. I always hate that part.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Kentucky buzzel continues...

Spent the day in the company of Daniel Boone, my very favorite historical figure. Found out that he was just my husband's size - 5 foot nine inches and about 170 pounds. I read this whilst at Fort Boonesborough. I knew this little fact already though there seems to be some debate as to his hair color. But what does it matter, right? My admiration of him grows and grows even after 40 plus years and I have yet to unravel one unflattering thing about him.

The fort is one old Boone would be proud of, even if it occupies the hill above the original site. I spent some time with the fort weaver as she worked the big loom but think my favorite place was the candle shop. There is a big re-enactment of the seige of Boonesborough coming up and I will miss it, sadly. But I could dress for the part as I found my bicentennial costume in Granny's closet in Berea this week - apron, dust cap, long colonial dress, and shawl, etc. Only I'm sure after 35 years it no longer fits! She made me a Civil War era costume also which I still have but have long lost the hoops that go underneath.

Also visited Whitehall today - the home of Cassius Clay. He's not as squeaky clean as Boone though his father, Green Clay, was one of Boone's cronies. I did see Mr. Clay's little cannon which the guide said he fired out the 2nd floor window at the tax collectors. Hmmm. Somehow I understand that completely. But after touring this huge, old Italianate mansion which has an indoor toilet and a huge copper bath tub on the 2nd floor, I will take Boone's fort any day.

There is something so admirable about those first settlers. They really relied on their wits to stay alive (dummies didn't make it in the wilderness) and they were incredibly innovative.

Am still hearing doves cooing wherever I go!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the buzzel in Kaintuck

I'm posting from Ground Effects coffee shop in downtown Berea and having a very good latte to top off my soup beans and cornbread at the Artisan's Center this morning. It's sunny and 76 degrees or so - downright cool by any southern summer standard. Wish you could join me!

Somehow it seems fitting that I hear about the official title of my book while here - so here it is:
The Frontiersman's Daughter.

It is the essence of the book and I really like it very much. It has a Janice Holt Giles quality about it that appeals to me and leaves the reader no doubt as to what it is about. Hopefully readers will like it as well. Now the cover art can begin. My favorite part of the whole deal!

I'm trying to decide what to do with the rest of my wonderful week here. I woke up in the nursery yesterday morning in that very old and very beautiful house and was relieved I hadn't heard any ghostly children crying. We had breakfast in the dining room where that race horse was kept in the civil war and I told Momma I smelled a horse and hay (among other horsey things) - honestly, I did. I do have a vivid imagination but I know when I smell a horse! Every time I passed through that dining room on this little visit I expected one to neigh at me, no kidding.

We toured Frankfort after breakfast and were even chased out of a huge bourbon warehouse (24,000 kegs to be exact) at Buffalo Trace distillery. We didn't know we couldn't go in there - the door was wide open - and there was no "Stay away" sign. I don't drink but somebody really should bottle some bourbon cologne as it smells heavenly. Then of course we had to sample the Rebecca Ruth candy at their little yellow shop downtown. I feel like such a tourist.

And tomorrow is my big day - I get to go to Boonesborough for the gazillinth time as I grew up swimming in the river right there and roaming all over. It really is home to me. Wish I could ride over on horseback wearing a sunbonnet and old linsey-woolsey dress! Then I'll skip on over to Whitehall, the very elegant home of Cassius Marcellus Clay. What a man! He fired a cannon out of his second floor mansion window and married that 15 year old girl some 175 plus years ago when he was 85 or so.

Oh, I'll visit the cemetary later today. It's full of family. That should make an interesting post as some of them have such interesting names like Christopher Columbus Blanton. Till then!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Meeting House

It is a sunny Sunday eve in Frankfort, Kentucky and I'm posting from a very old residence on Ann Street. It's called The Meeting House and was built in the 1830's. For you history buffs and literary types, it was once known for its many social events, and the Lycerian Society (a group of literary-minded elite, including artists, and writers such as Robert Burns Wilson) met in the library in this house which contained one of the finest collections of Kentucky histories in the state. That's enough to make any bibliophile's heart palpitate! Mine included.

My room is on the second floor next to the library so I just went in and took a peek. On the original poplar floors someone has stenciled these sayings:

A man who has no imagination has no wings.
A classic is a book people praise and don't read.
Do more than read - absorb ...
Go where there is no path and leave a trail.

When I met the owners this afternoon they told me that during the civil war the lady of the house hid her prized race horse in the dining room (the same one we'll have breakfast in tomorrow morning) so that neither side could take it. Sadly, the 19th-century owner, Mr. Major, and his wife had several children who died before reaching the age of four. Legend has it that at night one can hear the crying of children coming from the nursery.

I think the neatest thing about this place is the grey dove outside my old window. It has been cooing for me all evening. Maybe it is calling for its mate. We don't have doves in the woods out west and it has been many years since I heard one. The delightful thing is that I have such a dove in the 2nd book I'm working on. So I think this dove is heaven-sent. Actually, this whole trip is heaven-sent. God is so good to give us green pastures and still waters when we need them.

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6

Saturday, August 9, 2008

here and posting ... a miracle

Yes, I am finally here and it is no small miracle that I am posting since my computer has been behaving badly, refusing to enter the 21st-century wireless connection and clinging to the old dinosaur dial-up of the woods. I'm sitting on a big porch in the twilight drinking Mountain Dew and eating lemon curd cupcakes and recovering from sleeping on a plane-sized bed with 200 other people. There was really very little sleep involved, partly because the man next to me was behaving badly and snoring loudly. In the middle of the night I woke up and almost elbowed him and told him to roll over, then remembered I was not home and he was much bigger than Randy and there really is no rolling over on a plane. So I just let him snore. I wouldn't mention it except he doesn't know me from Adam and the idea of really sleeping on a night flight is a huge joke!

The trip to Panera's for quiche and coffee made me forget I missed 8 hours sleep. And being home again is heavenly. I'm actually warm and going barefoot as we speak (or I post or whatever you want to call it). So I've just done a wonderful jumble of things in the last 24 hours - consumed vast quantities of garlic cheese grits and pork, toured a 200 year old log cabin, bought that dogwood bracelet at the Log House, listened to a live banjo concert outdoors, been to Wal-mart for deodorant, visited a Spanish bakery, toured the Mitchell Tolle gallery and bought one of his log cabin prints. Oh, and I've even had some time to sleep - 12 hours last night. Finally tonight I realized my throat was getting kind of sore from all that talking. My mom and I haven't stopped since we first saw each other at the airport. Our family has never been one for long, poignant silences like Randy's. This afternoon I realized I only have 7 days left so began to compile a list of all those things I have yet to see and do.

Good thing nobody reads this blog except for family mostly as this is just the silliest post. Forgive me if I'm still sleep-deprived and not making sense. Tomorrow we drive to Frankfort and see Daniel Boone's grave (and Rebecca's) and stay at an old inn. No rest for the wicked, I guess, and the righteous don't need none. Isn't that how the saying goes? I've never understood it till now. Hope to post again from downtown Berea soon - specifically Ground Effects coffee shop. Till then!

Thursday, August 7, 2008


The last two days were beautiful, hot, and clear but this morning we've awakened to heavy fog. Hopefully it will fade by the time I get strapped into that little two-seater plane I was telling you about but sometimes it hangs on for days.

When my sun-loving brother was here from Ecuador a couple of years ago he was amazed that it could be so spooky in summer. I think he likened it to Transylvania. Think Dracula. It looks just like that. Only our castle is a little grey house at the end of a long gravel road. But Dracula would be right at home.

I've been to Costco and stocked tons of Nalley's chili for my culinary-challenged husband. I'm no longer worried about the boys since I went out on the deck yesterday and heard Paul whisper loudly to Wyatt just inside, "I can't wait till Mom leaves!" Always a good sign, I think. If nothing else, they have plenty of wild blackberries in the woods and fresh peas in the garden to eat. And they leave for camp on Sunday. They never read this so I can confess I hated camp as a kid just like I hated being a Brownie, but I'm praying the boys enjoy it so much they won't want to come home.

I hope your Thursday is going very well and there are no two-seater planes in your future. Hopefully this time tomorrow I will have my feet firmly planted on airport asphalt in Lexington, Kentucky and headed to Panera's for quiche and coffee! If so, I'll try to post.

But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; any you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Malachi 4:2

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

from the summit

The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is. -Erasmus

I've been thinking about timing and why things happen now rather than later or vice versa or why they happen at all if they ever do. If I'd had my way I would have been like my friend Ann Gabhart who published her first book early in life and has been writing ever since. Actually, if I'd had my way I would be (don't laugh) a barrel racing rodeo queen or a concert fiddler like the amazing Natalie MacMaster. No fooling! Forget all that writing! It seems somewhat dull in comparison. Writing is so inward and the other is so "out there."

But this book business is such a gift, no matter when it happens. I'm standing at the summit of happiness on my own little mountain and am very thankful. I'm back to book 2 and enjoying this edit very much. Now that I set it aside for a month or so I see all kinds of things to change. That is the trouble with writing - you have to rewrite again and again. Hemingway, who I never cared for, said all first drafts are trash. This book is now several drafts old and still in progress. I even wrote a character in, decided I didn't like him, and took him out. But I have a feeling my editor will want him back in. Hmmm.

This time tomorrow night I'll be on my way to the Bluegrass State. Just me and my laptop.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


It's a beautiful sunny morning here in Washington state after a week of rain. Temps are supposed to be up to 91 degrees by tomorrow which will send all the locals to the lake. Not me. I'll just go out on my half-done deck or into the garden and try to forget it won't happen again for another 365 days:) Sigh.

The Kentucky countdown is now 2 days away. My bag is half-packed and I'm ready to roll. It takes 3 - yes, three - planes to get from here to there. Wish you could come with me on that bumpy little ride from Port Angeles to Seattle in that very tiny plane that always attracts turbulence and threatens to send you straight into Mt. St. Helens. I would hold your hand! It rivals the most thrilling roller coaster ride you've ever taken! And since I quit riding roller coasters many years ago I cling to my seat like a two year old all the way over on that endless 35 minute flight. There is always a high price to pay when you want to leave the woods.

Stay tuned as I may be blogging from some summit somewhere :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

food for thought

So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Discover. Dream.

Mark Twain

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I just had to share that we've found a fiddler who makes house calls! YEE-HAW! Maybe there are some advantages to living in the woods. Apparantly there are as many musicians out here as writers. He came to the house yesterday with his very personable assistant who heaved in a huge galvanized bucket with a rope and big piece of wood attached. This was used to keep time whiile he fiddled. But he didn't need the help, let me tell you. The boys found this tin tub type instrument very amusing - and one they can make themselves!

Anyway, for an hour or more we hosted Hee Haw in our very own living room and it was heavenly. I've always had a fondness for fiddlers. I even have a fiddler or two in my books. It didn't matter that he'd never heard of Renfro Valley or The Virginia Reel. He could play everything else and has been for 70 or so years. He left three of his CD's and Paul has to start practicing again. Their first piece is "Red Wing."

When he was very small, about 4, his grandfather found an old fiddle in a pile of garbage and gave it to him. This same fiddle, he said, has now been assessed at having a value in excess of $10,000 dollars. Really, one man's junk is another man's treasure. This man has been playing this same fiddle ever since and is a member of the Old Time Fiddlers Association. He plays all kinds of venues (this is a new word for me) and is performing at a festival today.

Music is such a mystery to me. I don't even understand the language but am glad Paul likes to play. The door has been kept open for him to continue and I am very thankful. Makes me wonder if Paul has a fiddling future in store. If so, it's a wonderful world.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Anticipation is a great gift - it's simply enjoying something before it starts. Another heaven-sent ability, I guess. And I've been anticipating my trip to Kentucky for a quite a while now. Looking forward to things like:

*having Panera's divine quiche and coffee
*wireless internet as opposed to dinosaur dial-up here in the woods
*driving to Indian Fort and looking up at the Pinnacle as opposed to actually climbing it
*sitting on the front porch or on the back deck at Granny's and hearing the train whistle
*having a super-sized iced coffee at McDonald's in iced coffee appropriate weather (HOT)
*visiting the new Berea public library
*hearing Pastor Kevin preach at Berea Baptist church
*perusing all the great books at the Berea College store
*sitting quietly in Danforth Chapel
*touring Boonesborough (again)
*driving to Louisville to a historic site
*shopping for old license plates for Randy
*trying not to miss the boys or wonder if they're homesick at camp
*seeing family!

I also realize that a hundred or more years ago, moving to Washington from Kentucky meant never seeing your family again. Although I'm no fan of flying, it does beat a covered wagon. Only five more days now ...