Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Best Ever

Ten days ago was my last blog entry. Ten days. Wow. Well, what's happened since then? Nothing much. Just Christmas. A quiet Christmas in Ohio with friends and family. A little snow. A little cheer was spread. A little time of magic. No fancy holiday in New York or Mexico. Just a quiet and peaceful Christmas. Then home. For one night. The next morning Michael and I headed to Atlanta. For more holiday fun with family.

I've eaten too much, laughed too much, slept too little, watched too many holiday TV movies, drove too many miles, but we took some much needed time off from thinking about everything. Isn't that what the holidays are for? A sedative. A time warp. A chance to forget our problems for about two weeks. But now it's back to the reality of life. My life. And this year, things are going to change.

Michael and I are on a quest for major changes this year. In every area of our beings. And by God, we're going to make it happen. No fruitless New Year's resolutions to waste our time, just positive changes to soul, mind, and body. Christmas brought things into focus for me this year. A time to reflect on the past few years and realize that although I've made tremendous strides in my career as a writer and speaker, there's still a part of me that's searching. Christmas did not consist of lots of presents for either of us. We cut way back this year and decided that our gifts to each other would be a better year ... 2008 ... a year of changes.

I've lost myself along the way. Not a big part of myself, just a few minor pieces that fell off in my move to the South. But one of my favorite lines in a movie is from Sense and Sensibility. "There is nothing lost that may be found, if sought."

My novel will be bought this year. My next book will be finished this Spring. My life as a writer and speaker will continue to face the same challenges as most writers. But this year, I'm going to enlighten my reader's minds and jolt my reader's hearts. Open their hands to discover the possibility of reaching out with compassion. I'm giving them more than Southern Fried delights. I'm tossing caution to the wind. It's already in motion.

And life as we know it ... will change.

Christmas was fine. One more done and gone. It was a merry one. I'm hoping your Chrismas was, as well. But I for one, am glad it's over. Because it's 360-some days to next Christmas ... and I'm already looking forward to it. Because I know this year will be ... the best ever.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Grand Christmas

It's been an interesting week. I've talked to two literary agents this week and received great feedback, as well as possible representation. Nothing set in stone, as of yet. So much to think about, so much to consider. Still waiting to hear from a California agent. But I'm encouraged and the next book is well on its way. A special project Michael and I have been working on is going well. In fact, January may hold a special meaning for us ... in addition to our five-year anniversary. It's going to be a great Christmas this year.

For one, we'll be in Ohio with our children. Although Christopher, Nicole, and our grandson will be in Arizona with Nicole's parents (we'll miss them) we get to spend a few quality days with Jillian, Aaron, and our future daughter-in-law, Annie. And, of course, our best friends Tina and Tim. Like I said, it's going to be a great Christmas.

Then there's a few days after Christmas ... we'll be in Atlanta with my sister and parents. Lots of traveling this season, but still ... a great Christmas.

I've had all kinds of Christmas's. (What is the plural of Christmas? es, 's, s' ... ah who cares?) Point is -I've had good ones and not-so-good ones. Sad ones. And one or two Christmas's that were so wretched and horrible, I've pushed them out of my mind. Forgotten. But there are many more Christmas's that hold pleasant memories. And this is going to be one of them.

Last night our dear friends, Dena and Blair, went to dinner with us at the Bonefish Grill and then we had floor seats for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in Greensboro. I'm hung over this morning ... from not just the wine at dinner, but the LOUD music, the smoke, the faux snow, and strobe lights. Whew. I'm not as young as I used to be, that's for sure. However, this was a concert to remember. I'm sure you've heard them, at least on the radio. But this group of musicians and vocalists were outstanding and the music made your heart swell. If you were a Grinch or a Scrooge, you were no longer after the sights and sounds of this magnificent performance. Truly remarkable.

It made me realize ... this is a GRAND CHRISTMAS!

Have a more than a merry one yourself. Have a GRAND one!

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Tuna

Last night Michael and I visited Tuna, Texas. At the Broach Theatre in Greensboro. Funny, to say the least. A play consisting of over a dozen characters ... played by two actors, Hall Parrish and Stephen Gee, they gave outstanding performances. These two men kept their audience laughing from beginning to end.

From Greensboro, they decked the halls of Tuna, a redneck town of political conservatism, religious fundamentalism, bouffants and bad taste. Split second costume changes transformed the actors into townspeople of every age, type, and gender. The characters names made me laugh as much as anything. The town sluts, Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd won the Christmas yard display contest ... too funny!

A true poke at the small-town South, A Tuna Christmas has been around for twenty years of Christmas' in cities from Greensboro to Lubbock. If you get the chance, go see it. After all, one can never have enough Tuna at Christmas. Right?

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Lite

December is typically a crazy month. Shopping, holiday preparation, cooking, all the things that come with Christmas. But this year, compared to the rest of the year, December is quiet. A slowed-down pace from Christmas' of yesteryear. The reason it seems that way, I think, is because I've been running at full steam ahead for months now. Finishing a book, speaking, and traveling. But I'm researching and working through the next novel at the moment, traveling is down to once a week or so, and I'm scaling my Christmas spending back this year. Way back.

Christmas Light.

No, not like a light on a tree. Kind of like Bud Lite. Only ... Christmas Lite. I feel good about it, too. In fact, I think Christmas has gotten out of hand for most folk. They pay for it all year round until the next Christmas and then it starts all over. I like not having to run around like a crazy person, hoping you can get to the end of your list before the stores close. That's nuts. The traffic is bad, the stores are too hot, and the lines are too long.

Instead, I've done what little shopping I need to do ... online. Now, I'm looking forward to a Christmas play this Friday at our little community theater. And next week the Trans Siberian Orchestra is coming to town and we have tickets. A less stressful December for me than ever.

Wait ... hold on.

Yesterday, Michael and I met with a marketing and public relations agency. A new one. One that has proposed a new strategy. A three-phase campaign. One that will create a huge buzz for Televenge. One that will keep me busy for the rest of my life, it seems. One that will partner with me and open doors that I've not yet touched. One that Michael and I are very excited about.

There's another personal project on the horizon that's going to consume our attention come January. I'll fill you in on this exciting achievement ... soon.

And my son and his fiancee are waist-deep at the moment, planning a June 2008 wedding.

Before I know it, it'll be Christmas 2008.

I best enjoy this relaxing December. It may be the last rest I get for a while.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Long Quote

Every once in a while a special word of encouragement from another author gets me excited. Not often, though. Writers who write books on How to Write, Why I Write, How to Publish, How to Write Bestsellers, ya da - ya da - ya da ... it's my humble opinion that these writers like to hear themselves talk. Like they got all the answers. Not that they don't have valid points, and many have great published books, but listen ... what works for one writer doesn't work for every writer.

Today I received an e-mail from a dear friend who sent me the quote below from Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote, "Eat, Pray, Love," (you know Oprah book/on all the TV shows) well, anyway, I got goose pimples when I read it. It's a great message for writers. I'm not sure where this was published, but it's strong. Every writer needs to read it. Enjoy Elizabeth's "quote" below:

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It's all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

I took a few writing classes when I was at NYU, but, aside from an excellent workshop taught by Helen Schulman, I found that I didn’t really want to be practicing this work in a classroom. I wasn’t convinced that a workshop full of 13 other young writers trying to find their voices was the best place for me to find my voice. So I wrote on my own, as well. I showed my work to friends and family whose opinions I trusted. I was always writing, always showing. After I graduated from NYU, I decided not to pursue an MFA in creative writing. Instead, I created my own post-graduate writing program, which entailed several years spent traveling around the country and world, taking jobs at bars and restaurants and ranches, listening to how people spoke, collecting experiences and writing constantly. My life probably looked disordered to observers (not that anyone was observing it that closely) but my travels were a very deliberate effort to learn as much as I could about life, expressly so that I could write about it.

Back around the age of 19, I had started sending my short stories out for publication. My goal was to publish something (anything, anywhere) before I died. I collected only massive piles of rejection notes for years. I cannot explain exactly why I had the confidence to be sending off my short stories at the age of 19 to, say, The New Yorker, or why it did not destroy me when I was inevitably rejected. I sort of figured I’d be rejected. But I also thought: “Hey – somebody has to write all those stories: why not me?” I didn’t love being rejected, but my expectations were low and my patience was high. (Again – the goal was to get published before death. And I was young and healthy.) It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself, “Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling is -- of COURSE the information is contradictory. Because, frankly, nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

In the end, I love this work. I have always loved this work. My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. Please try, also, not to go totally freaking insane in the process. Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

When WHAT IF Isn't Enough

My nasty red nose can't stop my fingers from flying over my keyboard today. I'm going to finish my second novel. Just because I have a cold, it won't stop me today. Not today. I'm pouring over my notes and research for Mountain Lamb. A much shorter book, Mountain Lamb is roughed out and ready for Draft number 2. I expect to be finished with this manuscript in a few months. I find myself consistently examining three conflicts in my writing: religion, the extent to which a parent will go to save their children, and issues of race. God in His wisdom, I am sure, also deals with these human frailties. So I have no answers, just messages. I present the story. The reader deals with his/her own heart and conscience.

What if? It's one tool a writer uses to create a plot. But the political and current events throughout my lifetime have created so many questions inside my brain and heart that often times--a what if just isn't enough. Questions I would love answered. Faults, flaws, and the inconsistent behaviors of mankind that grate on my mind.

In my early days of being a flower-child, my peace and love days as I call them, I protested the Vietnam war and yet my heart went out to the boys caught in the middle of that "conflict." I was only a few miles from the campus during the Kent State riots, and yet a friend of my family was one of the National Guard that day. A young man who shot into the crowd of students. Mixed emotions? Yes, you could say that.

I sat and watched hours of the civil rights movement, glued to the TV each and every time Dr. King spoke. I'm probably one of the few Caucasians that wanted to be black as a little girl and go march on Washington. And then I didn't understand why later, some African-Americans delivered a much more violent message. I was angry about it. Conflict and unanswered questions? You bet.

Unconditional love. Is it impossible?

I burned my bra and then spent my lunch money on the latest shade of Cover Girl, the shortest mini-skirt I could find, and was thrilled to take home a fifty dollars a week in 1972. A fourth of what my male counterpart took home. Preach one thing, do another?

It's human. We all find ourselves talking out of both sides of our mouths at some point in our lives. Other than the Mother Teresas of the world, the rest of us are fickle and float around in life chasing our convictions and trying to get over the guilt of not achieving the goals that go with them.

I never missed church. I believed, tithed, raised my hands in every service, answered hundreds of altar calls, gave love offerings instead of paying my water bill, Trusted and obeyed. Every day. For years and years. I ended up homeless, rejected, divorced. So where was God? My children suffered. How could I save them?

After forty years of struggling, these questions of why I can't save the world from these frailties still haunt me. I know that I can't, so to deal with the conflicts of my soul, I write stories. Deep, meaningful, strong-plotted, and character-driven stories that hopefully will touch on some level of emotion in my reader. Because to me, everybody is plagued with the guilt and pain of the world's problems. If they aren't ... they're not honest. It touches us all.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aching

I wish I could say I'm busy writing like a mad dog these days ... but the truth is, my head is full of nothing but snot. I've come down with the cold of the century. Blowing, sneezing, fever, headache, aches and pains ... but each day I get a little better. I'm blogging today. That's something, at least.

During this time of chicken soup, boxes of Kleenex, and bags of cough drops--I've spent time reading and catching up on ideas surrounding my next book project. Televenge is still up for grabs. We're hoping to hear something soon, at least after the Holidays ... as to an agent and publisher. But for now, it remains in my computer. Waiting.

I must say that waiting is not one of my favorite things to do. Not a strength I attest to. I hear so many great stories of successes and failures. Televenge will be published, that much I know ... how and when ... is anybodys guess. There's more than one way to skin a cat, my dad says. It'll get published.

It's a ripping great story. Told from the inside out. It's well written, clean, and carries a message for the ages. A message of survival for those who have been offered little. Those who want to believe in God. Those who have been rejected, wronged, and left with nothing. It's powerful. It's eye-opening. And it's unpublished. So I'm aching. From this damn cold and from the fact this manuscript needs to find a home.

Ah, well. Faith. Something I write about, attest to. It's time to hang on to some of it. Right?

For now I think I'll put on a cup of tea, curl up in a blanket, and read. I'm starting Lisa Tucker's One Upon A Day. I pray colds and flu stay away from your door this winter.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The South Seeps In

I spent Tuesday night painting pottery and soaking up lots of one-liners. In a room full of good ole' Southern gals, you expect it. So I kept quiet and made lots of mental notes. Like this one: "He may sleep in my house, but if he ain't careful he's gonna wake up in Hell!"

Ha!

Good one. You may see that in one of my stories.

One little gal blurted out something about Santa, "My mama says believin' is receivin'!" I do believe that's found in the Bible somewhere, as well.

Oh sure, you can be smug about your vow to keep a few of your Northern traits. Some folks have taken up residence in the Southland and proudly proclaim their Yankee status. They eat healthy salads and refuse hush puppies, never partaking of barbeque. They laugh and carry on about the twangy accents around them that filter through their ears. Ah, but this is South. This is a way of life. It's not an act. It's not even a gimmick. It's who we are. And to the smallest degree, it will ooze into your pours after you've been here awhile ... like it or not.

This Dixie speech directs us and grounds us. Even those who hail from states above the Mason Dixon Line, eventually it'll seep into your vocabulary. A few words at first. Then suddenly, red is no longer one syllable but two. Sara Evans and Brooks and Dunn tunes begin to trickle off your tongue and you're apt to order grits with eggs and sip a sweet tea for the fun of it. A few Southern girlfriends is all it takes to trigger your tongue's ability to twang.

So the next time you bite your lip to keep a "bless her heart" from flying out, just let it. It's like taking your bra off before bed. A relief to give into a moment of freedom.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Feast and Family

A special time, indeed. My sister's house in Atlanta overflowed with the trimmings of feast and family this Turkey Day. Jillian drove from Ohio to my house in North Carolina and together we descended on the King family in Georgia. Michael stayed at home this year to tend to his family's Thanksgiving, but I drove south to mine. Traditions cannot be set in blended families, it seems. But who cares, really? Every year is different. Keeps it interesting, at least.This year Kathy's house filled to brim with the "King girls." It was fun to be with my nieces. Britney, Bethany, Sara, Kelsey, Shaina, Marissa, and my great niece ... little Brooke (Bethany's baby.) My one lone nephew, Sam, came home from college in Louisiana with his girlfriend, Megan. (So that added yet another girl.) And there was Britney's husband, DJ, and their two precious boys, Evan-3 and Adam-2. Add my Jillian into the mix ... and of course mom, dad, my two sisters, Kathy and Lisa, and brother-in-law, Dave ... it was a houseful. And we can't forget the cats, Ginger and Jag, and the dogs ... Bo (or fondly known as Butt-Bo) and Mr. Bently. And Duke. How can I forget Duke?My Aaron and his fiancee, Annie, couldn't be there due to work. Eric, my brother, was missing-- (as usual--there's one in every family, isn't there? We love him, but we NEVER see him.) And we also missed Bethany's husband, Greg and their son Caleb-3, who stayed at home in Texas.But it was the first time that many of us were all together under one roof to celebrate a holiday in way too many years. Kathy's BIG, beautiful home was more than accommodating, it was beautifully decorated. Turkey and all the side dishes covered one whole table. Every cook came to share their special recipe. We laughed ... we cried ... we ate until we popped. This one was for the memory books.
Enjoy the pictures!

My hope is that your family remains close, and above all else stays healthy and happy through every holiday season.

MANY blessings to you and yours.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We Rocked!

Dena Harris http://www.denaharris.com/ and I rocked the house this past Saturday at the North Carolina Writer's Network Fall Conference. Jam-packed with great information on PUBLICITY and PUBLIC SPEAKING our class, we believe, was one of the best.

Afterward, one lady reported she had signed up to take another class (one that was noted as "full" prior to the conference.) This woman went on to say she was bored in this "full" class so after ten minutes--she left and wandered the halls wondering which class she could sneak into. Then she heard the commotion from our room. "Wow! This was the best class the entire weekend," she said to me. "I think I got more information from you two than I have in a month's worth of classes!"

Well, bless her heart. She may have been exaggerating a bit, but it was an hour and a half of fun, sharing, and well, hey ... when you put two publicity and public speaking queens in a room ... what do you expect?

I think we gave them their money's worth. Enough that we received a special shout-out from the NCWN's Executive Director, Cynthia Barnett at the dinner on Saturday evening.

Thing is ... when it comes to delivering information, Dena and I want to make a difference. Just like the North Carolina Writer's Network makes in the lives of writers across the region. This network is there for beginning writer, the emerging writer, and the experienced writer.

Jill McCorkle, Keynote, spoke Friday night. Her speech hit on censorship. That writers must have freedom in their writing. To censor one's writing is to stifle the creative process. I loved her delivery and I agree with her. But to me, censorship is also about those in the industry attempting to not only "censor" what we write but HOW we write. Censorship seeps into the minds and hearts of the writer and all but stops creativity. Because somebody says, "you can't do it that way, and get published," it causes writers to become mentally challenged with severe limitations. They never progress any further than the next "HOW-TO WRITE and PUBLISH" book on the market or the next authority figure that thinks they know what it takes to "make it."

It stinks in the nostrils of God. (In my humble opinion.)

I'll bet if anyone told my dear friend, Gail Cauble Gurley that she couldn't produce and write the screenplay for her book, Red Dirt Tracks just because she'd only written three books and all of them self-published, and because she's a senior citizen ... she'd laugh in their face. Because indeed, it is now a motion picture to be released in the spring of 2008. The movie, Red Dirt Rising, http://www.reddirtrising.com/ is a testament to the human spirit and the determination of one woman who ignored the "experts" and did things, HER WAY.

So, yes. I loved Jill's speech Friday night. Indeed I did.

Chatting with my good friends at Press 53, and other writers, agents, editors, publicists ... the conference is always a boost to my writer's soul. I'm thankful and grateful to the network for continuing in the face of adversity. I know there are challenges ahead, and the road will not be an easy one for the incoming Executive Director of the NCWN, (Ed Southern.) But the network will flourish, as long as they have instructors and presentations at their conferences that rock like ours certainly did!

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

These Dreams

I think there's a song by Heart with that title.

I'm not talking about hopes, goals ... those kinds of dreams. I'm talking about sleeping dreams. What do you dream about, if you remember? Most dreams are forgotten within hours of waking. I'll bet that's a good thing. I forget most of mine within minutes. Unless I wake up and write it down immediately, I have no chance of recalling my "in-house cinema."

Nightmares are another thing. I have a recurring one. It involves ... tornadoes. Oh sure, I've had the flying dreams and the dreams of finding myself buck naked in a room full of people. Oh God, the worst. But these tornado dreams occur every few months or so. They've been whirling around my sleep cycle now, for ... years. And there's usually more than one tornado in the dream. But I always manage to get away from it. I'm usually watching them tear the world to pieces. It's pretty scary. Do I know what they mean? Nope.

I just know I'm glad to wake up from one. I have one other nightmare that haunts me from time to time and that's about the house I grew up in. Of course, I believe it's haunted. Rumor has it that the original owner (way back at the turn of the last century) died on the staircase in that house. Who knows? I do dream dreadful dreams about that place. Although, my memories of growing up there are for the most part ... good ones.

The brain is a strange thing. I hear we only utilize a small part of it. (Some of us utilize less than others, I think.) But it makes sense to me that your soul is in your brain. That part of you that goes on after you no longer breathe. And I wonder why we dream what we dream? Maybe it's your soul and your subconscious talking to each other. I'm sure somebody (some psychic or soothsayer) might say that my tornado dreams are about the "tornadoes in my life." Maybe they are. I'm sure every dream-reader has an opinion.

But once in a while, I have a great dream. One I don't want to wake up from. Like winning the lottery, or the Pulitzer, or I'm on Oprah ... or something way out crazy like that. Dreams are a funny thing. And sometimes wacky. And all too often, scary. I have lived in nightmare situations, however. So maybe it's just a way of my old brain cleaning house.

Again, who knows?

I'm just always glad to wake up.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Just Me, Trying To Find Something To Write About

Let's see ... it's been a few days since my last blog ...

I don't mind telling you ... the wait is not just grueling. It's exhausting. It's hard to wait. But it's the holiday season. So any further responses to my query letters and manuscript may hold off until January. Who knows? I have hope, however. The positive news is that four agents requested the manuscript. I'm happy, despite it all. But it's tough to zero in on the next project and keep writing ... knowing ... Televenge may be in print next year. Or thereabouts. Oh gosh ... my head spins thinking about it.

I spoke to a mother/daughter tea this past Sunday. It went ... okay. At least I got paid for speaking. Book sales were light. But that's probably because I spoke to the same group last year and many of the ladies already had my book. And truthfully, senior citizens (the over 70 and 80 crowd) are not big book buyers. All in all, a great group of women, though. Sweethearts.

Today, Dena and I practiced our presentation for the North Carolina Writer's Network Fall Conference. It's this weekend in Winston-Salem. We're teaching a class on Publicity, Public Speaking, and Pulling Your Hair Out. (Something we know quite a bit about.) It's going to be a fun weekend mixing and mingling with writers, editors, and agents. http://www.ncwriters.org/

For me, I'm always glad to see January come. I'm not one to bask in the holiday season and its moods/music/drama. I suppose I've had a lot of bad ones, maybe that's why. My husband, however, loves it. So I try. Maybe next year. I think things will be different next year.

In fact, I know they'll be different. So stay tuned.

Well, hey. A few paragraphs are better than nothing.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Greensboro's Finest

Lisa, Brenda, Dena, Carol ... some of Greensboro's finest artists, writers, entrepreneurs. My Shundi group. I've blogged about them before, but we sat in the hotel lobby of the O'Henry and had "tea" yesterday. China, linen, comfy couches, finger foods, and us. I realized as I sat looking at my friends, in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s ... it's not just the common ground of friendship that draws us together for moments like these ... it's the need. The need to feel that friendship.

True Girlfriends are a special lot. Those who are true friends, not just acquaintenaces looking for good dirt or gossip, but true friends who care ... are hard to find. Though our lives have all taken different paths, we recognize that friendship must be handled with care. Nurtured. Treasured. Though we cannot keep constant tabs on each others day-to-day events, we know that coming together once in a while and catching up is enough to make us feel close again.

Friends. Lending our shoulders, our hands, our resources, and sharing our smiles ... and our tears.

Blessings to you and your special girlfriends.

Monday, November 05, 2007

November Already?

Kicked off the beginning of the 'holiday' season with a trip to Charleston, WV and a meeting with a literary agent. I met her for a casual lunch and a long talk into the afternoon about everything literary. Including my manuscript! She's damn impressive and I like her. A go-getter, that's for sure ... but like I said, it was chance for both of us to get to know each other, goals-dreams-those kinds of things ... and lots of smiles all around. Loved it. Every minute of it. We'll see.

The mountains of WV are in full bloom autumn colors ... sugared and crisp, the air relays winter warnings. Makes me hungry! For winter foods. Like chili, hearty soups, holiday food! But hey, a great place to eat in Charleston is Joe Fazio's. Real Italian cuisine right smack dab in the middle of the city. Reservations needed, believe me. Standing room only on Saturday night. But if you're ever in the Mountaineer State, make Fazio's a must eat place.

This morning Michael and I headed to Burlington, NC. I spoke to the First Presbyterian Church Ladies Group. The sanctuary was full and I think they were quite pleased with the presentation ... at least so many of them spoke to me afterward and said so. Coming Out Of The Dark, a speech that moves many to tears, is hard to give. However, I am consistently amazed at the response. I sold LOTS of books, which is always a good thing, especially since 20% goes back to their organization. If you've followed my blog, you know I've given this speech many times over the past two years. But for me, each time I get up to give this ... it's truly like the first time out of my mouth. I still cry. I still feel the hurt. I still glory in its ending. I'm still grateful I'm free.

It reminds me to count my blessings. Every day. Not just on Thanksgiving.

What a way to start out the month of November! One busy day after another.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Real Ghostbuster

Halloween. A day for ghosts, goblins, little kids dressed in dime-store costumes ... just how seriously do we take this "holiday?"

Most evangelicals ban the word Halloween from their vocabulary. A good friend of mine talks about how her church-going parents hid in the basement on Halloween with the lights out, refusing to answer the door or allow their own treat-or-treat starved children to go out. (That in itself is pretty scary, if you ask me.) Some, however, have a church party and encourage their children to dress up like Bible characters.

Hmmm.

Anyway, then there's the other extreme. People who create haunted houses, visions of Hell, and demonic-looking costumes that frighten even the most avid party-goers. And what's with all the gory movies on TV this time of year? Just flipping through the channels with the remote creeps me out.

Thing is, I'd venture to say most folks want to have fun with Halloween and don't consider it any more real than Santa Claus. Or the man in the moon. My dear friends, Dena and Blair, are doing the Harry Potter theme this year. Next year they say, it's Pirates of the Carribbean! What fun. Their whole neighborhood gets into decorating and they have a blast. I personally plan to enjoy the little kiddies who come to my door for their treats. But even Dena has had a poltergeist moment, as of late. (See Dena's blog of October 18th. http://www.blogsbydenaharris.squarespace.com/)

There's no harm in pretending there's no such thing as monsters, ghosts, boogie-men, or a crazy witch who flys on a broom. Or a werewolf that howls at a full moon. Come on. Not real. Right?

Well, there are some of us, who know better.

There is another side. And the only reason I say that, is because members of my family have experienced it. In small, non-threatening ways. And so have I. Things that go bump in the night. My brother, my mother, my niece, and I have all experienced a paranormal "happening" at some point in our lives. And I believe my sister has, as well. Something that could not be explained away. Something that no matter what anybody said as it being a figment of our imagination, we knew ... this was real.

These "happenings" often show up in my stories. (Read Southern Fried Women.) But I also know ... where there is darkness, there's light. My belief system is strong in that for every demon, there's ten thousand angels to conquer it. Fear is a strong manipulator. And normal people go out of their way to live those normal lives without thinking about being afraid of things they don't know about. Halloween gives them a chance to have fun with their fears. It's a way to say, "Hey, this is all in fun!"

And for the most part, it is.

But somewhere, in the back of my mind ... I remember the time the hair on every square inch of my body stood at attention when my mother told me about the demon that appeared on her closet door while she was holding her infant son and said, "You can't have him." If you knew my mama, you'd know ... she's not some lunatic or druggie or crazy woman. But my mom has had numerous wild experiences with the real thing. Maybe because she's so child-like in her faith and her belief system. And because, my mother is not afraid of these things. She knows how to call on God. Believe me. She believes in the "things we cannot see."

So when you talk about Halloween to me and my family, we allow our children to live free from fear, and enjoy the "holiday." They've had bucket-fulls of candy to spill after canvassing the neighborhood. And they've all watched a spooky movie and dressed up like Frankenstein or Dracula at some point.

But sometime during our lifetime, the line between real and imagined gets fuzzy. That's when we call Mom. Or Grandma. She prays. Hard. She's the real ghostbuster in our family.

I'm not sure how to say this without sounding overtly religious. This is my favorite scripture. Enjoy your own brand of Halloween!

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In The Ear Of The Listener

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is humor is in the ear of the listener. With my Ipod blaring, "The Best of Bread," I imagine most kids today would laugh at my long-haired groups from the 60s. Even Fleetwood Mac, God forbid. I heard twenty-somethings on TV the other day making fun of Tears for Fears and other 80s and early 90s rock groups. Laughing at the lyrics.

Then I thought of the lyrics from the popular groups and celebrities of today. It's all relative. Get my drift?

Did your folks like the Beatles? Mine neither.

Then again, I found my folks brand of humor--humorless. Of course, they laughed at the old Amos and Andy radio shows, along with many of the old TV talk shows. But I only smiled and shrugged. Often just laughing at my parents.

My point is, FUNNY is not the same for everybody. Never before had I thought of that fact until yesterday where I spent the better part of the afternoon at the beauty shop. In the south, hometown beauty shops are the place to go for a writer like me. It's like feasting all day at the local Golden Corral. But as I laughed my behind off at every piece of gossip, comment, or group of words heard, I realized ... some of what these women bantered back and forth with, was not meant to be funny.

Though much of it was hysterical to me, I also realized this is their way of life. The way they communicate. My hairdresser, who I call Truvey (yes, think Steel Magnolias) is about as precious as they come. Her shop on the north side of High Point is a busy place for local Southern Belles. Her sister, Donna Beth, works the chair next to her. Wonderful women with a great sense of family and pride in their Southern heritage.

I spent the afternoon getting the scoop on a lot of "goin's on" in High Point yesterday. Finally, at the lunch hour, Donna Beth hollers, "I'm off to the Hobble & Gobble for chicken and grilled onions. Anybody want anything?"

The Hobble & Gobble? "I've never heard of that restaurant," I said ... quite seriously. It was Truvey's turn to laugh at me. "That's what we call the K&W Cafeteria. You know, where all the blue-haired senior citizens go for lunch." I roared. (Well, you had to be there.)

My point again, when she said Hobble & Gobble, it was with a serious, straight face. The rest of the afternoon I listened intently to their conversations. They were rich with the flavor of these Southern Women and their hopes and dreams. I made many mental notes, I assure you. Much of what I found funny, wasn't meant to be, but was great material.

Until Donna Beth said, "Tell Pam about us runnin' outta gas on I 85!" Seems Truvey and her sister were in Charlotte at a hair show. At the show they had false eyelashes applied. Donna Beth's eyelashes even sparkled. But on the way home, they run out of gas. Sitting on the side of the road, they called the AAA. Finally, a cop stops. "Oh no!" yells Donna Beth to her sister. "He's gonna shine the light in here, my eyelashes are gonna sparkle, and he's gonna think we're strippers fresh off the pole!"

The story goes on, but we all belly laughed, I assure you.

When my son tells his Marine Boot Camp stories of Parris Island, most of us laugh. Now that it's over. But not his sister. She leaves the room. They make her cry, she says.

I hear jokes about 9-11 and Katrina, these days. They may be funny with light humor, but some may find them offensive. Some look at a fat woman and find it hilarious. Except for the fat woman. Sure, they may laugh in the face of a joke at their expense. But it's not funny when they're alone. Then again, like anything else, you have to find humor in life. And in adversity. You have to find humor in tragedy even. Just to get through it often.

My last point is this--to find humor in as much of life as you possibly can. It just makes the journey a little easier. Even if you have to laugh at yourself.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Think Positive

Another POSITIVE perk in my day! Another agent has requested the entire Televenge manuscript!

If you know anything about the business, you know that's a great feeling. To receive that kind of news puts a positive spin on the tail end of a few days of wondering ... what was I thinking?

Over the past few years, I've sat in a few notable authors' presence. Women who've proudly announced, "I was blessed in that I didn't have to go through that awful submission process. I got an agent. Immediately." Right about now I'm wondering just how true that statement is. I suppose if your second cousin is an agent, or you've won an award of magnitude, or you've sold 80,000 copies of your first self-published book, or you have incredible luck, then maybe ... but I tend to believe everyone, no matter the quality of their writing, goes through this process the same way.

One grueling day at a time.

And yet, the slightest piece of good news is encouraging. Even from writing friends who keep sending those "atta girl" e-mails! I hang on every word of encouragement these days. However, the few rejections have even been positive. (If you can call a rejection positive.) Mostly handwritten notes and all with kind comments like "strong subject, great writing, just not for me at this time, subjective business ... best of luck and thanks for sending ..."

Okay. I can deal with that. I think Nicholas Sparks had umpteen-hundred rejections before The Notebook was bought. The list of best-selling authors is filled with thousands of rejections. You must gird yourself for those. And ... know that the planets, moon, stars, sun, and multiple universes must line up. But it will happen. I know it. I feel it. It's all about chemistry. Timing. And my sixth sense, which kicked in as of yesterday.

They're tough odds to beat. But somebody has to. Although, when you think about it, nobody's really "deserving." It's the hard work, the diligence to your craft, the power of positive belief in one's ability and struggle that makes a difference. The knowledge that you've written more than just another great story. You've poured your blood, sweat, and tears over the keyboard for years. That's what keeps you reeling toward breakout status. You hope.

Funny, too, though. I have great support in my friends, but there are those few who cast their ever-present seeds of doubt into your path. Well-meaning folks, family and otherwise, that don't see you as anything other than they way they've always seen you. So you have to learn to ignore snide comments, or questions like, "how's that book coming along?" Geesh. You wish everyone knew just how hard you've worked. But even if you take the time to explain it in detail, they won't get it. Not now. Probably not ever.

Don't kid yourself. All the dynamics with friends and family plays a great part in your success as a writer. You can allow the petty comments, boo-hoo blogs, and cruel comments get you down ... or you can concentrate on the positive. Negative people will always be just that--negative. And often, unintentionally cruel. They assume so much and know so little. They've not walked in your shoes, or led your life to know--someday you'll be on top. Stay close to those who have given you the most support, and keep going forward to that light at the end of the tunnel.

Circumstances can change overnight. Friends come and go. Family too, it seems. The human race is a fickle bunch. It's going to be fun to see who's really there when it all shakes out. When the dream comes true. When the book is finally out.

It's only a matter of time. Think positive.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

News, National and Not

More news on televangelists. Richard Roberts this time. Son of Oral. According to the news, there are accusations of illegal money handling and other dirty misdeeds. Whether true or not, we may never know. And most Americans have gotten used to hearing ugly media about these "men of God." But the megachurches are filled every week, folks. The prayer line phone numbers flash on TV screens all over the country and billions of dollars flow through TV ministries from coast to coast every week.

Religious broadcasting is here to stay. Like it or not.

High Point Literary League Fall Conference today! Sharyn McCrumb, one of my favorites, spoke and signed her books afterwards. It was such a pleasure meeting her.

I'm still waiting to hear from my chosen agents. Two have requested partials, one has the entire manuscript. In the meantime, I'm working on ideas for two more books. God in his wisdom keeps me sane through this waiting period.

With constant news on the evangelical front, I'm hoping Televenge strikes a chord with many. It's like I've said from the beginning ... in God's hands. But it doesn't stop me from feeling like I'm on some lost highway, waiting to find my dream at the next stop for gas.

Blessings to you and yours.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rooms Full of Savvy, Flamboyant Women

Last Thursday, I spoke to the American Business Women's Association at the High Point Country Club. Is there an Author in You? Many women in business have mulled over writing a book. Or writing articles, columns, giving written advice in their field of expertise. But being busy mothers, most of them, with full schedules ... writing always gets put on their back burners. But a few of these women were retired and one in particular, though still quite young, was a breast cancer survivor. She had something to say and wanted encouragement as to how to start. A fun evening, the group gathered around my table afterwards with questions and ... of course, I sold books!

Yesterday, I spoke to a large group of Red Hatters at Roseglen Village in Wilkesboro, NC. They gathered from five counties to benefit the Alzheimer Association. A group of really cool women dawned red and purple, and turned into their alter egos. It's amazing what a red hat will do to a woman. Those under 50 wore pink and lavender. But the room was packed! Talk about a blast. Although, I do believe my husband had as much fun as anybody, taking pictures of this sea of red and purple ladies. And the line formed once again at my signing table afterward.

I continue to sell Southern Fried Women. It's a great little book of short stories and women are drawn to it. I'm happy to say, Michael and I are into our third printing. I think the fun for me, besides meeting so many great people in our travels, is knowing they take a piece of me home with them. It's astounding when you think about it. Artists have the capability of touching lives into future generations.

Although, I remind each one of my audiences that you don't have to be an artist or a writer to record your family history. Who knows but someday, your great-great-great grandchild, or neice, nephew, or even your godchild may find it and write your story. All because you took the time to scribble it down on paper. It may not be all that interesting to you, but it may be the beginning of greatness for them. It's part of leaving your legacy behind.

Can you imagine what a young girl might think to go into her grandmother's room and find a big red hat with purple feathers? That either her grandmother ran a secret brothel, or she was a proud and flamboyant woman with a spicey personality and a whole lot of character. She might even want to write about it.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

As Long As It Takes

Okay. So I read this morning in my hometown newspaper that it took John Hart a year to find an agent, a year to sell his novel, and a year to get it published and make the Times Bestseller List. Hmmm.

In the meantime, I'll write. And, with any stroke of luck or good fortune, my timeline won't be quite as long. But who knows, really? This publishing business is a crazy one. It's chemistry, it's timing, it's truly--pure luck. But I think, more than anything, it's commitment to your work. Knowing without a doubt your book is not only salable, it's damn good. You can't be shaken awake from that dream.

I'm still speaking, writing, and going on with life ... and keeping my phone on and my email checked. It'll happen.

I even watched a great movie the other night! I seldom venture to the TV, but just felt like having somebody else tell me a story for a change. Wow, have you seen Blood Diamond? Violent, graphic, bloody, and horror all wrapped up into one hell of a great movie. Okay, hold on. I'm usually the first one to admit not liking that much violence. That's true enough. I'll take a great romantic comedy over blood and guts any day of the week.

But something drew me in quickly. Maybe it was Leonardo DiCaprio. Typically, I'm more mowed over by guys in my generation ... you know, Harrison Ford, Kurt Russell, Tom Hanks, and Kevin Costner. But this actor (and active environmentalist) has become one of the great actors of the century. I assure you. Who knew? This little kid I used to watch as an extra on sitcoms, has turned into the Valentino of the movie industry.

I was impressed with his performance in Titanic, but you should see him now. This movie, for which I believe he won an Oscar, is his finest hour, thus far. (In my humble opinion.) What a fantastic story. Although, I have to admit, it was disturbing enough that I had to turn off the sound in some parts and switch the channel for just a moment to just get through parts of it.

But the story is real and speaks to the heart of mankind. I loved it. It not only drew me in, days later, I'm still thinking about it.

I want to be that kind of writer. Write those kinds of stories.

I believe Televenge is one of those. So, I'll wait as long as it takes to show it to the world.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dynamic Duo

No, not Batman and Robin. My parents. The two of them have melded minds, I swear. I suppose after 54 years of marriage, that happens.

Mom came out of her surgery with few problems, while Dad seemed to know that life at home would go on as usual. Not a worry in his body. While the rest of fussed and tried to tie her to the bed to keep her down, Dad went on with his daily activities, knowing not much could keep her in bed except a strong pain pill.

The dynamics of family is a fascinating thing. It changes as the years wear on. You can go for months without much sibling contact, then wham! It's like you've been talking forever. It's been said you can't pick your family, whereas your friends are a different matter. The trick is ... how do you make your family members into your friends? Not all siblings think alike. In fact, sometimes you wonder how two totally different people come from the same parents.

The important thing is knowing when to set aside your differences and come together for the task at hand.

Our dynamic duo needs watching over these days. They try, God bless them, to fit into this new tech-smart world, but ... they are definitely a product of the 50s and 60s. Computers, HDTV, and cell phones are not part of their world. Even an answering machine is a complicated piece of machinery. I wonder, are they better off without them?

My mother surprised me when she came out of the bedroom with a leather wallet. An old one. One she's held on to for over 50 years. Inside was a love letter from Dad to her, odd slips of paper dating back to the 50s, as well as my baby picture and a picture of a much younger and handsomer Dad. And dog tags. Hers, mine, and my dad's. The three of us spent nearly two years in Germany from 1955 to 1957, while Dad finished his time with Uncle Sam during the Korean war. Why, I wondered, did she wait until now to show me this precious piece of history? It touched me.

The past few days at my parents home has made me slow down a bit, and think about what really matters in life. As much as I pride myself with my "technical knowledge," I'm way behind some of the younger folks these days. But that's okay. I'm hoping someday our kids finds Michael and I as dynamic as I do my own parents.

Despite their inability to reset their VCR.

God bless you and your dynamic duo.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Waiting With Mom

Heading to Atlanta ... my mom, bless her heart, just had yet another surgery today. She's fine, at least for now. We're all praying for her speedy recovery. But Michael and I are going down for Dad, too. God knows, Daddy has special care and feeding needs, especially when Mama is down sick. At least if somebody's in the house, she won't feel like she has to get up from her sick bed to fix the man some food. What is it with that generation? Good godamighty.

Anyway, I'm taking my dump drive along. Just in case some out-of-breath agent calls, indicating my query letter is the best ever, and demands my entire manuscript overnight! Don't want to leave the poor person hanging. At least I can get on over to Kinkos, run it off, mail it, and then ... wait some more.

This waiting and wondering is tough. Not for the faint of heart. Every time the phone rings, I jump. Of course, I've sent out queries to my top picks. And I have to keep remembering the rejection stories from all the greats. But it doesn't make it any easier. I will, I assure you, be reporting on this entire process, once its over. I'm keeping track of who rejects me, who wants me, who answers quickly and just how they answer, and who just blows me off entirely. Oh yeah, I'm learning a whole lot of how this system of submissions works. Hopefully, with any luck, the stars, moon, and sun will line up, the chemistry will zing, and the timing will be perfect for one lucky agent. Lucky agent? Should I be so bold to say that?

Well, sure. Lucky agent, lucky editor, lucky me.

But right now ... who that is, is anybody's guess. I'll keep my phone on. This whole process has been in God's hands from the beginning. Until then, it's still a waiting game. And then again, one of my top picks has asked for the entire manuscript, and it's in her office at this very moment. She said she'd get back to me after October 8th sometime.

Might as well go wait with Mom and Dad. At least they'll keep me laughing and my mind off the fact that ... I'm still waiting.

Blessings to all y'all.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Please, God, Blow The Other Way

I need the wind to change direction. For God to blow against my back.

I remember growing up, I walked to school, uphill. It was a short walk, just up the road a piece. But nevertheless, on cold and windy days walking into the wind or rain, I hated it. My legs froze (as a girl, we couldn't wear pants back then) and my naturally curly hair was usually a frizzed up mess by the time the bell rang.

I feel like I've been walking uphill all my life. I'm not a runner, but I can imagine when you run against the wind, it's a whole lot tougher on your body and spirit than when the wind is pushing against your back.

I'm ready to be propelled into sweeter, higher, better things. I've been plowing, tilling, planting, weeding, watching things grow ... for years. I need a harvest time. I need to reap the nourishment of my labors. I spent most of my life in winter. Barren, dreary, cold and the wind in my face. Then I moved to North Carolina and spring came. I began to turn the soil over and plant a new crop. Summer arrived and I worked my butt off, watering, weeding, and keeping the bugs off. It's been a long summer. I'm ready for my favorite time of the year. I need the wind to change direction.

Cooler temperatures, bright sunny skies ... harvest. And the wind at my back.

Blessings to you and yours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Love/Loathe

Other than my family, writing, and speaking …

I Love …
~the feel, smell, and weight of a new book in my hands
~peach pie, cobbler, and my mama’s pie crust
~expensive, great food
~The Food Channel
~HGTV
~clothes for plus sized women that don’t make us look like a frumpy 70s fundamentalist church lady attending a Full Gospel Businessmen’s banquet
~great summer tomatoes
~Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy, and The Dick Van Dyke Show
~jewelry any kind any price
~humble people
~porcelain flowers, china, glassware, and teacups
~antiques, log cabins, the History Channel
~ice cream sandwiches
~genuinely kind people
~Our State Magazine, Southern Living Magazine, Country Living, and my new favorites, Triad Living and North Carolina Design
~open houses on Sundays
~Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina Panthers
~hiking
~laying on a blanket on a beach under a beach umbrella
~cooking in fantastic kitchens
~gardening in cool weather
~farms
~a good soaking rain
~fantastic sex with one partner your whole life long
~a great pair of boots
~island vacations
~a clean house
~The Marine Corps
~laying on a blanket under a shade tree
~real roses, any color, any kind
~open windows and the sound of birds and the feel of fresh air in the morning
~the sound of the ocean
~sunsets
~bargains
~garage sales, flea markets, antique stores
~the Blue Ridge Parkway - scatter my ashes
~big dogs
~to bend the rules
~to travel (by car)
~pillow-talk
~old John Candy movies
~old Alfred Hitchcock movies
~Reese Witherspoon, Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, Holly Hunter, Kate Winslet, Goldie Hawn, Whoopie Goldberg, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez, and Meryl Streep,
~Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Taye Diggs, Kurt Russell, Kevin James, Jack Black, Robin Williams, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, and Jude Law
~the great poet performer, Minton Sparks
~good news of any kind
~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Marshall Chapman, Wynona Judd, Vince Gill, and Sara Evans
~Bluegrass, Country Music, 80s music, great classic rock, and new age music
~an unexpected heartfelt kiss
~one night stands with my husband
~to dance, but I’m no good at it
~drama over humor, but I love to laugh until I’m sick
~convertibles
~to break the rules
~family reunions
~Gray’s Anatomy
~my best friend, Tina
~red wine
~watching movies at home, avoiding theaters where rude people talk, eat, answer their cell phones, let their kids cry, kick the back of my seat
~margaritas
~thunderstorms
~bright, sunny days
~old bathtubs
~vintage homes
~shelves of old books
~fine dining, restaurants that serve family style, local diners, cool bars that serve great food
~black and white checked floors
~cut-glass windows and doors
~whales
~cherry Cokes
~memories of my children
~picnics
~Southern accents, New York accents
~tolerant people
~people who work jobs nobody else wants
~my son's sense of humor, my daughter's face
~cheap makeup
~Starbucks dark roast coffee, cream
~wide-plank hardwood floors
~my step-son's work ethic
~my grandson, every bit of him
~rice pudding
~Pizza Hut pepperoni pan pizza
~new thick towels hot out of the dryer and expensive sheets sun-dried on the line
~my husband’s legs
~wrap around porches
~old barns
~wild flowers, pastures, horses, mountains in the backdrop
~vanilla anything
~men who love their kids
~vintage jewelry
~large, beautiful trees
~The Color Purple
~Outlander, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Beach Music
~The Biltmore Estate from top to bottom
~West Jefferson, Julian, and Greensboro, North Carolina
~Charleston, South Carolina
~Savannah, Georgia

I Loathe
~to exercise
~the Holidays
~people who claim to live free from sin
~video games
~people who don't eventually return my emails
~the smell of Pine-sol, Murphy's Oil soap, and Comet
~board games
~not all, but most of today’s TV shows
~arrogant people
~narcissists
~to travel by air
~chain restaurants, fast-food
~loud cars and motorcycles
~hearing the music in the car next to me or the beat from the inside of my house
~my next door holier-than-thou neighbors
~people who honk their car horns after 10:00 p.m.
~bodily noises, especially in restaurants or in church
~know-it-alls
~jealous people
~cheap toilet paper
~people who are never happy
~the war in Iraq
~greasy food
~carpet
~narrow minds
~people who are always right
~people who can’t be sorry for anything
~judge shows, Jerry Springer, and crap TV
~people who drive in the turning lane
~people who drive in the passing lane
~people who never use their turn signal
~people who never pay attention to the driver behind them
~people who tailgate
~false prophets
~dentists
~racists and bigots
~mosquitoes
~dirty, filthy houses
~nasty bathrooms
~crumbs on the kitchen counter
~ants in the kitchen
~dirty sheets
~messy closets
~unruly children
~junk cars
~people who don’t make their unruly children behave
~crying babies in nicer restaurants and in movies
~people who are always out to get somebody
~people who get upset if you ask why
~neglected bad skin
~undependable people
~gloomy skies, weeks of snow, typical northern weather
~world disaster documentaries, i.e.-global warming, earthquakes, tidal waves
~politics
~politicians
~bad music (take your pick)
~pornography
~loud mouths
~anybody disrespectful
~cruelty to animals
~expensive makeup, skin care, and shoes
~wasting money
~the mall, anywhere
~Akron and Canton, Ohio
~shopping
~people who don't give a hoot about their house's curb appeal
~the smell of a city
~stuck in traffic
~aging
~bad memories
~assholes I have worked for
~hypocrites!
~folks who get shook over a dirty word
~closed-minded people
~bad news
~to ask for help
~abusers
~the evening news
~rats, roaches, snakes
~people who can’t forgive

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday ...

Monday I was the keynote speaker at the Ashe County Elder Abuse Team Conference, Ashe Services for Aging Senior Center in West Jefferson, NC.

What a great group of folks who have taken on the responsibility of training us in what to look for regarding elder abuse. It's out there. I never realized just how badly and how unreported the problem of elder abuse has become. Very little state and government funding is alloted for this nationwide problem. And what's worse, the cases are seldom reported. It was an eye opener for us. I guess because Michael and I have always honored our parents. That's just not the case for some folk.

I kept my speech light and humorous. This large crowd of social workers needed to laugh after the horrible realities they're faced with every day.

Remember to hug your mama and grandma today, or send them a card, or call them, or tell grandpa you love him, even if he doesn't remember who you are. Just tell him.

Blessings to you and yours.

Yow!

Tuesday I sat (or rather reclined) all morning in the dentist chair. Fillings, one extraction, and two root canals, later, I slept the rest of the day away. Yow. I look like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. My cheeks are puffier than usual. But I think the pain meds are worse than the procedure. I'm feeling quite drunk this morning. Drunk and sore. Woozy.

This is what I get for growing up on well water with no fluoride. And truthfully, until now, I've been too damn poor to invest in the price of a small car when it came to fixing my teeth. I just limped along, nursing them, year after year.

Now, before you go and think I've got a mouthful of rotten teeth, think again. The front teeth are fine. In fact, the dentist said I have excellent oral hygiene. It's them damn back teeth that nobody can see. But, with any luck, I'm going to have a mouthful of pretty new crowns and bridges within the year. How about that? I can stop chewing with my front teeth! Yay!

I'll bet, if the truth was told, so many of us baby boomers are in this shape with our teeth. My husband just had a root canal. My sisters have both had extractions and root canals. Were we not brushing enough as kids? Probably not. And again, no fluoride. But the biggest problem, I feel, has been those harrowing experiences at the dentist! As a result, I've got to have sedation for any dentist appointment. Am I a wus? Probably. But they yanked our teeth out instead of filling them back in the 60s. Nightmares. Even as late as the 90s, I've had horrible experences with dentists!

So ... now we pay the price for pretty teeth. And thank God we can buy them these days. I choose not to have dentures, but to fix the teeth I have, keep them white and shiny, and because I don't smoke ... hopefully I can keep them this way for years to come. My thirty-year old daughter, thank God, has perfect teeth. Not a cavity in her head. Maybe bad teeth will be a thing of the past for our grandchildren. Like polio and small pox.

But right now, I'm heading back to the comfort of my bed and an ice pack. And Advil.

Blessings to you and yours.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Growing Old Gracefully

I spoke this week to a large group of students, mostly Seniors, at Wake Forest University. Talk about feeling my age. I spoke about writing, of course. I did my "thing" and it went well. But as I looked out over the sea of baby-faces, I began to think about aging. That someday, all those smooth and unlined faces, straight backs, perky boobs, and bodies filled with boundless energy ... are going to be middle-aged. Like me. It made me sad. But ONLY for a moment.

Growing old gracefully is a gift. I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. (Not in body, but in mind.) Sometimes I see my mother when I look in the mirror, but there's nothing I can do about that.

I've always been, uh, a bit of an oddball. A drama queen. A pain in the ass to some. Maybe it's the artistic part of me that was always screaming to get out! Come out of the closet, if you will. But now ... as I've aged like (I was going to use the old cliche and say like a fine wine) but it's more like stinky cheese. Anyway, I have to say ... I like me. I like the way my life is turning out.

Point is, I have found out over the years who my friends really are. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Not even a flatter belly or a firmer butt. Although I'm anal as hell, I've learned to forgive myself quicker. And others. I've learned patience. (Oh, yes, 'tis true.) And though I still hate stupid drivers, I get over it quicker. I've become my own friend.

I stopped beating myself up for eating ice cream after 7:00, and I love 80s music. I'm not ashamed of that anymore. And bluegrass. I love bluegrass. I choose who I want to be with, talk to, and have in my life. I don't want to be around people I don't like. I don't have to anymore. If somebody doesn't like me, I don't lament about that anymore, either. I shrug and go on.

There's a freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or write until 3 in the morning. Whose business is it if I sleep until 10 am? I also love Mozart and Frankie Valli. So what? I've never owned my own home. I can admit that. Sure, it's a goal. To own my own beautiful home. Entertain. Fix things the way I want. Have what I want for dinner and when I want it. Walk around the house naked with my husband. Who cares? (I hope my kids aren't reading this.) But then again, get over it. Mom still has sex, guys! It still happens after 50, maybe not as much, but it happens! And it's better than ever!

And if I choose to weep over lost dreams in the middle of the day ... I will. And if I walk the beach in long cotton cover-up instead of a bikini, who cares? Even despite the pitying glances from the size twos, so what? They, too, will get old. My husband still loves me.

I know someday I may become forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. Some folks have a tough time believing what I've been through. And some things, may never be told. They're too painful. But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I'm glad I'm not perfect. I'm glad, oh, so glad I don't have to work at that "perfect" game my old church used to force down my throat. I am so blessed to have lived long enough to know better.

My hair is turning gray under the beautiful color my hairdresser so skillfully applies. The laugh lines are carved into my face from decades of smiles. But I have a dear friend who never laughed after the age of 13. She never got to see her laugh lines.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself as much anymore. (Only to my husband, poor thing.) But I've even earned the right to be wrong. I guess, after looking at all those young people, I've decided I like being older. It has set me free. I like who I've become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. I will eat ice cream every single day. (If I feel like it.) So there.

What do those kids at Wake Forest really have to write about at this point in their lives? Not much when you think about it. I used to wish I were 21 again. Not anymore. It feels too good to be free from all that. Too good. I don't want to spend my life jaded, waiting, to wake up one day and find, that I let all these years go by ... wasted. Love that Carrie Underwood song.

Blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waiting Game

Boy, when it rains it pours. Four churches called in one day to book me for either their women's ministry workshop, or to speak after or during a Sunday Service. In the midst of setting up engagements, I'm working on the outline for Behold the Lamb, the next book on my horizon. (More to come on that later.) Televenge is done! (For now. Until a publisher's editor gets involved.) But my queries are out to my selected agents. Michael and I worked long and hard for three solid weeks getting those queries out. And after my last "freak out" at the Fed-X, I'm triple checking everything!

But my platform continues to build. Some days I wonder what the hell I think I'm doing. The process is so slow. But looking back, I can see real progress. Bit by bit, we've trudged along and put some solid miles behind us. I do have a story to tell. It's moving and it's potent. Shocking, even. Seldom does a heart not get touched. But over time, I've come to realize, my message is strongest to those who sit in church pews. And I'm finding Christians (on the whole) have more of an open mind than we give them credit for.

Of course, there are the John Hagees of the world ... who thump their Bibles and wail loud and long that God means this and that and you better not think otherwise or Hell is your destiny! I mean, wow, he should know. Right? Ugh. Like God has no capability to talk to any of us. I'm so tired of these guys.

But I'm finding that folks everywhere don't want to be screamed at. Or even preached at. God isn't the red-eyed, long-white-haired, ball of fire the televangelists of the world want us to believe that He is. Who is He? What is He? I think the truth is ... we seek Him out for ourselves, and we put away all our precognitions, as much as possible, and let that still, small voice tell us who He is.

That's powerful. He's powerful. He doesn't need the John Hagees of the world to prove it.

Please say a prayer. Televenge is a powerful book. It's going to create controversy, but it's also going to sit well with oh, so many folk. It's a book of faith, of love, encouragement, and of strength. Based loosely on a true story, the journey my characters embark on will shock, delight, and brand this story into the reader's memory. I'm pretty confident, aren't I?

My friend, Attorney Jackie Stanley, said something to me last week that thrilled me. She said, "Since reading Televenge, I look at the religious world differently. I compare and when I see and hear televangelists on TV, I wonder ... " That is the exact response I wish to evoke in my readers.

The journey's been a long one. That's for sure. But it's not over. Not by a long shot.

Speaking, writing, e-mailing, traveling, speaking, writing, it's been non-stop for years now. The summer is gone and I barely recall when it arrived. Lately, I've been searching for time just to get to the Wal-Mart. And on top of everything, I'm nursing a bad tooth. Woe is me.

But any way you look at it, Televenge is now a waiting game. Well, I guess if there's one thing I've learned over the past few decades of my life. It's how to wait. What a hard lesson. But it sure comes in handy now.

Blessings to you and yours,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Perfectionism

I have a confession about how anal I am. And just how it drives me (and my poor husband) insane. So if you can imagine, I'm already freaked about sending out my first query for Televenge. I've spent hours going over this query letter.

Checking every word, making sure the entire submission is pristine and perfect. I personally take it to the Fed-X station. (Normally, I'll snail mail, but this was a requested submission, so I sent it Fed-X.)

Anyway ... I carefully fill out the paperwork, checking and double-checking each and every thing I do. I slid the submission into the envelope. It fits nicely. I write the words "requested submission" on the front and the agent's name. I say a quick prayer, pay the bill, and walk out.

Then an hour later ... I'm sitting at my computer and something doesn't feel right. I look over to my files and begin to review (once again) everything I just did. I re-read the query letter. The last line says, "Thank you for your time. I would be delighted to send you the completed manuscript. A SASE is enclosed." Then it hits me.

I forgot to put in the SASE! (Self-addressed stamped envelope)

EEEKKKK! I freak. Sure, I know. The SASE is only for rejections. But if you say one is enclosed, then, by God, you should enclose it. I rush back to the Fed-X station, beg them to hunt for it, and a really, sweet Fed-X employee finds it for me. Thank God, it wasn't on the plane, yet.

I rip open the package. Pull out the submission. I redo the large envelope, slide in my SASE, and finally, finally ... finish the process.

I get back in the car. And I cry. A project of this magnitude is in itself daunting. But sending it out, perfect, the way the agents want it, and add to that my own 'bout with perfectionism, I'm either going to have a major melt-down every time I send out a query, or I'm going to have to somehow learn to relax and realize these folks aren't anymore perfect than I am.

God help me.

Blessings to you and yours.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Busy And Fuzzy-Headed

Oh! My Gosh! Has it really been a week since my last blog post? After speaking last Thursday in Concord, NC to Ewomen, I felt the final huge push to get the first query letter and pages out to the agent that not only came highly recommended, but my dear friend made the way for me to get not just 30 pages but 100 pages to her ... asap. I think I'm anal to a fault. A gigantic one. I had a hard, hard time just letting it go ... but, as of today, it's gone. Now, we wait and see.

The rules for sending query letters and submissions to agents are long and need constant scrutiny. Each agent's website calls for different items in submitting. The query, or pitch letter, is standard--but some want a synopsis, some want outlines, some want 50 pages, 100 pages, 30 pages, then some ask for nothing but the query letter. It was a long tedious process, weeding through hundreds of agents, finding those who are a good fit. Thank God, Michael did the majority of the work in compiling agent information, while I concentrated on the final 200th read of Televenge.

But now, we have our master list. I'll keep you posted.

Last Friday evening, I heard my friend, Jackie Stanley speak at the launch of her new book, Jackie Stanley's Dictionary of Encouragement. Fabulous work and I commend her on this beautiful book. On the back cover is one quote by Mother Teresa--I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending the world a love letter. That quote inspired Jackie so much that she started her own publishing company, Little Pencil Press, and wrote this lovely book of words and their oh-so-encouraging definitions. She is the author and co-author of ten other books geared toward personal empowerment. http://www.encouragementalways.com/ -- Check her out! She is serious about earning the right to call herself the Chief Encouragement Officer, as she has embarked on a a thirty-thousand notes of encouragement marathon! Truly, one awesome woman I can also call, my friend.

This past Tuesday, I was the Keynote Speaker at the Aging With Gusto Conference, North Carolina State University, Granville County Cooperative Education Center at the Oxford Baptist Church. Approximately 200 beautiful men and women, 55 and older, gathered for workshops, a luncheon, and to be entertained. I think I did that for them. The response was warm and welcoming and I loved interacting with these folks. Sold more books and then ....

I nursed a toothache on the way home.

Yes, a darned old toothache. Ugh ... talk about timing. I don't have time for this ... but I guess my old tooth doesn't give a damn. So ... on the day I'm to send out my first query letter (a day to celebrate and get all excited) I'm also heading to the dentist. Now, I'm on antibiotics and pain killers until I go in for a root canal and some other work at the end of the month. Lovely, lovely.

Last night was the open house for the new and improved, Hell on Heelz. http://www.hellonheelz.com/. I'm looking forward to the months ahead with this great networking group of femtastic ladies!

But, like I said, what timing! I have so much work to do and in between it all, I'm loopy with pain meds. I guess that's why blogging has taken a back seat this week, eh?

Once again.

Oh well, I love to blog, but often can't find the time. But it's time for another pill and bed ... and I can't think of one more clever thing to say at this point. My head is fuzzy.

Blessings to you and yours. (That works.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Let It Go

Blogging is one activity I enjoy, and yet find it's at the bottom of my list most days. I suppose if one intends to journal, then one must keep at it on a regular basis in order to secure a following. Or something like that. But I've forgiven myself the past few weeks from my absence on the web. I'm rather exhausted, and exhilarated at the same time.

I've been talking and blogging about my novel, the writing, editing, and daily work of it for ... I guess a couple years now. If you could see a play-by-play of my effort, you'd say I wrote this book like a mule: keeping my eyes on the ground straight ahead of me. The past three years I have put the novel before just about everything. It's been that important to me. Oh sure, I've taken time off to finish Southern Fried Women and to promote it, but what you didn't see were the hours I spent behind the scenes on Televenge. And then, of course, the past year has been full steam ahead to the finish line.

I think writers need breaks, need to stay mentally healthy and alert, they need time away from their work to go back to it with a fresh perspective. But I also think we can find every excuse in the book not to write, if we choose to. The creative process in a writer is, to me, a chemical balance that must be carefully monitored. One can only take so much time off, be away from one's work for so long before the muse begins to thin out and fade from view.

It's a hard call, then, to spread yourself out between family obligations, play time, exercise, vacation time, working on your house (or getting one, in my case.) The drive to succeed is a powerful force. Combine that with the drive to see your life's work completed, sold, and in print ... everything else takes a back seat. It's just that simple. Why do writers torture themselves with this drive, I wonder. Some say our priorities are all screwed up.

I suppose that might be true. And one might never understand how we can allow ourselves to become so innately obsessed with something so unpredictable as writing a novel. (Unpredictable in terms of success, that is.) Yet, when you're called ... ahhh, that's different.

Where I came from, the fires I've walked through, the life I've lived, has made me who I am. I could never have written this novel, otherwise.

I spoke today to a group of women in Concord, NC. A networking group called, Ewomen. Lovely ladies, and a couple handsome gentlemen, who came to hear me talk on the subject, Is there an author in you? So many are wondering about writing books these days. Self-help, how-to, business-related books that sell off the shelves like Tylenol. I covered the basics of writing, publishing, and promoting in about 20 minutes. Enough time to either whet their whistles or motivate them to move further into the process. A successful bunch, this Concord group was not only receptive, but warm and friendly.

It took me away from my desk for a few hours of needed relief from the final tweaking before sending this big, fat novel off to agents. I swear, this is almost as bad as sending your five-year-old off to school for the first time.

Worse.

But, like the first days of kindergarten, I knew this day would come. You can only tweak it so much, edit it so much, read it only so many times before you finally have to say ... enough. And let it go.

And then I'll put my nose to the ground and begin plowing through the next book.

One day at a time.

Blessings to you and yours.