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.


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.

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.