Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

Last week's question was whether you loved or hated Grape Nuts Cereal.  For me the answer is LOVE IT! Of course, I add so many things to it, it's like a completely different cereal. Splenda, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and skim milk.

This week's question is: The Star Wars Character I would most like to be is________________.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

World War One Wednesday

This is a recruiting poster geared toward encouraging African American men to enlist in the US Military during World War One. Notice them conquering the Germans with a benevolent Abraham Lincoln looking on. At this time in American History African American soldiers were known as Buffalo Soldiers, a holdover from their time in the US Cavalry in the West. It is commonly believed that the term Buffalo Soldiers came from the Native Americans, either in reference to their bravery or perhaps in reference to their hair.

Buffalo Soldiers were not allowed to fight as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, but the 92nd and 93 Infantry, comprised of African American soldiers, was seconded to the French for the duration of the war and fought under the French Command, some of the first Americans to engage in conflict in The Great War. 

The historic African American Buffalo Soldier unit the 10th Cavalry supported the 35th Infantry in the border skirmish known as the Battle of Ambos Nogales in which German advisers fought alongside Mexican soldiers, the only battle of World War One where Germans fought on North American soil.

Today in history marks the beginning of the Third Battle of the Aisne, 1918, a battle in which US African Americans fought.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

My answer to last week's Fill In The Blank Friday is:

My favorite animal is my cat, Pookie, and I would never own a reptile.

Today's question is one that I posted on my FB page. I was really surprised at the response.

So, Grape Nuts cereal...Love it, or hate it???

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

World War One Wednesday

Music has always been a powerful way to convey the feelings generated when a country goes to war. From The Star-Spangled Banner to The Battle Hymn of the Republic to I'll Be Seeing You, when America goes to war, people write songs. World War One was no exception. Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, It's A Long Way to Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag, Over There, and so many more. In researching this topic, I came across the song Just a Baby's Prayer at Twilight (For Her Daddy Over There.) I loved it so much, I wanted to incorporate it into A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA.
Just A Baby's Prayer At Twilight (for Her Daddy Over There)

I've heard the prayers of mothers,
Some of them old and gray
I've heard the prayers of others
For those who went away
Oft times a prayer will teach one
The meaning of good bye
I felt the pain of each one,
But this one made me cry
Just a baby's prayer at twilight
When lights are low
Poor baby's years
are filled with tears
There's a mother there at twilight
Who's proud to know
Her precious little tot
Is Dad's forget-me-not
After saying "Goodnight, Mama"
She climbs up stairs
Quite unawares
And says her prayers
"Oh! kindly tell my daddy
That he must take care"
That's a baby's prayer at twilight
For her daddy, "over there"
The gold that some folks pray for,
Brings nothing but regrets
Some day this gold won't pay for
Their many lifelong debts.
Some prayers may be neglected
Beyond the Gold Gates.
But when they're all collected,
Here's one that never waits;
Just a baby's prayer at twilight
When lights are low
Poor baby's years
are filled with
There's a mother there at twilight
Who's proud to know
Her precious little tot
Is Dad's forget-me-not
After saying, "Goodnight, Mama"
She climbs up stairs
Quite unawares
And says her prayers
"Oh! kindly tell my daddy
That he must take care"
That's a baby's prayer at twilight
For her daddy, "over there"

Do you have a favorite Wartime song? I've always been partial to I'll Be Home for Christmas and I'll Be Seeing You.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Blue Belle Inn B&B

The beautiful Blue Belle Inn. I have such a crush on this house. It will definitely show up in a book sometime. 

This past weekend is one I will long remember as a highlight of my life as a writer. For months, my dear friend Mary Connealy and I have been trying to meet up somewhere for a writing weekend. We finally found a date that would work for both of us and selected the beautiful Blue Belle Inn located in St. Ansgar, Iowa.

I felt a tinge badly because it is only an hour away from me, but it's at least four hours from where Mary lives. BUT, in my defense, the inn belongs to fellow ACFW member and author Sherrie Hansen, and we wanted to give her our patronage rather than someone we had no connection with. (You can learn more about Sherrie and her books by clicking HERE.) So we settled on this B&B and made the reservations. 

I've been a bit under the writing gun with editing a manuscript and polishing a proposal, and I was feeling the need to get away and concentrate on it. My agent had also asked me to work up some new fiction ideas for future projects, and I was feeling like a creative desert. I had nothing left. I was stale, dry, a creative husk.

Then I arrived at the Blue Belle Inn. Charming doesn't begin to describe this wonderful house. The atmosphere inside shows the hostess's kind heart. Sherrie has a real gift for making you feel as if the Blue Belle is your home. The rooms are so breathtakingly beautiful, the food amazing, the ambiance created by the antiques and the woodwork and the lighting and the was as if my soul breathed in fresh air for the first time in months.

I was fortunate enough to be able to arrive there on Thursday and have a day to get adjusted and buckled down to work before Mary arrived. You see, I love Mary to death, we're soul-sisters, twins. We even share a birthday. And we love to talk: writing, family, life, whatever, it doesn't matter. We've been known to close down some restaurants, we've stayed so late chatting.

This is the Plum Creek room across the hall from our room. It was so gorgeous, I loved to stand in the doorway and just gaze at all the pretty things. The far window that is so bright has several blue glass bottles on the windowsill that catch the sunlight. And the windows in that alcove are all curved, with curved glass in them. So pretty!
That Thursday alone, away from errands and chores and the temptation to distract myself with television or sewing on my Red Cross quilt was wonderful. I explored the house from top to bottom (Sherrie gave me the run of the place, and every room I ventured into was more beautiful and restful than the last. Each room is named after a literary place, and it was fun to see the books and furnishings blend so well together.) inhaled the scents of roses and lilacs and fresh-cut grass, and sat on the front porch swing letting my mind wander to fictional ideas and places, refreshing my heart.

I worked too, at a little table in the Sherwood Forest room, surrounded by pine boughs, medieval-themed tapestries made by Sherrie, and cunning little extra touches that made the room a lovely sanctuary. I accomplished a lot of editing. My goal for the weekend was to edit at least 30K more words, and I wound up with more than 42K. Yay!!! AND, as a result of the calm, peaceful atmosphere, my mind generated some new ideas for stories that I quickly put into a document to explore after I've turned in this current project to my agent.

Things just got better when Mary arrived. Sherrie gave us the key to the Anne Of Green Gables Cottage next door and we spent the majority of Saturday over there in the cool quiet, Mary on the sofa and me at the dining room table. When we got tired and stiff from sitting still so long (and couldn't stand being quiet for a moment longer) we'd walk a few blocks of downtown St. Ansgar, Iowa for lunch, to browse the antique and gift shops, and to take yet another gander at the Rare And Famous St. Ansgar Albino Deer (aka Creepy Deer.) Yep, the people of St. Ansgar were blessed 30 years ago with an albino deer, and when the doe passed away, they had it stuffed and mounted, and it resides in its own climate controlled, glassed in gazebo in a little (minute!) park on the main drag of St. Ansgar. Don't believe me? Check out the photo. Those red glass eyes stare at you, no matter which window you peer into.

Creepy, right?
The weekend was about refreshing my creative self, editing like my hair was on fire, and catching up with Mary and enjoying her company. And I got all of those things and more. I would encourage you to check out the Blue Belle Inn's website and Facebook pages by clicking the links below.

Question for you: Have you ever been to a B&B, on a writing retreat weekend, or seen an albino deer? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fill In the Blank Friday

This is me with my silly cat, Pookie. I've had her since 2002, and I love her. She is definitely my cat, letting me scoop her up and pet her any way I want to, when she would spit and yowl and squirm if any of my family members tried the same thing. I like cats. Which is odd since I was raised with dogs.

So, the fill in the blank question for you today is: My favorite animal is a _____________ and the animal I would NEVER own is a ______________________.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

World War One Wednesday

I love this book! While researching what life was like in America during World War One, I ran into several dead ends. There were lots of books written about the European battlefronts, the political figures, and the implications of the war, I had difficulty tracking down good source material for what the homefront looked like from 1917-1918 in the US. There were lots of resources for the homefront in Britain and France, but none for America that I could get my hands on easily.

Then the Minnesota Historical Society published Food Will Win The War by Rae Katherine Eighmey. The book is full of the history of the food rationing movement, stories, rationing posters, and recipes showing you how to substitute and stretch your food rations.

Fascinating stuff! I had no idea the lengths to which American Housewives went to feed their families under the rationing strictures. They gave up meat, wheat, fat, coffee, chocolate, and sugar. They prepared a lot of fish (blech!) and encouraged their children to fill up on milk and oatmeal.

Potatoes, a staple of many houses, were shipped to Europe by the shipload. One campaign by the war department had the slogan "Every Spud a Soldier" encouraging the American people to bypass their mashed potatoes and gravy and send the spuds to the troops instead.

Question for you: If the need for rationing came around again, what would you have the most difficult time giving up?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Minnesota NICE!

Tonight it was my privilege to guest speak at the MN-NICE ACFW monthly meeting. This group truly lives up to its name! What a truly NICE group of people.

I spoke on the ABC's of the publishing world. As writers we focus for months and years on honing our craft, learning the lingo of fiction, things like head-hopping and showing vs. telling and black moments.

But when our time for publication comes, we find we've entered a business world with a lingo all its own that we're supposed to know. Contract lingo, publishing house lingo, marketing lingo.

I thought it might be helpful if we talked about some of these terms so this group of writers might be prepared when their publishing opportunity rolled around. We talked about things like Sell In vs. Sell Through and Remainders and Backlists, E-books, Print on Demand, and Advanced Reader Copies.

Lots of questions, lots of discussion, and lots of fun. I hope they reaped some benefit from the discussion. I truly enjoyed this group, and if we can work it out, I'd love to come more often and participate as a group member. Unfortunately, the MN-NICE group meets on the same Sunday night each month that my church Bible study meets. :(

Question for you: Do you belong to a local writer's group?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fill In The Blank Friday

Two Fridays ago I asked the question: What is your favorite memory of an elementary school guest speaker? I loved your answers! Thanks for playing along. 

My answer to the question is: We had a lady come and show us how to card and spin wool into yarn. I was so impressed that she could take a lump of greasy, dirty sheep hair and make it into soft balls of fluffy yarn. And those carding tools were wicked cool! 

Today's Fill in the blank Friday question is...

My Biggest Driving Pet Peeve Is _______________________. C'mon, fess up. What is it that other drivers do that drives you buggy? 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

World War One Wednesday

In November of this year, I'm looking forward to the release of my next book, A Bride Sews With Love in Needles, CA. The setting is the El Garces Hotel during World War 1. In anticipation of this release, I thought I'd bring you some World War 1 information each Wednesday. I hope to talk about some of the research I've done, some of the interesting things I've found, and hopefully share with you how brave and self-sacrificing our nation was during these desperate times. 

Here's a collection of World War 1 Red Cross posters. As you can see, they are full of pathos and entreaty. How could any patriotic American ignore the pleas? The Red Cross appealed particularly to women to answer the call to serve, to give, to raise funds, to become involved in the war effort, and many women across the country answered that call. They became nurses, both here and overseas, they scrimped and saved and petitioned their neighbors to do the same. They held fundraisers, scrap metal drives, rolled bandages, knitted socks and scarves, and collected everything from peach pits to kitchen grease.

This particular poster is dear to me, because it makes an appearance in A Bride Sews With Love. Meghan, the heroine, is struck to the heart by the young soldier in the picture because he looks just like her brother. She vows to do anything she can to help the Red Cross to help soldiers just like him. She answers the call of the Red Cross nurse who is pleading with those on the home front to help.

When I visited my local county historical society, they let me delve into their World War 1 files where I found the carefully typed out instructions for knitting socks, fingerless gloves, wrist warmers, and scarves. Thousands of pairs of gloves and socks were sent 'over there' as women did their part. Women's groups banded together and purchased the quite costly (at that time) knitting machines that could turn out a sock in a matter of minutes once it was threaded. 

Who could say no to this plea? The wounded soldier (I don't know why, but he looks French to me. Maybe it's the mustache?) her hand to his brow, her strong profile and that red cross on her arm.  She's doing her part and more, but she needs your help to continue.

Did anyone in your family serve in the Red Cross or in the military during World War 1? My husband's grandfather served in the army, and his picture hangs in my father-in-law's office. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

Who Ya Readin'?

This last weekend, I watched two movies back-to-back. Disney's Tangled and the John Wayne classic The War Wagon. Both were my sole choice, though the family watched with me. I guess you could say I have eclectic taste when it comes to movies.

I also have eclectic taste when it comes to reading fiction. I'm currently reading A Feast for Crows by George Martin (A fantasy medieval) as well as A Time To Kill by Grisham (A legal thriller.) I just finished No One But You by Leigh Greenwood (Historical romance) and Devil May Care by Elizabeth Peters (a sort of Gothic modernish mystery.) On my TBR list are The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport (Historical Romance) and the next three Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly (Cop noir thrillers.)

Each book I read influences my writing. Each movie I watch influences my storytelling. I can tell if I've been reading a lot of modern settings if I'm having to weed anachronisms out of my writing at a frantic pace. I can tell if I've been watching a lot of westerns because my heroes take on a more manly, rugged, mythical quality.

How about you? Do you see what you're reading/watching showing up in your books? What are you currently reading and what's calling to you from your ToBeRead pile?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Special Friday Edition!

Hey, all! Today's Friday post is a bit different. My friend Katie Ganshert's Debut Novel, Wildflowers from Winter is only days away from release, and in an effort to spread the word, she's asked some of her friends to share their own Wildflowers from Winter posts. When bad things happen (winter) good things can come of them (wildflowers.) Be sure to click on the links at the end of the post to find out more about what's written here and about Katie's new book.

The truth is, I've had a wonderful and blessed life. The times of winter have been, for the most part, short, and the wildflowers abundant. 

When I read some of the posts on this blog hop, I thought, "I can't compete with that. Divorce, the loss of a child, the loss of your home." Then I realized, I don't have to compete. Everyone's story is different, everyone experiences loss.

My greatest loss and darkest time of winter came in 2008-2009. My much-loved mother-in-law was battling cancer, and she needed more and more care. My sister-in-law (also much loved!) and I were splitting the bulk of the duties. Those were the hardest weeks and months of my life, days where I felt stretched so thin, so afraid that I would do something wrong, or that I would forget medications, or that I wouldn't be there when she needed me. I worried about my kids, how were they taking all of this, how could I be there for them when I had to be at Grandma's side so much? And what about my husband? This was his mother.

But every time I thought I couldn't go on, or that God wasn't hearing my prayers, my sister-in-law or my husband or my kids or someone from my church would encourage me, lift me up, help me take a few more steps. 

In June of 2009, my mother-in-law, Lorraine Vetsch, lost her fight with cancer. Through that journey, my faith was strengthened every day, my relationship with my husband and children became stronger and took on new meaning, and my sister-in-law, Linda, became the sister of my heart. 

I'm still seeing wildflowers blooming from that time of winter in my life. God is good to give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. 

You can read more about Lorraine HERE (click on the obituary tab) and see a lovely picture of her, too. 

Wildflowers from Winter book page

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wild Wednesday

We've gotten the verdict on my husband's car. There's no fix to it. A part that broke cannot be replaced without major, major, MAJOR work, and the car is 16 years old. It's totaled.

Sad. We like the old green car. It has served us faithfully.

Enter a complication. We were in the market for a nice used car for our daughter to drive while she was home from college this summer. Also, our son is enrolled in driver's ed. We were going to get a zippy little economy car so we'd have more options when it came to wheels.

So now that my husband's car is toast, what do we do? My car is 9 years old. Do we get something new (ish) and I pass my car on to my husband? If we do that, do we still get another economy car for the kids?

Here we were, kinda messing around with the idea of another car, and now we might need two?

Sigh. As long as one of them is red, I guess it will be okay.

How about you? Do you have old cars? Do you have a red car?