Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No sense being dumb if you don't show it. . .

And, boy did I show some dumb this morning.

In nice weather I walk an hour a day outside on the Cherry Creek Trail, which runs by my neighborhood. It's a beautiful spot. I've seen ducks and egrets in the creek, deer, coyote, and the occasional wild turkey roaming across the prairie. Sometimes we'll see a bull snake. It's not a big deal, other than they're four feet long and scary looking.
We've been told that bull snakes were introduced into the area to keep down the rattle snake population, which is a good thing in areas widely populated by humans.

Well, today I saw a 4' bull snake. It was easing its way across the path. Not wanting to slow down, I pounded my feet to get the snake to move faster.

Except there was one problem. The snake wasn't a bull snake -- it was a rattle snake. Yikes!! That snake coiled up in a flash, twitched its tail and sounded its telltale rattle. Yes, I quickly got on my way.

Wikipedia says the range of a rattle snake is two-thirds of its total length, and that it can strike literally faster than the human eye can follow. It looks like I was a pretty lucky dummy.

Friends, I have learned some lessons from my mistake. One, respect ALL snakes, and two, practicing your patience is an art that is never perfected.

Wikipedia also says, "Most species of rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom, destroying tissue, degenerating organs and causing coagulopathy (disrupted blood clotting). Some degree of permanent scarring is very likely in the event of a venomous bite, even with prompt, effective treatment, and a severe envenomation, combined with delayed or ineffective treatment, can lead to the loss of a limb or death. Thus, a rattlesnake bite is always a potentially fatal injury. Untreated rattlesnake bites, especially from larger species, are very often fatal. However, antivenom, when applied in time, reduces the death rate to less than 4%."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Thoughts

I took a short nap today -- not something I often do. I must have needed the break because I feel so rested and at peace despite the fact that I should have been pounding out my word count. I think I had some pleasant dreams.

I'm a bit of a homebody. Sure, I enjoy going out and spending time with friends, but my best days are those spent at home. Right now I'm writing on my Adirondack chair in my little backyard.

I love the sounds of my neighborhood -- a car door closing, voices of neighbors greeting one another, my lovely fountain, the breeze through the Aspens, and of course, the nearly ever-present hum of lawn mowers (this is suburbia, you know).

This little piece of earth is my happy place. Right now my garden is blooming with different types of lilies. They're shades of yellow, orange, and pink. My favorite is pictured below. It's the color of the first blush of sunset, before the sun sinks low enough to create an explosion of bright orange and pink.

I've always craved a quiet, gentle place to relax. Now I realize that I've created such an oasis in my own backyard. I'm like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I understand that all I need is right here at home.

How about you? Where's your happy place? Is is close to home or is it found on an adventure?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome Deborah Vogts

I had the pleasure of meeting author Deb Vogts last summer at a publishing event. She's a wonderful, down-to-earth gal, one that you feel you've known longer than you actually have known her. We hit it off. I picked up a copy of her first novel, Snow Melts in Spring, and fell in love with her writing.

Her second novel, Seeds of Summer (the second
book in the Seasons of Tallgrass series) has recently released. I'm enjoying reading it very much. Deb has a way with words and I love the way she describes the setting for her novels, the Flint Hills of Kansas. Beautiful.

She's agreed to stop by and visit, and she's answered some questions:

1. Tell us about your latest novel, Seeds of Summer. - Seeds of Summer is the second book in the Seasons of the Tallgrass series. It’s a heart-warming contemporary romance set in the Flint Hills of Kansas where a former rodeo queen abandons her dreams in order to care for her deceased father’s ranch and her two half-siblings, only to realize with the help of a young new pastor that God can turn even the most dire circumstances into seeds of hope.

2. What’s your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or a movie? This is a quote I’m actually using in my third book, Blades of Autumn, taken from Skimming the Cream by Zula Bennington Green (Peggy of the Flint Hills). I think it describes the setting for the book amazingly well . . .

“The Flint Hills are simple and quiet and timeless. They belong to the people who live there, to men who ride in seasoned boots and weathered hats, to men who farm the little valleys and pasture the big hills, to women who look out their kitchen window every day at a familiar curve of sky. And to any soul attuned to beauty and peace.”

3. What’s your favorite holiday and why? - Christmas. I love all the symbols and family traditions that accompany this most precious holiday.

4. What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication? “Reader mail.” This is something I never equated into the “author picture.” I LOVE getting letters or emails from my readers. That has been such a huge blessing to me.

5. Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why? Right before Seeds of Summer released, my publisher ran a special promotion on Amazon to give away my first book, Snow Melts in Spring, as a free Kindle download. I thought this would be a great thing! Little did I know there might be consequences for doing this—poor reviews by those not expecting a Christian romance. On the very day I received my first 2 star review, I also received an email from a soldier in Bagdad, who had read my book as part of that free promotion—and loved it. The words he wrote in his email served as inspiration to me that God was in control, no matter how many poor reviews I might receive. If you’d like to read the email, I blogged about it here:

6. What makes you happy? – The scent of a rose or the approach of rain, a newly planted garden, baking bread, playing the piano, spending time with my family, driving into the Flint Hills, hearing from someone who enjoyed reading my books!

Bio: Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in Southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Note From Alison Strobel

Hey there! I just wanted to say thanks to my fine blog hostess and to her readers. I have been really excited to see how many people are thinking of picking up the book because of the reviews they read during the blog tour.

And thank you to everyone who entered the contest! I'll be drawing a winner on July 18 and posting it on my blog. If you haven't stopped by my blog or website yet, I hope you'll pop over sometime and say hi in the comments or on the guest book.

Also, if you're interested in hearing about my next releases and any other exciting news that happens to come up, please sign up to receive my announcements--the sign-up is on my website. I have another novel coming out in September, two more next year, and two children's books that my husband and I wrote (the first of which comes out August 1), so there will be plenty of news coming, and I try to host contests now and then on my blog, too.

Thanks again! And if you do decide to pick up The Weight of Shadows and give it a read, please come tell me what you thought of it. I mean it. :)


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Observing

When you’re out and about, even if it’s only your backyard, I think it’s important for a writer to be a good observer. Noting what you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste adds to your mental database of adjectives and phrases you can use in your work someday.

I’ve been noticing the prairie grasses on my (almost) daily walks. They’re nearly up to my waist and surround the concrete path that is the Cherry Creek Trail. The other day a breeze was blowing. Some of the grasses have flat fronds with a hand-like shape and others are thin and tapered, looking deceptively fragile.

As the wind stroked the grasses the ones with the flat fronds waved to me as though I were a trusted friend, while the thinner grasses bowed down like I was passing royalty.

I’m fairly certain that someday I'll create a scene that features those winsome grasses.

*The photo above doesn't show the grasses I'm talking about but it's one of the views on my walk. I took these photo a few years ago. Fortunately, the scene remains the same.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Welcome Alison Strobel

I'm happy to welcome author Alison Strobel to my blog. I've had the pleasure of reading her most recent release (courtesy of her publisher, Zondervan), The Weight of Shadows.

Alison agreed to answer some questions for us --

Tell us about your latest novel, Weight of Shadows.

The Weight of Shadows is about Kim, a young woman who is haunted by guilt and desperate for a family. When she starts dating Rick, a fellow foster child, she thinks she’s found everything she needs--someone to love her, and someone to whom she can spill the secret that weighs on her so heavily. What she really ends up finding, however, is a way to pay penance for her sins when Rick begins to abuse her. But when he turns on their infant daughter, Kim must decide if her needs are worth putting her child in danger--and how to ensure Rick doesn’t use her secret against her if she decides to leave.

What’s your favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or a movie?

Oh gosh, I have a terrible memory for things like that--but I can tell you that Terry Pratchett is, in my opinion, the king of word pictures and figurative language, so whatever ones I’d hoped to remember forever were probably from his books. :)

What’s your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas! I am a sucker for Christmas. I love the music, I love giving gifts, I love the traditions and teaching my children about why we celebrate it. It’s a thousand times better if there’s snow, too. There usually was when I was growing up in Illinois, but my years in California really gave my love of Christmas a run for its money. I just couldn’t get into it when it was warm enough to have Christmas dinner outside. And Christmas lights on palm trees? Just not the same. I’m really happy to be back in a place where the holiday gets the proper atmospheric costuming. :)

What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made on your journey of publication?

That Christian readers can be incredibly judgmental of authors based on what they write. Not all of them, obviously, but I’m always stunned when I or another author I know get slammed for writing realistic stories. If we portray an un-Christian character in a way that is absolutely believable, given who that character is and what their worldview is like, or if we make a Christian character make a really bad choice, there are readers out there who will question my/the author’s very faith because we dared to put something “un-Christian” in the book. I understand if readers don’t like to read about certain types of behavior, and I always feel badly when something I've written makes someone uncomfortable, but to question the state of my soul because I wrote about, say, a non-Christian who was a womanizer and a drunk is beyond ridiculous.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

I’ve had people tell me they’ve stopped reading in order to pray for the characters because they became so real to the reader. I take that as a huge compliment! I work really hard to make the people in my books believable and easy to relate to, and when I get feedback like that it tells me I’m hitting the bull’s-eye.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Cook!? Yeah, I don’t so much do that. At least not well. My favorite dish to eat that I know how to cook would be homemade mac and cheese. But I wouldn’t say I enjoy cooking it--or anything else for that matter. I really wish I did enjoy it, though.

Describe your perfect “day off.”

Sleeping in, having a breakfast of Cheerios with milk and brown sugar, spending the morning reading a really wonderful book in a very comfortable chair and spending the afternoon crocheting in the company of good friends. And somewhere in there would be a blended mocha. And maybe some cake.

What makes you happy?

My kids’ laughs and kisses. Dinner alone with my husband. Hearing how one of my books has touched someone, or made them think. Girls’ night out.

A piece of jewelry, the fragrance of lilacs, and the song of a mourning dove – make a scene.

The setting: An upscale funeral home in Massachusetts, present day, early May, Sunday morning. The room is prepared for a memorial service, with rows of folding chairs filling the room and the walls lined with lilacs. The windows to the room are open to the garden outside, where a mourning dove can be heard in its nest in one of the many cherry trees that decorate the property. At the front of the room is an open casket made of mahogany and lined with pink satin. An easel beside the casket holds a poster with two photos: One is from WW2, depicting a young woman with a bright smile wearing a smart servicewoman’s uniform. The other shows what we assume is the same woman, aged a great many number of decades, with thinning silver hair set in curls and a face that reflects a handful of sorrows. Her smile is small, but sincere; her eyes seem focused on something far in the distance. Above the photos are the words Gabriella “Gabby” Trane ~ October 29 1919 - May 10, 2008.

The action: Chrissy Corbel is going to her great aunt’s funeral today. She hasn’t spoken to this aunt in six years, since a falling-out between her and Chrissy’s mother at a family reunion. Her mother refused to attend the service today, but insisted Chrissy go to represent their side of the family--as well as to ensure that the broach her mother wants is not buried with the deceased. If it is on Aunt Gabby--which it is--she is to figure out a way to get it off and bring it home. It is a very valuable piece, fashioned by Carl Faberge in the 19th century, and Gabby stole it (according to Chrissy’s mother) from Chrissy’s grandmother twenty years ago just before she died. Chrissy’s mother believes it to be hers, and procuring it will not only allow her to “avenge” her mother, but will also provide her with the money she needs, after she sells it to the Smithsonian, to finally pay off the debt she owes to the IRS.

Chrissy arrives at the memorial service late, and it is in full-swing when she finally walks in. The room is packed--Aunt Gabby was a popular lady--and she sweats through the whole service wondering if she’s really going to have to steal jewelry off a dead woman in front of a crowd. When the service ends people linger and converse, and she spends the next hour dodging estranged family and humoring little old ladies who instantly recognize Gabby in Chrissy’s face and want to talk with her. When she finally gets close enough to the casket, she realizes the broach is indeed pinned to the lavender pink tweed jacket someone chose as Gabby’s burial outfit. Panicked that she really will have to commit theft, she falls back and regroups with a cigarette outside, where she recalls the incident that led to the division between her mother and her aunt. When she goes back inside after psyching herself up for the robbery, she realizes the broach has already been stolen.

Thanks for stopping by, Alison. I enjoyed reading The Weight of Shadows, and I encourage my friends to read this thought-provoking novel. It's not an easy book to read because the author tackles a difficult subject head on. The best part of The Weight of Shadows for me was that it caused you to think of how the choices we make impact not only our lives, but others around us too.

You can visit Alison online at her blog. If you're interested in winning some books or a gift card, you can enter her blog tour contest by leaving a comment on this post. On July 18th, which is one week after the close of the tour, she'll choose one comment from a randomly selected blog to receive either autographed copies of her first three books or a gift card to their favorite bookstore.