Shimmer of Time: Cover Reveal

I have two new shiny things to distract you today!  Well, make that one shiny and one a bit dingy.  And if you get this in your email, you’ll have to click the title – the pictures only show up on the blog.

The best new shiny is the official cover reveal for Through the Shimmer of Time.  I’m thrilled with it, and with my cover designer, Melinda VanLone, of Book Cover Corner.

Middle grade time-travel adventures!          

The cover design comes with its own story.  Because I wanted my cover characters to be the right age, and because of the 1830s period (the Civil War era would have been much easier), stock photography sites didn’t have anything we could use.  So guess who turned photographer?

I found two awesome young people who were very willing to be part of my book journey, set my trustworthy old Canon on “sport” so the shutter speed was fast enough to compensate for hand shakes, and we did some hot, muggy photo shoots.  Add Melinda’s magic, and voila!  What do you think?

Also, I’ve been digging around to find a countdown clock.  I thought it would be pretty, but I’m having problems getting it to look like I want.  Sigh . . . the trials and tribulations of a non-programmer, who has to get back to the business of producing a book.  But it’s here, up in the top right of the page.  Mark your calendars and set your watches – that’s how long until Shimmer becomes available on Amazon.

Surrounded by Story

Notice anything different?

I’ve been thinking about the direction I want this blog to take. Everything I’ve written has fallen under the “Reading, Writing & Real Life” categories, but that’s because everything fits there. Reading meant favorite books while Writing has included how-to’s, the writing life, and my own work-in-progress.

The mish-mash that is my blog

The mish-mash that is my blog

Real Life, on the other hand, has ranged from learning to quilt to living in Ireland to the simple pleasures in life. Those are all fine, but sometimes I go off on a rant about trivial things that should probably be left for Facebook, or ramble about something that’s probably too personal and shouldn’t be posted at all.  Writer’s remorse?  Oh yes.

As I come back to regular blogging now, I’d like a little more focus.  I’ve pondered, tested out ideas, and pondered some more.  What I keep coming back to is story.

The stories I read and the stories I write – yes, of course they’ll still be here.  But also the stories that surround us all.

photo by "nickkmoch" via freeimages.comThe best family gatherings aren’t about the food or asking how old a niece or nephew is now, they’re about getting to know one another, telling stories around the dinner table or campfire.

Time spent with friends is often best when we do more than ask how the job or kids are, but share stories about particular times.  “He said this” and “I did that” are the stories of our days.

My Dad

My Dad

I do a lot of genealogy, but just finding names and dates aren’t enough.  As I learn the details of my ancestors’ lives, they become real people to me and I can imagine their stories.

Stories connect us to each other.  Stories enrich our lives.  Stories give us hope and empathy and new ideas.  And as we take those connections and feelings and incorporate them into our own lives, our own stories grow into something to be shared.

I can’t imagine life without being surrounded by story.  I hope you’ll enjoy the stories I share, and that you’ll share some of your own, too.photo by "asafesh" via freeimages.com

 

 

Look Up? Look Down!

    We went camping over the 4th of July weekend and did a lot of hiking in our unusually lovely weather.  The first day, my view was like this:IMG_3795

And this:

IMG_3741Unfortunately, that “rugged” hike flared up a partially-rehabbed old injury, and my second day of hiking was staring at roots: IMG_3754

 Yeah, bummer.  This is how I felt:

Look Up quoteBut then I opened my eyes, and look what I found!

IMG_3730

There’s a fungus among us – more than one!  Aren’t they beautiful?

IMG_3753 IMG_3725The wild roses were done blooming, but I found this cutie peeking out:IMG_3747And a surprise of light amidst the green:

IMG_3749 Not at all sure what these are, but definitely flora, not fauna:IMG_3748Although the fauna were down low, too:IMG_3719I didn’t even know these fruited!IMG_3751What unexpected treasures do you see when you look down?

Calling All Time-Travelers

printing pressI promised big news in my last blog post, so here goes:  my middle grade novel, Through the Shimmer of Time, will be released in exactly one month!

Can you see me jumping up and down?  Are you jumping up and down with me?  Squee!  So here’s the back blurb:

A mysterious pottery shard . . .

            A haunted cabin . . .

                        A shadowy stranger . . .

                                   And no way home

Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home again or is he marooned in the past?

1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.

Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time.  It will take courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

I’m currently formatting the manuscript for a Kindle version, working with a cover designer (the awesome Melinda VanLone), and finding out all about ISBNs for the print edition.  Plus calculating costs, contacting bloggers, breaking pots (yes, you read that right!), and more you probably don’t want to know about.

But that’s not all!  I’ll be hosting an online book release party on August 1st, complete with book give-aways, trivia contests, and who knows what else, so mark your calendars!  For those who prefer to hold the actual book while they read, Through the Shimmer of Time will be available in print later in August, with a real-life book release party locally.

Subscribe by email (use the box on the right) to keep up with the countdown – hope to see you there!

Garden Update: the Survivors and the Wimps

I wrote earlier about losing our weeping cherry tree to the polar vortex/snowpocalypse this year.  It wasn’t blooming at all and had a whopping 12 or 13 tiny leaves.  But Pamela Hodges, who blogs over at i paint i write, just asked how it was doing, so I figured it’s time for an update.Weeping Cherry showing life

Through the whole month of May, the weeping cherry didn’t know if it was coming or going.  It spent all that time with blossoms and leaves both, over about half of the tree.  What you can’t see in the picture are the tiny leaves interspersed with the haze of pink blooms.  We were afraid it was sending all its strength to flowering, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.  The tree has finally settled down and looks fairly healthy, although there are a good number of small, high branches that seem dead – IMG_3689I’ll have to get our beanpole son up there to prune them out! The roots are strong though – it’s been shooting up suckers from the trunk and from the big root that sticks up through the ground.  I clipped the suckers and the wound-heal spray looks like it sealed the winter crack well, but I guess we’ll find out as time goes on.  For now, color me relieved and ecstatic.

 

Juniper after winter damage

Polar Vortex + Junipers = Goodbye!

On the other hand, the junipers turned out to be total wimps.  And I’m not sad about that!  I’ve hated junipers ever since I pruned some as a teenager and  suffered through a prickly rash because of it.  So I’ve sort of ignored these landscape anchors and let them grow as they pleased in the three years we’ve been here.  To the point that they’ve overgrown the hyacinths (which I LOVE) that were planted in front of them, and to my horror, I discovered that you can’t cut these junipers back because once you get into the woody growth, they won’t put out new shoots!  Ugly, overgrown monstrosities, and nothing to do about them!

So they’ve been waiting until the executioner landscaper (me) has time to pull them out and put something more worthwhile in.  And now every enlarging, polar-vortex-caused brown spot makes me dance with glee – I don’t have to feel guilty about pulling out a living plant!

The rest of the garden has surprised me.  I was busy with school and hadn’t mulched/covered/prepared anything for winter.  Bad Jennifer!  The spring bulbs were fine, of course, and the most welcome sight after the cold!  The peonies, daylillies, and such came back as strong as ever; same for my 3rd year asparagus.  My rose bushes were a gangrenous black, except for the sickly-green section that had been covered with a foot of snow just before the big freeze.  I cut them back and some put out stems from the 12″ that lived, while others came up from the roots.  And I thought I had lost the wild loganberry I brought back from my brother’s place last year, but it started producing leaves from the roots just a couple weeks ago.  Even the two blueberries I planted late last summer made it – and have about 8 berries each for our first crop!

Here’s to a hopefully less-ravaging winter this time around.  And to my roses and berries:  I promise to protect you better this time!

How did your landscaping do in the long run?  Did you lose any trees or shrubs?  Or your sanity?  And will you do anything different this fall?

Oh!  And in other news . . . big announcement coming next week!  Watch this space!

 

 

 

The Power of Words – Memory vs. Truth

Yup, that's me!

Yup, that’s me!

My earliest memory is rather dim and fuzzy:  I’m sitting in Mom’s lap in a big chair and she’s reading a letter and telling me that somebody was having a baby. That’s all I remember – not where we lived, how old I was, or even any sounds or smells. Just the snuggly feeling, the letter and the baby.  But when the question of an earliest memory came up through my school years, and it did numerous times, I always answered with this story.

The striking thing is that in my 20s or 30s, when I mentioned it to Mom, she stopped to figure out the timing – from the details, it had to be a particular cousin, and I was only a year and a half old!

To have a memory of such a young age is rather unusual, but even this memory wouldn’t have lasted past my own childhood if I hadn’t put it into words several times.

One more story:

Growing up, we had an old half-Arab/half-mustang gelding named Chicklets. Mom’s hero as a teenager wasn’t Roy Rogers, it was his horse Trigger, and she had taught Chicklets several of Trigger’s tricks.   One of the best was rearing on command, even holding it for a couple seconds.

I have a great memory of being the Headless Horseman at Halloween – black cape fastened around my head, jack-o-lantern in hand, and Chicklets rearing and scaring the little kids when they came trick-or-treating. Awesome, right? Even if we did live out in the boonies and never got many kids coming by, it was still awesome.

A few months back, I was writing some nostalgic stories about Chicklets and included this. Then I realized that I didn’t remember if it was really me or if it was my brother who got to be the Headless Horseman. So I called him and . . .

It never really happened.

We had talked about it, planned it, imagined it for several years, but never actually did it. And yet I was sure we had!

It’s the power of words again.

Hubby O’Mine just came in with a DVD of Yellow Submarine. I did see it decades ago, but don’t remember much of anything except the phrase, “I’ve got a hole in me pocket.” Why?

Because my brother snuck out to a friend’s late one night to watch it and for the next three days kept saying, “I’ve got a hole in me pocket.” Of course my sister and I started repeating it, complete with clueless giggles, which made Mom ask questions, which undoubtedly got my brother in trouble.  I don’t really remember the consequences, though, just the words.

What is it about words? Pictures trigger memories, but words evidently cement them in our brains. We can look at a summer vacation picture and remember a bit, but once other people tell what they remember, our own memories surface more fully.

We tell particular stories over and over (hopefully not to the same people), and even if they don’t get exaggerated, they’re the ones readily available when a conversation shifts and makes them relevant.

Of course, traumatic events produce intense memories. Exciting experiences, or those full of great joy, create lasting memories. But for those everyday moments of our past, the stories we tell are the ones which remain most vivid for us – even if they never really happened.

What stories do you tell that keep memories alive? And did your brain ever trick you into remembering something that wasn’t real?

Putting on My Professional Writer’s Hat

This spring, as friends realized I was in my final semester, I was bombarded with “What are you going to do with your degree?” And with an English degree in particular, it’s a perpetual question, especially for the younger generation who have to justify why they aren’t majoring in something that leads directly to a particular career. (Although sitting nicely in our rows of black caps and gowns, watching Master’s candidates receive their hoods, three of us writing friends pondered a worse question: “What do you do with a Philosophy degree?”)

My answer is always “Write, of course!” But I’ve been writing for 30 years, writing seriously for the last 15. What’s different now?

writers hatI like to say I’ll be putting on my professional writer’s hat. Not just write when I feel like it, or write a little each day, or work on a short story to submit, or write an article for the newspaper, but set out a professional plan and work towards it. This is a career, not just a hobby.  And somehow the degree, added to the critiques given and received in our workshop sessions, has boosted my confidence that I can do this, that my writing is good enough.  (Hmm, is that “the degree has boosted” or “the degree and critiques have boosted?”)

So after all the hoopla of graduation and three lovely extra weeks with my mother, here’s the basic plan:

  • Launch my middle grade novel, Through the Shimmer of Time, late this summer or early fall, depending on how timing works with our Ireland trip. I’m currently working on a “brief” for a cover designer and doing editing tweaks in a final run-through. (See, I really did keep my promise to start my professional life on Monday!) The book has been basically done for two years, but I just haven’t had time to do anything with it.
  • Develop a Women’s Fiction novel with the characters and situation from a short story I wrote two semesters ago. I’m going through Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering again, plus using other sources for additional insights on beat sheets, and I’ll do character sketches/scenes to get to know these folks better. If it falls into place at the right time, I may crank out a rough draft for National Novel Writing Month in November. If not, I’ll just work my own timetable.
  • Blog regularly. It’s creative, it keeps me connected to readers, and sometimes even gives me a place to vent! Once a week for now, but eventually heading toward three posts a week on specific days. Look for life happenings, random deep thoughts, occasional snorts of humor, some writing tips, and a few more book reviews.

Down the road, or even betwixt and between these main goals, I’d like to rework some of my essays and submit them to journals, and maybe one of the short stories, too. Shimmer may get a sequel, but I’ll need a brainstorming session for plot possibilities first. And my last “completed” NaNo novel (2009) had a thread worth pursuing if I want to do more with children’s books. As it is, though, I’m rather hooked on women’s issues and relationships right now, and more ideas keep popping into my head. Nooo! Stop! I don’t have time for more ideas! Hmm, “write it down and forget about it” seems like a motto I should adopt.

So there you have it. A plan of steady work, but no tight production schedule (I am trying to keep my sanity intact, you know). What about you? What sort of plans have you made after achieving a career/life goal? If you’re a writer, what’s in store for you during the second half of this year?

37 Years and 6 Universities

IMG_3276 - Version 2I started college at Oregon State University, way back in 1977 . Now, 37 years and six universities later, I have finally earned my Bachelor’s degree. Done, finis, no more!

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including childbirth. At least in childbirth, it’s over in a day, you have a gorgeous baby to hold in your arms, and you forget the pain enough to have another one. Raising those children goes in waves of wonderful highs and worrying lows, but overall brings great joy.

College, on the other hand, is a sometimes enjoyable, always relentless, seemingly never-ending effort that costs a whole lot of money! For me, it included:

  • 1977-79: two years at OSU in Elementary Education. I was young, single, and my whole life revolved around college – no problem.
  • Get married, stop college to work and earn my PHT (Put Hubby Thru).
  • Two music classes at University of Central Florida, while Hubby is in Navy Nuclear Power School.
  • Four classes plus all the transfer credits to receive an Associate’s from Mohegan Community College (now Three Rivers CC). First baby born just before last semester started. (Hubby on first submarine)
  • 1-1/2 years part-time at Idaho State, still Elementary Ed, while Hubby at nuclear power training site. Second child born in the middle of that (having a baby three weeks before finals is a whole ‘nuther blog post!).
  • San Diego, Hubby’s second submarine, no college except a weeklong writer’s conference at BYU Hawaii (fabulous!), with extra work to receive college credit for it. Third child born.
  • Hubby out of Navy, settle in Indiana, change major to English at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis), take three classes in 1994-95. Can’t carry on with three kids and part time work.
  • 2011-14: Back from living in Ireland, college sons back home with us. Two or three classes each semester, push through with the help of some horrible eating habits, and . . . ta dum! Bachelor’s in English, along with twenty extra pounds.
Look at the cake my amazing husband got for me!

Look at the cake my amazing husband got for me!

But why do it at all? I’m not going to use a degree for a promotion or to get another job or change careers – I’m going to keep writing, and that doesn’t require a degree. So why put myself through all this?

First, I love to learn. As much as I won’t miss the pressure, I will miss going to class. I’d love to keep going if I could do just one course a year. It keeps me involved, thinking, learning. I had some great writing professors, met some awesome classmates who write beautifully and whom I hope to keep learning from (*waves*), and while I didn’t have time to write any of “my” stuff, I wrote a lot. I’m a better writer now than I would have been otherwise, and I have some essays and maybe short stories to keep working on and send out.

But as far as learning goes, there are many other areas I could have reveled in.  I suppose it comes down to the fact that finishing my degree has been a lifelong goal: something I started long ago and, for whatever reason, was still important enough to me to push toward in my 50s. My working career would have been much different if I had finished in Elementary Ed years ago – I would have skipped countless secretarial jobs and gained plenty of material for my children’s books – and I’m a teacher at heart. But I found that I didn’t enjoy the classroom management part of classroom teaching and figured if I was going to earn my degree, it may as well be in what I want to do: write! Mostly, though, I just plain wanted it. I’m sort of stubborn that way, and blessed with an amazing husband who puts up with me.

So what now? It’s been two weeks since graduation, and I’m beginning to remember how to relax. Sort of. It helps that while most of the family went home after Mother’s Day (yes, we graduated on Mother’s Day!), my mom doesn’t return to Oregon until later this week. We’ve been gardening, reading, gardening, shopping, gardening . . . you get the idea. Tons of hard work, but physical, not mental. The foundation of my backyard landscape is in and my brain is beginning to click again.  Plus, we had lots of fun times with The Cutest Granddaughter in the World.

KC and her great-grandmother

KC and her great-grandmother

Life from here out will include figuring out how to make my physical health a priority instead of letting it slide to the back burner as usual, spending time with long-neglected friends, writing a few letters, playing the piano again, maybe finishing the curtains in the house (3 years after moving in), and . . . wait for it . . . a trip back to Ireland in September – the best graduation present ever!

On the writing side, all I’ll say today is that on Monday it begins anew. There’s plenty planned, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog post to find out what!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing a Tree

I’m so sad.  After our polar vortex / snowpocalypse winter, I think our beautiful weeping cheery isn’t going to survive.  This is what spring usually looks like:

front mid spring.JPG

It’s solid pink and glorious for about three weeks, and then the blossoms drop as the leaves come out.  But like everyone else in the Midwest, the winter of 2014 brought us this:

Weeping Cherry Snow 2014Not to mention thermometer readings of -27 F.  Now, I realize that everything is about three weeks behind schedule, but still . . . the weeping cherry should be blooming at the same time as the tulip tree.  Instead of a gorgeous show of trailing pink masses, this is what I see when I pull up to the house:

Dead Weeping CherryI’ve been told these trees are susceptible to cold, and there are several old, healed winter cracks in the trunk.  But one has opened and is weeping sap now, and besides no blossoms, there are only maybe a dozen leaves scattered among all the branches.  I bought some “wound heal” spray, commonly used for large pruning jobs, and I’ll apply it to the winter crack with fingers crossed.  I’m not ready to give up on it yet, but I suspect our spring spectacle will be no more.  And I’m sad.

There’s a Reason They Invented Spandex

What do YOU wear to exercise?
(photo by “LotusHead” via freeimages.com)

I am not young and I am not slender. But there are times I’d like to be a little more fashionable than just wearing mom jeans and a T-shirt.

So I have three pairs of leggings – two lightweight to wear with sandals or flats, and one heavier for winter boots. In the interests of modesty (and for the sake of other people’s eyes), I wear a tunic-type top with them. I don’t need my saggy butt out there for the world to see.

A few weeks ago, though, I put on my Jeggings to do my exercises at home, and they were great: soft and stretchy and so comfortable I felt like they weren’t there. I even kept them on all day long. So during yesterday’s rain, when my body cried out for some activity besides sitting at my desk, I planned some gym time after running errands.  I first put on my exercise pants – a Spandex-blend capri that I wear for Pilates and such. But that left half-bare legs, which didn’t sound so good on a cool, rainy day, so I switched to my Jeggings.

It was an eye-opener, and not in a good way.

The elliptical machines at the fitness center are in the back row, and I couldn’t see myself in the mirrors. Nice! But after 10 minutes of screaming muscles, I switched to the treadmills. (That was the original plan, I swear. Really.) The treadmills are in the front row. Directly in front of the mirrors.

My workout session turned ugly. Literally.

Jello Jiggles
(photo by “jlynne203″ via freeimages.com)

I knew my thighs jiggled when I walked fast (I told you I wasn’t slender, remember?). But I didn’t expect them to wibble-wobble at a regular walk. Blub blub, blub blub, like gently jiggling jello. And they KEPT wibble-wobbling even on cool down! In fact, there wasn’t any movement I could do during which they held firm. The jelly roll around my midsection wasn’t any better. My t-shirt wasn’t snug, so I couldn’t see it, but I could FEEL it, a ring of blubber flopping up-down, up-down.  And we won’t even talk about what my butt must have been doing – out of sight, out of mind, right?

I carried on with my 20 minutes, trying to ignore the mirror and listen to a podcast from Joanna Penn, but caught a glimpse of my floppy body every now and then. Did you know shuddering can also make your thighs jiggle?

I jiggled just as much walking to the free weights and exercise balls, and wished I had worn those Spandex capris. They put Spandex in them for a reason – it encapsulates your fat, helps it hold firm, keeps it from jiggling. Well, maybe you get a small jiggle, but it looks normal, not like quivering jello. Spandex lets you look in the mirror. Spandex lets you walk around the gym without cringing too much. Spandex lets you forego the need to offer brain bleach to those around you.

One good thing came of this: I won’t be inflicting the sight of my body in leggings to my fellow university students this spring.  And I did get away from my desk chair for a bit.

Are you brave enough to wear leggings in public?  Or does Spandex rescue you from the Jello Jiggle?