Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Eternal Optimist


Several years ago, I took the photo above of my flourishing chives. I love chives. When they are fresh, they are delightful sprinkled on just about everything. Maybe not on ice cream, but they're good on eggs, pasta, fish, and a whole bunch of other foods.

Suddenly, this spring, I'm left with one miserable-looking chive plant. To remedy this situation, I bought seeds. I prepared a nice, sunny area. I sprinkled the seeds on the ground and added water. Now I have to wait for the magic to happen--or not. I'll have to remember to water the seeds and if the seedlings are too close to each other, I'll have to spread them out and hope I don't kill them when I lift them from their bed and move them.

In the earliest stages, plants are delicate. It doesn't take much to do them in.

Since I'm a writer, I couldn't help comparing the process of growing plants from seeds to writing. After all, in a writer's early years, it doesn't take much to crush talent. Especially if someone is an introvert, which the majority of writers seem to be. Negative comments can completely end a writing career before it's even begun. Continuing to write requires bravery and eternal optimism.

Not that writing isn't fun. It can be a blast. I entertain myself for endless hours moving my characters around in my plot. I don't worry about the next book idea because the seeds for stories are constantly being planted in my mind by the experiences I have, by the people I meet, and the history I often delve into. I can't use all those story ideas at once, but each seed will stay nearly forever if they're stored away in a safe place.

When I need to use one of my story seeds, I plant it, start typing, and wind up with a book. It's rather miraculous.

Of course, story seeds are one thing and real seeds are another. I'm looking forward to more chives to sprinkle on my eggs. But it will happen because I'm a writer and an eternal optimist. Grow seeds, grow.

Friday, April 14, 2017

African Bean and Peanut Soup



A long time ago, when our daughters were young, our church handed out pamphlets to guide parents in making Lent meaningful for children. One of the recipes in the pamphlet was African Bean and Peanut Soup. It turned out to be an enduring favorite which is now served regularly at our house on Good Friday.

The following recipe is intended for preparation on a stovetop. However, this can be easily adapted for a slow cooker. In that case, add only two quarts of water AND add all the ingredients at once. Then cook on high for four hours.

Enjoy.

African Bean and Peanut Soup

Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
3 quarts boiling water (Remember, only TWO quarts if you're preparing this in a slow cooker.)
1 cup dry black-eyed peas
1 cup dry navy beans
1 cup diced green peppers
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon basil leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander


    1. Melt butter in large stockpot. Add carrots; cook 5 minutes.
    2. Add water, black-eyed peas, navy beans, green pepper, salt and crushed
    red pepper. (Add more water if necessary, to cover ingredients.)
    3. Cook, covered, until ingredients are tender (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
    4. Add peanuts, onion powder, basil and coriander during last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
    5. Taste to correct seasonings. Soup should be thick.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Weaving Life Into Your Writing


I love rag rugs. They remind me my maternal grandparents' house where these rugs were scattered everywhere on the linoleum floor. In the wintertime, when there wasn't any farming to be done, my grandfather would take all the scraps of used cloth, set up his handmade loom in the basement, and set to weaving. Bits of flannel shirts, Grandma's stockings, and her worn out aprons were tightly woven into each rug. Every rag incorporated into the pattern had a history. You could almost read the story of my grandparents' lives in those rugs.

My grandparents were the original recyclers. They never wasted anything.

As a writer, I incorporate true experiences and emotions into my writing. All the little details and scraps of events lend reality to the story. My plots are fabrications but the way the characters react, their feelings, and mannerisms are often borrowed from life. In addition, I use settings I know well or have thoroughly researched.

There are a myriad of particulars I've used to add substance to my stories. For instance, in The Cowboy's Miracle one character suffers with dementia. I've been close to family and friends with the same sad disease. However, even an ordinary and mundane situation such as baking bread can be used in a story, which I did in Patriot's Heart. Then there's Grace and her little turtle friend in Daddy Wanted. Have you ever had a pet turtle? I did.

A good book must have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story should be cohesive and most of all it should make sense. However, adding touches of truth can heighten the authenticity and draw readers into the narrative.

Gather all your life experiences together and use them in your stories. Tiny scraps of old memories and frayed emotions from long ago can give fiction a vital force that keeps readers turning the pages.

Monday, March 27, 2017

HOPING FOR JOY on Sale on March 31, 2017

Don't miss out on this special deal! For one day only, HOPING FOR JOY will be available for only $0.99. Mark your calendars for March 31, 2017, and make sure you download a copy at http://a.co/hPApWvC

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I Did to Stop My Eye Twitch

The other day, my left eye started to twitch. This has happened to me many times in the course of my life. It's caused by stress and since it's been a stressful year, this problem isn't surprising. But it drives me crazy.

I put warm compresses on my eye. That only helped temporarily. I put warm and then cold compresses on it. Again, relief was short lived. I put eye drops in the eye and found somewhat longer relief, but the twitching returned.

I massaged my eye. That didn't do much good at all, but then I'm not much of a masseuse.

Finally, I decided to take a vacation--sort of. I opened up a book I wrote during another stressful time of my life, THE FIEND OF WHITE BUCK HALL. It is full of action, suspense, magic, paranormal feats, and sex. (For those of you who are horrified at that last activity, the two individuals engaging in sex are married. Within the bonds of marriage, sex is a good thing. Trust me on that.)

I unloaded the dishwasher, put in a small load of laundry, cooked a simple supper, rode my recumbent bike for thirty-one minutes, but for the most part I devoured the book in one fell swoop.

It felt good. My eye stopped twitching. Problem solved.

I highly recommend this book if you are undergoing stress in  your life and if your eye starts twitching.

The book wound up with an unfortunate cover, but I made a clever little book video which offers a more engaging look into the story. Enjoy.



You can find the book at http://a.co/0TAs1GL

Monday, March 13, 2017

Everyone Rides the Subway

MTA subway train station, NYC subway system is one of the oldest in the USA. Photo by George Hodan


Daughter #2 grew up in suburbia. One of her teachers in the local high school labeled  the institution as "white, country club, marshmallow high." Daughter #2 didn't realize how homogenous her hometown was until she moved to New York City. 

There she suddenly found that all her own insecurities didn't matter because the inhabitants are so wildly different from each other. People from all over the world live and work in the city. Everyone wears different styles of clothing and one cares or made disparaging remarks.

Living there over the years, Daughter #2 noticed how character and uniqueness is valued. There seemed to be more of a team spirit. 

During a visit home, she expounded on the reasons she believes the majority of the people in New York City are liberal Democrats who tend to be progressive. She believes it's because everyone rides the subway. Everyone. All races, all socio-economic groups, all religions, and all ages travel underneath the city in the subway. There are bums, school children, and weathly women. It becomes very clear in that situation that the Lord fashioned people with an amazing amount of variety--and that all of them need to get along with each other.

She claims that when you're stuck in a train car under the East River, it suddenly becomes quite evident about who is going to ruin your day. It could be an angry preacher who yells at everyone. There might be unfortunate people who are poor and sick and have no where else to go--and stink up the whole train.

If a musician hops aboard, there could be entertainment to enjoy. 

Yet, the travelers do watch out for one another. On one of her rides, she saw two young girls, about eight years of age, pushing an infant in a baby stroller. They did not have an adult with them. The infant was several months old. At once, all the other folks in that train car became vigilant. It was clear the young girls knew how to handle the stroller. They put the brakes on once they were inside the car and acted in a responsible manner. Still, the other passengers watched them anxiously. When they came to the next station, the girls released the brake and headed for the door. One of the men put his foot against the door to be sure it wouldn't close on them. It was a poignant scene. No one had talked to the young girls. No one had disturbed them. Yet, all eyes were focused on them. Everyone cared. Proving the majority of folks are good. 

Maybe what the rest of this country needs is a ride on a New York City subway car with it's every changing, endless array of the people God fashioned out of clay. We can learn to get along with each other. We are all the same inside.    

Sunday, March 05, 2017

An Irish Blessing


The Irish have some very beautiful blessings. Yes, there are silly sayings and plenty of jokes for they are a witty bunch. However, of all the Irish blessings my favorite is the one the best man used as the toast at my brother's wedding.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Síochána.