Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy is a great way to describe May and June at our house this year although I shouldn't limit topsy turvy to two months - it's more like for the past two years.

My life turned upside down, or maybe I should say right side up since the publication of my first book in the Southern Grace Series in late December, 2013, followed quickly by the second and any day now, the third book which will complete the trilogy. I went from trudging along writing hour after hour, to the crazy world of book promotions, book signings, and speaking at events. It has truly taken me out of my comfort zone and I can't say enough good things about getting out of a comfort zone! Everyone should just do it. It took me far too many years to make the plunge and gain the confidence, but with God's help, I did it.

Now, back to May and June. Grandchildren have a way of turning your life upside down anyway, and then when they start reaching those life changing milestones in their lives, it starts shaking yours up a little bit more. Jake, our oldest grandchild graduated from high school last year, and last month he completed his freshman year. Now the second grandchild, Chloe has graduated and will begin her freshman year of college in August. And the third and last one, Genevieve will enter 8th grade this year, so she's not so far behind.

It's these milestones, the metamorphosis of your babies from childhood to adulthood, that turns you into a Melancholy Mama - or in this case Grandmama, pouring through hundreds of photos and wondering how those childhood years of cuddles and hugs got away. The last two weeks have especially been tough. Seeing Chloe walk across that stage as one of the top 5 in her class, then watching as if by magic turning 18 years old on Sunday turned her into an adult right before my eyes. I literally could see it! One day looking into the eyes of a child, the next looking into the eyes of woman.

Do we grandmothers just notice these things more than we did with our own children? I think so. We develop a keener insight when we know that time REALLY does fly. And we learn that living in a topsy turvy world is just fine.

Glenda Manus
June 16, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just Yesterday

Do you ever get a little nostalgic for days gone by? When you have children and grandchildren, those days seem to fly and before you know it, the little ones aren't little anymore. I was feeling this way as my family gathered around the table eating lunch on Mother's Day this year. All of a sudden, it hit me that two of my three grandchildren are adults now. Jake talked of finishing his first year of college, Chloe talked with excitement about high school graduation and beginning her first year of college, and thirteen year old Genevieve just listened. Her time will come. Then they left us and ventured upstairs to what was once their giant playroom. As the rest of us talked downstairs, it was the absence of noise coming from upstairs that caught my attention. It seemed that just yesterday there was loud raucous laughter, spats of "I am not" - "Yes you are", the creaky suspension springs of the old 1950's "Wonder Horse" rocking wildly threatening to throw its rider to the floor, and screams followed by one of us running up the stairs to see which one of them was badly injured, only to find them rolling on the floor laughing.

But this Mother's Day, Chloe and Jake were quietly talking about the past and future, and Genevieve, growing bored of grown-up talk was taking a nap on the bed. But in my head, I could still hear the laughter, I could still picture the rocking horse swinging wildly to and fro, and I could feel the little bodies, one by one giving me a hug when I finally heeded their little voices of “Maw-maw, come upstairs and play with us”.

No voices asking me to play came this Mother’s Day, but their hugs came, nonetheless, as they readied to go home. Only this time, instead of me stooping to their level to accept their hugs, I stood on my tiptoes to accept Jake’s and Chloe’s, and stood dead even to hug Genevieve.

So much has changed, and I miss those days terribly, but instead of brooding over it and living in the past, I am looking forward to seeing the adults they will become; looking forward to attending more graduations, weddings, and finally, welcoming great-grandchildren into this old house full of memories, where I’ll once again hear the sounds of laughter, the even squeakier springs of “Wonder Horse”, and the hugs of little ones as I make my way up the stairs - a little slower with the passing years.

Pass the tissues, please. Sniff, sniff.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Watering Can "Wreath" for Spring

I'm on a deadline to finish the third book in my Southern Grace Series and have had little time to use my penny-pinching style of decorating lately. I've been looking for a nice Spring wreath to put on my door but didn't want to pay the $50 price tag I've been seeing at the florists and lawn and garden shops, so I decided to make my own. I can't remember when I bought this red watering can but I'll lay odds that it was at our local flea market and I'm sure I didn't pay over $5 for it. It's been idly wasting time on a bottom shelf in my library, simply because it doesn't fit anywhere else. I do love vintage watering cans. They look great on garden benches outside and there's lots of ways you can use them indoors. I've used them on my sun porch intermingled with my potted plants. I have a good friend who has a large collection of them.

But this is no normal watering can. It's a half can - a large wall pocket - flat on the back. When the idea hit me, I started raiding some flower arrangements stored in my attic and came up with just enough seasonal stuff to make a nice Spring arrangement to hang from a wreath hanger to display on my front door. Just the look I was hoping for.

Happy Easter!

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Bringing Characters to Life

I've had a good, productive morning of writing after several days of not picking up my pen. Book Three (I still haven't settled on a title) is picking up steam. I've just finished Chapter 13.

Someone asked me recently if I have a firm outline that I go by before I begin a book. Not really. I have a general outline, but when I start, I never quite know how it will end until I get there. I know that's a pretty unconventional method of writing, but it works best for me. I put a lot of time into creating my characters, their strengths, their faults, their likes and dislikes. Then I hand them my general outline and let them take it from there. They live out their lives in my book with a gentle nudging here and there from me. By the time I finish a book, they are totally such a part of me that I have a hard time letting them go. That's why I carried Rock and Liz and a few others over into my second and third books. They were on a roll and I didn't want to stop them. This third book will be the end though - a trilogy. They're ready to live their lives with a little less excitement when they play out this last story. There will be more books, God willing. I'm just not sure yet the direction He is leading me to write after this.
The following Bible verse has come up in several of my readings today, so I'm sure it is speaking directly to me. Let it be your own verse today - it carries profound words of wisdom.
II Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Organizing, plotting and planning your characters

I've been hard at work on Book Three of the Southern Grace Series. I have six chapters done and just as in my first two books, I'm constantly changing my outline as I write.

It's interesting to see how other authors plan scenarios for their plots and characters. One friend uses sticky notes all around her writing station. Another acquaintance uses an easel with a large poster board on it, drawing little squares with handwritten notes and connecting them with lines - much like a family tree would look. Someone else I know used to use random notebooks to jot down her inspirations, but she never could find them when she needed them (uh um... does it make you wonder who that could be?) That same author used Microsoft Word exclusively and saved her documents only on her hard drive. A crashed computer broke her from ever doing that again. Everyone has their own organizational method, but organization is my weakness. Thank heavens for Google Docs. My computer geek grandson introduced it to me at the same he was able to retrieve my lost documents and I've never looked back.

Google Docs is a free Web-based application in which documents and spreadsheets can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and a web browser. This had multiple benefits for me. You can work from home on a personal computer and since it's stored online you can work from any computer or smartphone anywhere you go. You can also give your editor access to it online allowing them to comment or even make corrections to it. You can write your chapters as separate documents or as one complete document and it can easily be converted to Microsoft Word when you're ready for publication. My favorite feature is that it has it's own version of sticky notes by simply using the comment section AND it saves your document immediately as you write it - no more forgetting to click "save" when you're closing up for the day. After losing about half my 1st book due to not saving and/or the computer crash, Google docs was a Godsend to me while writing my second.

And speaking of Google Docs version of sticky notes, I came across this today as I was gearing up to write. It will give you a general idea of how we writers worry over plot. Those of you who have read Lighting the Way will know what actually happened which may or may not be what I have in my notes - and I thought you might like to have some insight in how I got there. And also to see my kooky train of thought as I'm writing smile emoticon

1. How are you going to work in the house fire for the cottage and does Theo get hurt
2. Still can’t figure out how or if I should kill off Ernesto. What options do I have.
I can have him live and stir up a whole bunch of trouble in Park Place. Trouble can be useful! 

Or I could have him die - Maybe die on the sofa when Maria leaves. I could go in and add in that chapter where his co-worker drinking buddy has a key to the apartment and knocks - no answer and he goes in and finds him dead in his own vomit. Then: Police are looking for Maria - they don’t think she did it, but they want to question her. Jess Hamilton could find this out and be coming to talk to Maria about it when she runs away from the Christmas pageant and hides under the basement. Or if he lives, Ernesto himself shows up at the Christmas pageant and Maria tries to hide from him again. . What to do, what to do?"

If you're a writer, tell me how you stay organized. How do you keep track of your notes?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lighting The Way

It's a good feeling having my second book, Lighting The Way published at last! A few little set-backs kept me from meeting my deadline for September 28th publication, but here it is, October 13th and we're finally there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Don't Rush Things, Glenda

When I set out to write my first novel, little did I know what a task I was setting out to do. I thought it would be a piece of cake. I envisioned myself sitting at my desk for about six months letting the words flow from my brain to my fingertips and onto the written page. I would be surrounded by resource books, stopping occasionally to flip through, then diligently tapping the words out on the keyboard once more. I told myself I would be done in six months, tops. Yeah! Six months to glory!

Four years later, with a ton of books about writing added to my library, doing nothing more than confusing me any more than I already was, I finished the book....I thought. The date was November 9th, 2013. I celebrated my accomplishment and bragged to my friends on Facebook that with just a little editing, Sweet Tea and Southern Grace should be available on Amazon by Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving came and was gone. The editing process had become a re-writing process. Nail biting became finger nibbling. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Christmas came and was gone. My formatter and editors grew impatient with my constant changes. No one believed me when I said, "Just one more week, please! It will be published, I promise!" I think a few people wondered if I had really written a book. I could see the skepticism in the eyes of my friends and family. They were whispering behind my back. 

But then, somehow it all came together. I remember the day the proof copy arrived at the post office. Betty, the postmistress was as excited as I was and we both danced a little jig. It was a magical day. I rushed through that proof copy like my pants were on fire. Surely there couldn't be any more errors. Surely I could push the magic button and publish it just as it was, and I did. I ordered twenty copies. I had low expectations, but I sold them all in the same day, sloppy signature and all, totally ignorant in the ways of book signing. 

Then, basking in the glow of having my name on the front of a book, just as a kindergartner hands in their first homework assignment, I sat down and leisurely read this wonderful book of mine. Oh, no! There was a word left out! There were punctuation errors where I had gone in and added a little here and there without letting my editors re-read it. The preacher was driving a car instead of his truck. Estelle's pecan pie didn't have any pecans in it! Well, that's an exaggeration, but you get the drift. Shame-faced and embarrassed, I made the corrections and begged the guy I had hired to help me through the process one more time.

I learned the hard way through that lesson in life. You would think I would never make promises I couldn't keep with the second book. You would think I would go for a more realistic publication date, and I did, sorta, kinda. If only the formatter had rushed, I think to myself. If only I hadn't taken a couple of mini-breaks at crunch time - mountains with hubby, family reunion, church retreat. Hmm, that's not a couple - that's three.

My original date, September 28th, is two days past. My digital proof was reviewed and punctuation errors corrected. My hard copy proof that should have arrived today, didn't. It's amazing what a hard copy blatantly shows that a computer screen doesn't, so I'm waiting - I admit, not so patiently waiting, until I get that real book in my hand tomorrow. I know it will come. I know it will come. I know it will come. Just don't rush things, Glenda! Good things come to those who wait.