Happy New Year!My One Word
As some of you know, I choose a word for each year. I try to do this prayerfully, but I believe God will use whatever I choose to teach me what He wants me to learn, so long as I listen. I’m trying! In fact, one year my word was Listen. If you search this blog for “My One Word,” you’ll find most of my previous words (although not last year’s. I apparently didn’t blog about that one.)
This Year’s Word
My word for 2020 is Grace. Like the years I chose Love, and Peace, this one was easy to hear spoken at church and to discover in the Bible. Grace is an essential element of Christianity, so of course it’s important and I need to study it. So I will.
The Sunday after Christmas, I heard this in church:
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.~Luke 2:40 NIV
The grace of God was on Jesus, so of course, I want that too!
Usually I go into the year with a preconceived notion of what that word is going to teach me. My word for 2019 was Discover. I imagined all the wonderful things I’d learn and the great adventures I’d take in 2019. I thought it would be fun and thrilling. Discover in 2019 for me ended up going way beyond that. I discovered what life is without my mother, who passed away in June. I discovered a close family member (thanks, Ancestry.com) who I hadn’t known about and who I got to meet in person and still keep in touch with. I discovered secrets kept from me as a result of that discovery. I discovered that I do have enough energy to watch three little grandkids, two of whom were born in 2019! I picked the right word. There was much to discover and thus much to learn about myself.
So, I’m thinking Grace will teach me that even though I might fail, even though I might not get things done I think I should, God spreads His Grace over me. But what will Grace really mean to me in 2020? We shall see!
A New Start
Isn’t that how most people see the new year? A chance to start all over again if we didn’t meet our goals for 2019. Is that how you look at it? Rather than beating ourselves up for what did not achieve, try again.
Even though I’ve read James Joyce’s Ulysses (ugh! I’ll never get those hours back again!) I didn’t remember this quote from one of the characters in the book until I came across it in some rabbit trail Googling I was doing while writing my current novel. Yep, this ended up in said novel.
A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
Ah, grace and discover both covered there! I will try to use my mistakes, accept the grace offered when I fail, and discover something worthwhile along the way. How about you?
Did you choose a word for 2020? Please comment.
It’s my pleasure to host Jennifer Allen (JPC Allen) on my blog today. I’ve watch her grow as a writer in my local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) group and I can tell you she’s one to watch!
A lot has happened to me in the last fourteen months as a writer. I’ve had two short stories published. Since I’m getting paid for those stories, I am officially an author. But becoming an author of Christian fiction has meant so much more than getting a paycheck.
I’ve been writing stories since second grade. As I entered my college years, I began a novel and had always thought of myself as a novelist. After my kids entered school, I wrote a YA Christian crime novel and spent years improving it because it was the kind of story I like to read. But I got nowhere seeking an agent for it. I’ve had many agents ask to see sample chapters and my business plan only to have them to turn it down for various reasons, usually because the YA Christian fiction market is so tough to publish in.
Then I had the opportunity to write a short story for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. The only constraint was that it had to be set in Ohio. Although I am a huge fan of mystery short stories and have read hundreds of them, I’d never thought about writing one. My first crime short story, “Debt to Pay”, appeared in the anthology From the Lake to the River, last September. I was now an author. But that word took on a whole new meaning three months later.
Last December, Mt. Zion Ridge Press was accepting submissions for Christmas short stories. I had two weeks to come up with 5,000-word story that actually made sense. Since it had taken me years to get my novel in shape, 5,000 words in two weeks seemed as unconquerable as climbing a 5,000-foot peak in my bare feet. But I decided to go for it.
As I worked on my YA mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes”, I became more concerned with writing the story the way God wanted me to rather than taking it over and writing it to please myself. I didn’t think of it as my story. For some reason, God wanted to filter this story through me. I was very aware that it was finely balanced, and I didn’t want to wreck it.
And something funny happened. As I wrote and revised and sweated, the story became exactly the kind of story I’ve always wanted to write. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and some of my favorite mysteries are set at Christmas. Here I had the chance to write one. I’m a country girl at heart, and the story is set in a rural county in Ohio. The mystery hinges on mercy and forgiveness, two qualities I focus on as I grow as a Christian.
Getting paid for my art and having the owners of Mr. Zion Ridge Press accept my stories was a wonderful validation of my hard work. But I think I truly became an author when I collaborated with my heavenly Father as a junior partner and began thinking of the stories as His. I can’t wait to see what other projects He has in mind.
I’m holding a book giveaway on my site! Click here for details.
Christmas fiction off the beaten path
Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …
Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.
Inspired by the song, “Mary Did You Know?” – a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY DID YOU KNOW? By Patricia Meredith
A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES. By JPC Allen
Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant – combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA. By Laurie Lucking
Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchanged presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR. By Sandra Merville Hart
Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life – and the echoes from that day continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson
A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world – a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS. By Michelle L. Levigne
JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. A former children’s librarian, she is a member of ACFW and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog, Facebook,Instagram, or Goodreads.
All Hallows Eve
Halloween is hugely celebrated in the US, but its roots can be found in Ireland. You may have seen several articles about this on Facebook and elsewhere leading up to October 31. I know I have. Here’s a good one to check out on the Irish American Mom website.
There is a harvest aspect to the Celtic festival, but also a celebration of the dead. All Hallows or All Saints became the Christian church’s All Saints Day.
All Saints Day
A day to remember all those believers who have gone to their eternal rest. A day to remember that those who have gone before us lead us on our way. This is important to me. It’s the theme of all my historical writing. It’s the theme of a Bible verse that has inspired me:
This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. ~Jeremiah 6:16 NLT
And So I Pause
…to consider the significance of this day. Admittedly it’s something we do think about as we get older. More and more people we have known, those who have raised us, those who have been spiritual mentors, have passed on. That’s fitting, but truly everyone should think about those saints in heaven, see what there is to be learned from their lives, and celebrate that they ran the good race and now are made perfect.
The photo below spoke to me. It reminds me of the empty seats at my church where a saint once sat but has now gone on to new life. I, like the woman here, am left to carry on. I know I can’t fill their shoes (you may feel the same way about those you are missing) but I must do my best, with God’s help.
O hushed October morning mild,Begin the hours of this day slow.Make the day seem to us less brief.Hearts not averse to being beguiled,Beguile us in the way you know.Release one leaf at break of day;At noon release another leaf;One from our trees, one far away.Retard the sun with gentle mist;Enchant the land with amethyst.Slow, slow!~From October by Robert Frost
Slow Down, October
I get Robert Frost’s wish expressed in the poem above, don’t you? Well, I mean if you live where the leaves change, but even if you don’t there are surely things in life you wish would not fly by so fast. We only have autumn color for a few weeks and it changes daily. Just when you are used to admiring the reds, golds, and oranges of autumn, you look out the window one day and they’ve fallen to the ground. The show is finished and will not return for a whole year. And even then there is no guarantee next year’s show will be as vibrant. Oh, slow down, October!
And Yet, There is a Lesson
And I’m not talking about “take time to smell the roses,” although that’s a good lesson.The lesson I’m learning is life will not slow down, no matter how much I wish it would. And it shouldn’t. We need autumn so that winter will come. We need winter because it is a time of rest and restoration. And we need winter in order for spring to come and new leaves to form so that in the fall there will be another color show. It’s a rhythm, the rhythm of life.
That was my word for 2019. And as the year winds down, I’m learning my word meant much more than I imagined when I chose it. (That ALWAYS happens, by the way.) I’ve discovered what life will be without my mother, who passed away June 25. I’m discovering what it’s like to be Grammy to three! Last year I was only Grammy to one! I discovered a close family member I didn’t know existed and I’m learning what that relationship will be. And I’ve discovered that I can write despite distractions. (Yep, writing this during the World Series). I’ve learned that writing slow is ok. That all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to his purpose. (From Romans 8:28)
And I’ve learned time waits for no one. So … relax. I can’t change that truth. But I can cherish these things I’ve discovered and keep them close while I admire those radiant autumn leaves.
How about you? What have you discovered?
My Library Presentation
I was asked to make presentations at four branch libraries in Belmont County, OH. It was so fun to do this because the topic requested was how to write your family’s story after you’ve done the research.
Beyond Facts, Dates, and Sources
What genealogy enthusiast hasn’t tried to tell his or her family the genealogy story and been disappointed with the response. Eye rolling, blank stares…
Well, what is needed here is a story! If you are not a writer that could seem daunting, so I’ve made up a little outline to help. (Click to enlarge picture)
Timelines Are Essential
The main thing I want to point out here, the best way to get started, is to use a historical timeline. There are many online. Once you decide what ancestor you are going to use in your story, look at the times he/she lived in. Some of what happened may not have effected him/her, some may have, and some things certainly will have. Look at local history along with political events and natural disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods. Once you see what was happening at the time, a story may surface.
Of course we are always looking at wars: Civil War, WWII… but there are other things that happened: inventions, discoveries, industrial advances, labor strikes, mine disasters, train wrecks, protests, crop failures. Sometimes you will need to look for lesser known events.
For instance, I looked at the period of time in which my maternal grandfather was in the army, 1904-1906. It was not wartime, and yet it was an interesting time in history. I’ll share the story I wrote about him, the one I shared with the library groups.
William Taylor Brown
William Taylor Brown (referred to as Taylor or WT) traveled from his home in the rural, rolling hills of Kentucky to the big city of Lexington to embark on a journey that would ensure he would never again be an isolated country boy unfamiliar with the ways of the world.
Born in 1880, during the time of violent family feuds in Kentucky, Taylor grew up in a family of eleven children. The industrial revolution passed rural Kentucky by. Nearly every family farmed for a living, most raised tobacco. Opportunities were few. Not many children continued their education beyond elementary school because they were needed to work the farm. Taylor had many scars on his body, as noted when at the age of 22, in April of 1904, he enlisted in the United States Army. Those scars may have been the result of farming injuries or perhaps he obtained them from fights. It is not known if his family participated in the feuds taking place all around them. His enlisting officer noted him as having good character.
He was sent to report to the Presidio in San Francisco, California. One can only imagine the train ride across the country. Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona were not yet admitted to the Union. Utah had only become a state eight years earlier. He would have marveled at bison on the plains, cattle drives, dust storms, and mountains much loftier than those he was used to in the east and snowcapped. He may have ridden the rails with folks ill with tuberculous who were bound for Colorado since the trend was to recuperate there at the time.
The Presidio had been a military establishment since it was founded by Spain in 1776. The U.S. Army took residence there beginning in 1848. It was the departure site for troops deploying to the Philippines when Taylor Brown was sent there. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the year before. It was a bustling military base near the city of San Francisco decades before the Golden Gate Bridge was built but 55 years after the Gold Rush ballooned the population.
Taylor Brown shipped off to the Philippines on June 1, 1904. It took 25 days to sail there, yet another adventure for the Kentucky boy. Six years earlier Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. Not wishing to be ruled by yet another nation, the people rebelled, and war broke out until the insurrection ended in 1902 and a provisional government was set up.
Clashes and guerilla warfare still broke out, however, over the next decade, thus the need for an American military presence and the reason Taylor Brown ended up there for eight months. A law was passed stating the island country would become independent eventually. It’s possible Taylor was involved in construction while in the Philippines. (Military history of Pasay Garrison during his stay is available in NARA but I have not yet explored it.)
He returned to San Francisco in March of 1905. His enlistment was for three years so he remained at his station and was there when on April 18, 1906, the great earthquake hit just after 5:00 in the morning.
Army troops provided security, fought fires, and provided all kinds of aid including building shelters. Later Taylor Brown would speak of fighting fires after the ’06 earthquake to his children.
Almost exactly a year later Taylor was discharged from the army and returned to Kentucky. He worked as a laborer hauling logs and farmed.
He stayed single for nine years. (edit: I believe he was married before marrying my grandmother, but it looks like relationships were difficult for him.) Perhaps he was not ready for family life after all he’d seen and done in the army. Or perhaps it was his childhood that influenced his choices. While he loved his children, his marriage was filled with strife and separation followed.
Family lore says that he was a hard man, although he loved his children. He stayed in the hills where he had been raised until his death at age 65. Perhaps the hardships he’d seen while serving affected him. Perhaps his upbringing poorly prepared him for family life. While these are only speculations, understanding his military service may help explain some of his future difficulties. He did raise a child who loved him, my mother. And that may be his greatest legacy after all.
A Story Is Better
Don’t you think? I could have said my grandfather was married twice and had served in the army and was in San Fransisco during the Great Earthquake. But for me, those facts only bring questions. With a little thought and a little historical research, you can help your relatives become just as interested in genealogy as you are. Every life has a story…or two.
Dayton Celtic Festival
This festival is held every year on the last weekend of July. The cultural area is only open Saturday and Sunday, although that could change in the future because it’s influenced by whether or not the Dayton Dragon baseball team has a game or not. The cultural area is in the concourse in front of the stadium.
I did this festival many years ago when it was in another location. When the festival expanded to use Riverscape, Heather Schieman, the Cultural Area Director, contacted me. For a few years, I was the only author. Last year I was joined by Terrence O’Leary and this year David McDonnell joined us. It was HOT! The crowd seemed slim, especially on Sunday. But I sold a decent number of books and met a lot of cool people. I love going because it’s the area my husband and I grew up in and we usually have old friends stop by.
I spoke twice. Once on tips to find your Celtic ancestors and once on the topic of my new book Celtic Song. Small, but enthusiastic audiences!
And this year I also got to visit with the Irish wolfhounds!
My biggest seller at this festival:
And a close second:
Dublin Irish Festival
Held the first weekend in August, this is one of the largest Irish festivals in the world. Here authors have their own tent: The Authors’ Corner.
We are cared for by The Book Loft of German Village staff headed by the awesome Julie Burgess. This year 17 authors were present. Many of us have been together for several years now, sometimes meeting up at multiple festivals, resulting in friendships.
One year there were four Irish authors from the north of Ireland, and since that time it’s become one great party. Last year J.P. Sexton had to cancel at the last minute because of an injury that rendered him physically unable to come. This year he was also physically unable to attend but this time it was because he was turned away from boarding a plane due to a VISA issue or maybe it was a passport issue. He was in Ireland and was trying to get back. It’s all very mysterious, however, because he is a natural born US citizen, although he spent most of his childhood in Donegal. (A story for another time.) The year he was here, he taunted author Greg McVicker for leaving his Schmidt’s Cream Puff (forever after referred to in the Authors’ Corner as the Dublin Cream Bun) unattended while he visited with potential readers. Below you see JP taking advantage of that. Was this photo staged? I’ll never tell!
Well, JP’s situation this year would not go unnoticed. Authors Jim McVeigh and Greg McVicker (two of the Irish lads) penned an ode to JP and got some of the other authors to join in recording the song. I wasn’t there because they did this at the hotel where they all stayed and I’m local and don’t stay there. I knew you’d ask! (Check out Greg’s Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/ThroughtheEyesofaBelfastChild/) And Jim’s Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/fartymcfee/
There is some mild language in the song, but Americans might not notice because it’s Greg’s Belfast-talk. But you’ve been warned in case that matters to you. It is hilarious, for sure.
Creative people, aye?
Back to the festival.
There was a good crowd this year. The weather was fantastic. Not as many as I would have thought found their way to the Authors’ Corner. I sold a couple more books in Dayton than I did here, and this was Friday-Sunday. Positive thoughts for next year, though. And several people did go home with signed copies. No complaints about that!
Best seller in Dublin this year:
But only one more than second place:
At this festival I spoke to a bit larger group about Celtic Women. They were a fun crowd, despite it being nearly the end of the festival on Sunday before my assigned time came around. This festival draws good crowds for all the talks by authors, storytellers, musicians, and historians.
A Deal for You!
Not able to attend this year? Until the end of the month, you can get any (or all) of my books shipped free in the US. Well, one exception. I sold so many Celtic Song titles that I don’t have those. But I have all the rest. And if you’re near the Book Loft, you can pick up signed copies there. They have two copies of Celtic Song.
Here’s the run down:
Brigid of Ireland: $5 (very limited number left)
Pages of ireland: $12
Enya’s Son: $16 (very limited number left)
If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, use the contact form below. Thanks!
The Hard Part
As I hinted in my newsletter this month (July 2019), life has been challenging lately. I know I’m not alone in this. We all experience the valley from time to time, right?
I’m inspired by the title of a book. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins has several biographies or autobiographies published. One of them, the one that I read, is titled, “The Game is Easy, Life is Hard.” It’s common knowledge that getting into the professional level of baseball is quite difficult. Continuing to play at that level is hard as well. Excelling at the Big League level long enough to be elected into the Hall of Fame happens only for a select few. But for Jenkins, all that was easy compared to the challenges and heartache he experienced in his life.
Similarly, getting published, selling enough to continue to get published…very difficult in this day and age. But easy compared to some life situations. I do not mean to make light of anyone’s challenges. Compared to a lot of people’s, mine pale. Yes, my mother passed away recently, June 25, just three days after her 90th birthday.
I had my mother longer than many people have theirs. I have wonderful memories. She shared a lot of love. However, late in her life we experienced a long road of health and memory issues, about ten years when I think back on it. Combined with some family strife (extended family, not my immediate family) it has been quite challenging. My writing and my publishing success were undoubtedly adversely affected. I shared the care of my mom with my sister Sharon (in the photograph when we were growing up) and I’m grateful for the late nights she spent with my mom, her continual checking up on her care, and so much more.
Why I Bring it Up
Like I said, many people struggle with life issues. As I mentioned, Fergie Jenkins dealt with losing many people in his life, some to suicide. Life is short. Take nothing for granted. That was his advice. He admitted to me in person (I interviewed him when I was working on the book Three Finger) that he never felt strong enough to endure what life hurled at him. He just had to press on.
We are not guaranteed happiness, But joy? Look for it in all situations.
I have been receiving a lot of cards and they have blessed me. In one, I found the following comforting words: “Those we love who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, have not been separated from us. They are really much closer to us because they now live in the fullness of God’s love…”
The Great Circle of Life
So, yes, life can be challenging. But we do not grieve as those without faith. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
While my mother was declining, a miracle came forth. Emree Jayne was not due until this month, but was delivered early and healthy. Just 12 days before my mother passed.
What we do for an occupation may be difficult and challenging, whether playing professional ball, writing a novel, fighting fires, serving in the military, pastoring a church, or just working long hours to provide an adequate living. But what matters is who we are to the people around us. My youngest son said this in a Facebook post after his grandmother (my mom) passed away.
“I wanted my kids to know my grandmas. I am thankful that Maelee was able to experience the same joy you had every day that I experienced when I was a kid. …You set the standard for what it meant to love your family. Thank you for all the memories. You will be missed by the many lives you’ve touched.”
That. That is a legacy. Hard to achieve? Yeah, probably so. But so worth trying!
Bits and Pieces
The 1920s will only be a small part of the novel I’m working on, but as we all know, we are made up of past events, and for my character WWI, the 1920s, the ’30s, all build to bring him where is in 1946. So, I have to go there with him.
When my character arrives in America in 1920, Prohibition is first set into law. He ends up in New Jersey where there are lots of rum runners, so…have to learn about that.
Guess what else was huge in New Jersey in the 1920s? The KKK. I’m discovering this is news to a lot of people. We know about the KKK in the south right after the Civil War. We know about the 1960s Civil Rights and the KKK. But what is lesser known is the reemergence in the north in the 1920s. Besides being anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, they were pro-Prohibition, meaning they supported it. They were all about the Constitution so they had to.
Praying I don’t go down one. It’s fascinating stuff!
Via the magic of Skype, I was interviewed on Ban Johnson, the father of the MLB American League on WTAP in West Virginia. I did a biography on Johnson with Joe Santry for SABR (Society of American League Baseball) many years ago.
I admit, this was kinda fun!