Appalachian Thursday–People Like These

alternator
That’s my new alternator in the box at the gentleman’s elbow. Never so happy to see a car part!

Yesterday we returned from a trip home to West Virginia. A trip that didn’t go QUITE the way we planned!

Everything was on track until we passed through Rock Cave, WV, and I noticed the bright red battery light on the dashboard. Uh-oh. My husband checked the manual and it basically said, “Hie thee to an auto shop.”

Or something like that.

It was Sunday evening so we went on to the farm, shut off the engine, and asked my brother to make sure the car would start before he left for work in the morning. It did. So we went to the nearest Auto Advantage, 20 minutes away. They ran diagnostics and said everything was fine, but our battery was getting old. Well then. How about a new one? Carl hooked us up–only that didn’t make the battery light go off. Uh-oh.

Next stop was Tennerton Auto Service where Joe checked under the hood and confirmed our worst fears–the alternator was shot. If we could find one, he’d install it–today or maybe tomorrow. Uh-oh. I had appointments to keep!

Back to our buddy Carl who did NOT have the right alternator. Neither did several other places he kindly checked for us. Finally, he called Rick at Fisher Auto Parts (the competition) and they said they’d could get one by 2 p.m. At Fisher, we paid for the part and pondered how to get everything together in one place for possible installation that afternoon (as we drove around, using up our new battery, which was NOT being recharged by an alternator!).

No problem. They’d deliver the new part. I gave Rick a hug.

So we spent some quality time at the farm walking the dog and having lunch until it was time to go back to Tennerton Auto. I walked in, sat down, and within five minutes here came my alternator. (So shiny!) Joe and Juanita chatted with me about the state of the Mountain State and our families and health care and finally I broached the burning question. Would the car be fixed today? Sure thing. Come back before five.

My mom and Jean picked me up and we went back to the farm for a leisurely afternoon of porch sitting and story telling (practically a sporting event in WV). Then back to Tennerton where Joe and Juanita had me all set to go.

Less than 24 hours after that blasted light came on, we had a new battery, a new alternator, and a car that’ll likely go another 90,000 miles.

And here’s the lesson:  There was a point on Monday morning when I could have easily burst into tears. My plans were in shreds, my car was dying, and if God loved me he wouldn’t let my attempts to take care of my family be ruined. I just wanted to hook up Mom’s new computer and take Dad to his doctor’s appointment. (And cook for my brother–I have a notion he needs someone to feed him.)

But God had something else in mind. Instead of me swooping in to be a help, I was helped at every turn. My husband hung in there with me all day. Carl at Auto Advantage didn’t quit making calls until he found me an alternator. Rick and his guys at Fisher Auto Parts got me the part and delivered it. Joe and Juanita at Tennerton Auto Service not only fixed my car, but treated me like family come to visit. And Mom, instead of getting her computer running, ferried me around like the old days.

God surely does love me. So much so, that he let me face a challenge that reminded me of how miracles often look a lot like mundane problems being solved by good people taking care of each other.

Jim, Daniel, Mom & Jean, Carl, Rick, Joe & Juanita–thanks for being angels disguised as regular folks.

 

My Muse at Work

I’m working on a new story idea–which is typically my FAVORITE part of the process. That and finally seeing a cover! Even when I think I know what a story is going to be about, it will often go off on a tangent I didn’t see coming.

Thistle–my muse who lays at my feet while I write–likes to help me run down ideas. This video seems to capture the process. You often have to be incredibly persistent and just throw yourself into the pursuit of an idea with everything you’ve got.

Just be grateful that when you want to dig into something new, you get to use your hands instead of your face.

*Neither chipmunks nor story ideas were harmed in the filming of this video.

 

Appalachian Thursday – The First Cutting

grassesWe’re finally having some truly warm weather with days that might even be what you would call “hot.” And as summer approaches, I’ve seen some folks in the area start to put up the first cutting of hay.

When I was a kid, the first cutting typically came pretty close to the last day of school. For so many children, summer meant freedom–going to the pool, plenty of time to play, vacations. For my brothers and me it meant working in the hayfield–or the garden.

Until I got old enough to be more help than hindrance in the field, my job was to carry Mason jars of ice water out to the workers. Not a hard job, though fresh-cut stubble is mighty hard on bare feet.

When I got a bit bigger, I stacked bales as they were tossed onto a wagon moving slowly through the fields. It’s important to alternate rows for a secure stack. Some days I got to drive the tractor which is almost fun until you get to a steep hill and have to stop and start without jerking bales (or people) off the wagon.

And there was always the need for extra hands to unload the wagon (we used a hay elevator to carry the bales to the barn loft) then to stack the hay inside. I can remember more than one rush to the barn as dark clouds swarmed the sky. Rain is NOT good for hay.

And then the best part–a long shower or a trip to the swimming hole to wash the chaff from places you wouldn’t think it could go. It’s almost worth getting that hot, sweaty, and dirty just so to feel cool water sluice across your skin. Then a well-earned supper perfectly seasoned by the day’s labor. I don’t remember what we ate, but it was good.

Now don’t let me fool you. I worked, but nearly so hard as my brothers and the other boys and men my dad hired to help. Sometimes it pays to be the girl.

And now, as an adult, when I drive by a field of freshly mown hay, or see a farmer tedding in preparation for the rake, then the baler, I roll down the car window and breathe deeply. The smell reminds me of the satisfaction of a barn full of hay ready for winter. And it almost makes me wish I could spend a day sweating under the summer sun.

Almost.

The BEST Reference Books

Hevenly Highway HymnsWhile you can look just about anything up on-line these days, it’s sometimes nice to have an actual book you can take down from the shelf and flip through to find what you need.

That’s what I do when I want to include hymn lyrics in one of my novels. When a character sings, mentions a favorite hymn, or is touched by lyrics, I reach for my 1956 copy of Heavenly Highway Hymns from Laurel Fork United Methodist Church.

By the time I was a kid in the 70s, we’d replaced the worn, softcover hymnals with foil stamped hardback copies. But, of course, no one threw away the old ones. So, probably 15 years ago, I asked for one of the 1956 copies (turns out to be the first printing). And now I treasure it. And refer to it often when working on a manuscript.

The problem is, once I dip into those fragile pages, I am typically lost. On the way to Rock of Ages–#225–I stumble across #241. And I have to sing it (aloud if no one’s around). Who can resist a chorus like, “Lord, build me a cabin in the corner of glory land . . . In the shade of the tree of life that it may ever stand; Where I can hear the angels sing and shake Jesus’ hand; Yes, build me a cabin in the corner of glory land.”

I can hear Smutt and Anna, Uncle Willis and Aunt Dorothy, Aunt Bess, Mom & Dad, Glenn and Mary, Freddie and Mary and all the others singing a capella because no one could play the piano that almost always sat silent at the front of the church. Freddie hit the bass notes.

And what’s even better, is that my book is a shape note hymnal. It’s an old-style of singing where each note (do, re, mi, etc.) is assigned a specific shape (diamond, square, triangle, etc.). It was a way to teach folks to sing without having to teach them to read music.

Trust and ObeyWhile my impromptu hymn-singing when I’m supposed to be writing can turn into a serious distraction, I think it’s also really helpful. Because I write about Appalachia–where shape note (or sacred harp) singing still hangs on. And those side trips back to my childhood in a one-room church where I first learned to call God by name–well, that’s why I write. It’s good to be reminded. And maybe to sing a few verses of #99, “When we walk with the Lord, In the light of His word, What a glory He sheds on our way!”

Appalachian Thursday – Multiflora Rose

multifloraIt’s the bane of farmers.

Those twining, vining banks of simple roses can take over a fence line and encroach upon pasture. It’s pervasive, even invasive. Dad hated it and I did, too, for his sake.

But we aren’t farmers anymore and I have to confess, multiflora rose is growing on me.

It’s a non-native, invasive plant. Originally native to eastern Asia, it was introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1800s as an ornamental rose. Then, it was promoted for erosion control and as a “living fence” for livestock. Which was all well and good until it began taking over and choking out native species.

It’s now designated as a “noxious weed” in multiple states including Iowa, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and . . . West Virginia. Hum.

The National Park Service has some plain advice–“Do not plant multiflora rose.” But that’s alright. No one needs to. It simply crops up pretty much everywhere.

I used to work for Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plan for the Ramble leading down to the Walled Garden included a large planting of multiflora rose along the main staircase guiding guests down from the house. Mr. Olmsted saw the beauty, too.

And while I certainly acknowledge the negative aspects of this all too rapidly spreading shrub, I can’t help myself this time of year. Because when I step outside on a cool, spring morning, I see the flowers cascading along the roadside. And I breathe the sweet perfume sweetening the air.

And I think it must be how heaven smells.

Christian Authors ROCK!

panelBeing a published author is a dream come true for me. And while some aspects aren’t quite as wonderful as I imagined (book signing with two attendees anyone?), others are better. Like the way Christian authors look out for each other.

I just spent several days at the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta. I was a little bit out of my depth at this HUGE event for romance readers and writers (from inspirational to erotica!). But no worries–my team was there.

More than a dozen other inspirational authors were in attendance along with staff from Christian publishing houses. Technically, I suppose, we’re in competition with each other, but you’d never know it. I got to reconnect with authors who have supported me in the past and meet authors who I know will support me in the future. And they even let ME support THEM.

And that’s what I want to do in a small way today. This isn’t everyone, but here are a few of the amazing ladies I had the chance to connect with in Atlanta. If you’re looking for something good to read–check them out!

  • Ronie Kendig – She writes rapid-fire fiction–lots of romantic suspense with military heroes! (And she’s a GREAT roommate.)
  • Tamera Alexander – Tammy writes LUSH historical romance and her books give me cover envy. Those dresses!
  • Dani Pettrey – She writes amazing adventure stories with delicious romance. If you like Alaska, you’ll love her Alaskan Courage Series.
  • Shelley Shepard Gray – Amish suspense anyone? You didn’t know there was such a thing? Well then, check Shelley out.
  • Rachel Hauck – Rachel endorsed my first novel after meeting me ONCE at a conference. She’s an amazing woman of God and I ADORE her Royal Wedding series. Modern day princesses. Sigh.
  • Elizabeth Camden – She’s a librarian and she writes historical romance–my dream job combination.
  • Rebecca DeMarino – We connected over our love of including family history in our novels. Except Rebecca digs a lot further back in time than I do!
  • Jen Turano – She’s funny–in person and in writing. Historical romance to make you laugh out loud!
  • Kristi Ann Hunter – She writes gorgeous historical romance and I’m blessed to be working with her on a novella project (more about that later). Plus, she’s smart and funny!

There were others, but my list is getting long. Suffice it to say, Christian authors have servant’s hearts and I’m so VERY glad to have been blessed by the ladies above as well as so many others.

Books! Chocolate! Authors!

No Appalachian Thursday today. I’m at the RT Book Lovers Convention in Atlanta, Ga., enjoying time with readers, authors, and chocolate. Good times! If you’re in the area, here’s one of my events:

RT Booklovers Meme

If you’re not in the area, heads up that my first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, is FREE this week during the convention. BONUS–so are books by most of the other authors listed! Go look ’em up and I’ll let them know you said, “Hey.”