Tag Archive | Memories

Are You Puzzled?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved puzzles. Mainly, jigsaw puzzles, but I’m also fond of word games like crosswords and word searches. I’ve heard that doing those keeps your brain active, and as I grow older, that becomes more and more important. My parents are in their eighties and still sharp as ever, so I’m hopeful that I’ve inherited their sharpness genes.

So what is it about jigsaw puzzles that draws me in? Maybe it’s because I like to fix things, and if I see something all discombobulated, I want to make it right. Plus, it’s so much fun watching an image come together. I don’t know about you, but I get a happy thrill every time I put a piece in place. I guess it’s good that it doesn’t take much to amuse me!

My first puzzle memory is from when I was about six years old. We lived in Spokane, Washington at that time, and there was a local fair a short distance down the road from us. It was one of those sorts that was likely put on by the high school and run by teenagers. They had all kinds of games and activities for children. I can’t remember what the particular game was that caught my eye, but the prize for winning the game was a puzzle. They were used puzzles donated by the organizers of the event. Used or not, I didn’t care. Trouble was, I didn’t have any money and couldn’t play the game. So, was that a good memory? Oddly, yes, since it makes me smile to remember it. I didn’t get a puzzle from that fair, but my desire for jigsaw puzzles never left me.

I have quite a collection now, and many of my puzzles have been put together more times than I can count. Most of them have 1,000 pieces, and I can usually put them together in a few days’ time. I like to work on them in the evenings after a day of writing. It helps me relax, but it also allows me time to gather my thoughts for my next day of writing.

I like the puzzles that have interesting pieces–those that aren’t a typical shape. They make the entire process more challenging. However, I also appreciate pieces that fully interlock. So, I guess you could say, I love any type of puzzle.

I recently put together the most tight-fitting puzzle I’ve ever encountered. So tight that I could hold it up in the air while it still had a lot of pieces missing. Hopefully, you can see what I mean in this photo.

Yep! You can see right through the middle, and nothing fell apart when I held it up. Crazy! This is the kind of puzzle that wouldn’t even need glue if you decided to frame it.

I always start by putting together the border. I think that’s pretty typical, thought my son tells me it would be more challenging if I didn’t. From the picture on the box, I also know what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done. Again, my son tells me not to look at the image to increase the challenge of putting it together. I try that sometimes, but there are certain puzzles that stump me and I have to look.

I think my writing style is similar to the way I construct puzzles. I know how I want a story to start, (thus the border), and I know how I want it to end. (Like the finished picture). But the middle often takes me in different directions. I may add a piece that takes me down an unexpected road. Those little surprises makes the process so much fun! A character who I think is minor becomes a major part in putting together the puzzle of my story.

I suppose I also like to fix the discombobulated lives of my characters. I promise a happy ending–eventually–but they usually go through many challenges on their way to attaining it.

Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your ‘puzzling’ stories, too!

Write on!

The Love of Cotton Candy

Isn’t it amazing how a simple smell or taste can take you back to your childhood? Of course, some of those reminders might be bad, like the flavor of nasty-tasting medicine, or the odor that lingered when you accidentally stepped in a pile of doggy doo while out trick-or-treating. Yep, that happened to me!

However, I want to talk about a good memory!

When I was a child, my parents would take me to one of those home-town carnivals that came through town every year around the Fourth of July. The carnival was part of a community festival called Frontier Days. In addition to the carnival rides and games, there was also a parade. I’ve seen photos of me and my siblings dressed up as pioneers in a make-shift covered wagon. I was very young then, but it was memorable enough that I recall thinking we were pretty awesome.

Now, back to the whole smell and taste thing. The simple thought of that particular event immediately sparks memories of an assortment of smells: Popcorn, the sawdust spread on the ground beneath some of the stomach-churning rides, mud from the rain that always seemed to dampen the celebration every year, beer, and cotton candy.

Cotton candy.

My first memory of popping some of that fluffy confection into my mouth comes from one of those Frontier Day’s celebrations. I clearly remember my aunt, Judy, telling me the proper way to eat cotton candy. She said that in order to avoid getting completely sticky, you needed to pull off a small amount and literally pop it into your mouth, doing all you could to avoid touching your fingers to your lips and getting them wet. Putting your mouth directly on the spool of fluff was a no-no. Especially if you planned to share your treat!

I didn’t do such a good job instructing my grandson.

The photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea! I tried to teach him to ‘pop,’ but he dove right in!

Now that I’m older, I like getting sticky even less, but I still love cotton candy. Recently, I discovered a new kind of ice cream that has rocked my world! Kroger brand has cotton candy flavored ice cream called Mermaid Sparkle. It’s to die for. Best of all, you can eat it with a spoon and you won’t get sticky.

Sure, there are many foods I enjoy, but I can’t think of any others that produce so many wonderful memories. Our lives are a patchwork of memories, and I feel it’s important to cherish all of them. I’ve learned a lot from my past. Not only how to properly eat cotton candy, but after my other experience, I know to watch where I walk on Halloween.

Life is a journey, and I want to thank you for sharing these memories with me!

God bless!

Appreciating the ‘Simple’ Things

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve said, “We’re living in crazy times.”

For anyone who has lost a loved one from this virus or is currently ill with Covid-19, I’m sure the words to describe it would be much harsher than ‘crazy.’

We’ve all experienced loss. As it is with this new virus, sometimes it’s unexpected and tragic, other times, it comes from a lengthy illness or simply because we’ve reached the age that our bodies shut down. But even when we have the chance to prepare ourselves emotionally for the moment we’ll have to let go of the person we love, we’re never ready. We don’t want to lose anyone we cherish.

Life never guarantees another day. That’s something else I’ve heard and said for as long as I can remember. The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom in being told to appreciate the simple things and enjoy every moment with the people I love.

Since there’s more than enough gloom and doom in the media, I don’t want this post to be about the negative aspects of what we’re facing. I want to express the good I see in being alive every day. In addition, I’d love to hear from you and know what you enjoy the most in your day-to-day living.

I love that first sip of coffee that’s waiting for me the instant I walk into my kitchen. I’m grateful for the electricity that continues to flow through my home, even when I’m sleeping, so that my automatic coffee maker comes on at the right time. And speaking of electricity–that alone is something to cheer from the rooftops!

I have hot water for my shower and to readily wash my hands umpteen times each day. Electricity powers my laptop, so I can continue to write, and it recharges my phone, so I can stay in touch with family and friends. It keeps my refrigerator cold, so my food doesn’t spoil, and it keeps the food in my freezer frozen for the long haul.

I have a sweet husband who’s happy to go out and do the grocery shopping and other necessary tasks like picking up the mail. As for me, I stay comfortably at home, writing. And what a blessing that is! I still get to escape with my characters to other times and places, and I’m graced with wonderful emails and messages from readers who thank me for taking their minds off the current issues. If that’s not a good reason to smile, I don’t know what is. Thank you, readers!

I have a loyal dog who gets me moving when I’ve been sitting too long. We may only go out into the yard, but at least I’m getting out of the house for a few minutes. He’s been overly happy lately, because I never leave him.

I bought the ‘Stay at Home Dog’ shirt months before this virus came to be. At the time, I thought it was simply cute, but now, it’s fitting. He loves being at home, and I’m thankful he’s here.

I have word games on my phone to entertain me when my brain needs a rest from writing, and jigsaw puzzles that I love to put together. The bigger the better. I even dug out some puzzles that I’ve had since I was a little girl. The photo at the bottom of this post is one of them. I try to challenge myself by not looking at the picture while I’m working them, but I still like to start by putting the border together. My son says I shouldn’t do that. He’s trying to get me to work them from the middle out, but I have yet to try that. With one exception… I found a border-less puzzle that not only didn’t have a border, it also had five additional pieces, just to throw me off! It was called an “Impossible” puzzle, but I’m happy to say that I mastered it. Such fun!

I’ve been taking the time to experiment with new recipes, and I’ve also cooked things that I hadn’t made in years. Like old-fashioned tapioca pudding. It’s so good when it’s hot off the stove! And if you want a wonderful treat, cook up some stove-top chocolate pudding and put it over vanilla ice cream. It’s delicious. Even better than hot fudge.

I’m grateful that I’ve not lost touch with my church friends. I sing in the church choir, and we’d been practicing for an Easter cantata, but of course, that didn’t happen. Still, we meet once a week on Zoom. We don’t sing, but we lift each other up in prayer and share how our lives are going. Eventually, when we can get back together again, we’ll sing the cantata. Easter should be lived every day of our lives, so even though the date might not be the ‘right’ one, the message always is. God is gracious and still in control, and though we might not understand why we’re going through these troubled times, He knows. His love never leaves us.

Maybe we all needed the opportunity to take a deep breath and slow down. Even so, I hate to see anyone suffer. I’d like everyone to be able to get back to work and doing what they love.

So, tell me what makes you smile, and what you love the most! We’ll get through this together and be stronger for it.

For the Love of a Chihuahua

I got my first furry pet when I was in elementary school. Second grade, I think. She was a solid black cat named Midnight, who I found on the school grounds and brought home. Originally, Mom insisted she stay outside, but when the first rainstorm rolled in and Midnight pawed at the back door, Mom’s heart melted and she brought her inside.

From that day on, we had cats. Lots of cats. We did what we could to come up with the most unusual names for them. After Midnight, we had Precious, (not so odd), Googey, Silmarillion, (my sister is a Tolkien fan!), Sarazar, Lithwaite, and Smokey. There were a few others, too, but these stood out the strongest in my memory.

Even after I left home, I continued to have cats. Luna was a big favorite. She was a beautiful Himalayan who went to live with my mom when I moved across the country. Upon arriving in the south, I had a cat adopt me. Spooky (another black cat) showed up on my doorstep on Halloween. Coincidental? Probably.

Spooky was a very cool cat, but three years after my arrival in Tennessee, I met my current husband. A man who is severely allergic to cats! Dog gone it! When we got married, Spooky went to live with a friend of mine. Sandy, my friend, had a pet hedgehog, and soon, Spooky and the hedgehog became best buddies.

Many years have passed since then, and for a long time, I was utterly petless. Then, my son left for college, and my husband and I became empty nesters. I never thought I would be affected by the quietness of our home with just the two of us in it, but it hit me hard. Because of my blues, my husband brought home Sophie, a sweet black Labrador. Eventually, Sophie had a litter of puppies, and we added Misty and Dusty to our home. They are the yellow Labs in this photo. Cute, huh?

I discovered I was a dog person, and I finally felt content giving up my love of having a cat in the house. My new big babies eventually weighed over 90 lbs. each, but that didn’t stop me from cuddling them. Labradors are incredibly lovable. They enriched our lives for over thirteen years, and when they died–all within a year of each other–my heart broke.

I decided I wasn’t going to go through that pain again.

BUT . . .

Odd how things change. A friend told me she was looking for a home for her Chihuahua. I never thought I’d like a little dog, after becoming so fond of the big ones, but Jax changed my mind and my heart. He has wormed his way in deep! This little guy has brought abundant joy and love into our home. He’s my companion when I write, and he does a great job of getting me off my rump every hour to take him outside. It’s easy to get caught up in my stories and lose track of time, and I used to set an alarm. Otherwise, I’d sit for so long, my legs would fall asleep!

Because of Jax, I’m moving a whole lot more, and I have no need for the alarm. He has his daily routine, which includes getting up at 5:30am. I don’t mind. He starts my day with joy, and in the evenings, when I’m relaxing and watching TV, he curls up on my lap and keeps me warm. His disposition is generally good, but he hates my telephone and gets jealous if I’m talking on it or playing games. (I love playing word games!) He wants the attention and whines when I give it to anyone or anything else. Maybe I’m spoiling him, but one thing’s for sure. I’m feeding off his unconditional love.

I still like cats, but since I can’t own one any longer, I’m grateful to have discovered the love of a Chihuahua. He’s about the size of cat, so maybe in that way, he’s a better substitution than the Labradors. He’s definitely easier to cuddle.

I heard that petting an animal can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. I totally agree!

 

In the Shadow of the Sun

I’ve been enjoying sharing the work of my author friends, and today I’m pleased to tell you about a historical fiction novel written by Elaine Meece, and her husband Geoffrey.

This collaborative work took Elaine out of her norm! She usually writes romantic suspense, and has also delved into romantic comedy. Be sure to check out her website for more information on her other books.   http://www.elainemeece.com/

She and Geoffrey spent many, many hours researching the time period for “In the Shadow of the Sun.” With the help of the nurses’ journals, newspaper articles and clippings, and other resources, they brought this story to life. Ninety-seven-year old veteran, Olin Pickens, claimed it to be the most realistic WWII book he’s ever read!

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Sun-Elaine-Meece-ebook/dp/B07FKS4G2Q

In the Shadow of the Sun

The story of Ressa and Geneva Jenkins.

What starts off as an adventure turns into a nightmare.

In August of 1941, sisters, Ressa and Geneva Jenkins, from Sevierville, Tennessee arrive in the Philippines to work as nurses at Sternberg Hospital in Manila. Life in this tropical paradise is everything they had hoped for, until the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Geneva and Ressa are caught in the middle of the war and life becomes about survival.

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway! A Golden Life

In celebration of A Golden Life’s  beautiful new cover, I’m giving away five signed copies through a Goodreads Book Giveaway.

This contemporary novel is set in the gorgeous mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I received some wonderful feedback from the judge who scored my entry in the 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards!
Here’s what they said about “A Golden Life.”

Judge’s Commentary*:

A GOLDEN LIFE is a kind of Night Before Christmas tale, where celebrated romance writer Traci Oliver is having writer’s block while trying to write her fiftieth (golden) book in the aftermath of her husband’s death a year previous. She is late delivering this fiftieth book but is unable to start writing. On the one-year anniversary of his death she is visited, much like the ghosts of Christmas past present and future, by some of the characters in her books, who help her move on in her grief and think of something to write that will be perfect. The book is charming, and Traci has a wonderful voice, full of grief and delicacy, and her friendship with her agent is believable. The feeling you get from her is that she loved her husband very much and misses him greatly, and that that love was tied up deeply in her writing ability. The plot is somewhat predictable, but the characters from her books are endearing.

 

Enter to win one of five signed copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Golden Life by Jeanne Hardt

A Golden Life

by Jeanne Hardt

Giveaway ends February 19, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

 

 

 

They Seem So Real!

I’m suffering from a chapped nose. No, I don’t have a cold. Yes, I sometimes have allergies, but that’s not the reason either.

I just finished writing a difficult chapter. I can usually knock out a chapter a day, but this one took three. Along with half a box of tissues.

I tell myself all the time that I’m not crazy. Maybe that in itself is a little nuts. Then, I’m reminded of one of my favorite movie scenes from “Romancing the Stone.” Author, Joan Wilder, is hunting for tissues. Sobbing over what she’s written.

When I first saw that film over thirty years ago, I wasn’t a writer. At least, not an author of novels. But now that I am, I get it! When my characters hurt, I hurt. Thus, the tears.

I’ll never forget the first time someone told me that my characters seemed real. Probably one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. They’re certainly real to me. Otherwise, why would I cry for them? Why would I care so much?

I recently had a great conversation with a reader who’s on Book 3 of my Southern Secrets Saga. She talked to me about things that were happening in the story and asked a few questions. But mostly, we talked about the characters and how much we love them. I felt like we were discussing long-time mutual friends. At one point, she apologized for going on so long about the books. Oh, my goodness! There definitely had been no need for that, and I told her so. It was fun! I doubt she realized how she’d made my day.

I’m glad the imaginary people I bring to life feel real. I’m afraid that if they weren’t relatable, the story would fall flat. A reader should be able to walk hand in hand with the characters and experience what they’re going through. Good and bad. Emotion is healthy. I just wish I could spare my nose!

Desires cover 850

More Cute Puppies?

Next month will mark the second anniversary of my first published novel, “Marked.” Since that time, I’ve released nine other novels. Yes, I’ve been typing like a manic fool!

I’m forever grateful to my editors, Cindy Brannam and Alicia Dean. They keep me on my toes and make certain my finished product is the best it can be. I also want to take this opportunity to thank my cover artist, Rae Monet, flat designer, Karen Duvall, and my amazing formatter, Jesse Gordon.

Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without readers! You all have blessed me with encouragement, kind words, and the ability to keep doing what I love. THANK YOU!

But what does this have to do with cute puppies? No, it wasn’t a teaser just to get you dog lovers reading my post!

Sometime ago, I wrote a blog called, “Who Wouldn’t Like a Cute Puppy?” Actually, the post was written in November of 2013 if you’d like to read it!

After all this time, and some reviews that could easily get me down, I felt it was time to revisit those thoughts.

Creative people have a terrible tendency of focusing on the negative. A singer might look at a room full of smiling faces during a performance as a bad experience. Why? Because the guy in the corner constantly frowned. The singer singles him out and tries as best she can to make him smile, but the more she sings, the deeper his scowl becomes. She takes it as a personal affront and ignores the rest of the crowd. They cheer and clap at the end of the song, but her heart is in her shoes, because she couldn’t make the stranger smile.

She doesn’t consider that perhaps his girlfriend just broke up with him and the song reminds him of her. Or maybe, someone close to him has passed away and nothing anyone could do would make him smile. There is also the possibility that he truly doesn’t like the way she sings. Hmm…

Bottom line. People have different tastes.

Whenever I stroll along in public and see someone carrying a puppy or walking a dog, I think of one of my dear friends. She views dogs, like I see snakes. If someone came toward me with a snake coiled around them, I’d run the opposite direction. I sometimes even squeal when I’m digging in my garden and a larger-than-normal worm flips up in the soil. Puppies and dogs, however, draw me in. I want to pet them, love on them, and take them home! My poor friend becomes physically ill around them, and she can’t understand why they’re allowed out in public places.

We all have different likes and dislikes. As a writer, it’s important that I write what moves me. But I have to be realistic and know that not everyone will be moved by it. Someone will think it’s the worst book they’ve ever read, while another person will deem it the best. And hopefully not just my mom! She’s a little biased.

Criticism is tough to take, but no matter what we do in life, it’s going to be there. It starts when we’re little–children can be awfully cruel to each other–and continues as we grow. What matters is how we deal with it.

I’m writing this to remind myself and hopefully help all of you! I was told more than once not to read my reviews, but it’s hard not to. So when I do, I decipher the validity of what’s been said. If something critical is pointed out consistently, then I know I need to dig deeper and see if it’s something that should be ‘fixed.’ As of yet, I’m glad to say that the negative comments have been few and far between. As for the validity, I believe the comments were valid for that individual. My books weren’t their taste. And that’s okay, because many other people loved them.

Exposing ourselves to the bare bone isn’t always easy. Putting creative work in front of the masses is scary to say the least! But, I get incredible joy sharing my stories with the world. I love bringing characters to life and making them feel real. When my readers discuss them with me as though they’re someone we both know personally, I want to do a happy dance. And I do. Internally. I don’t want them to think I’m nuttier than they already believe me to be!

Thank you for reading my post! If you’re a writer, WRITE ON, and always keep your chin up.

If you’re a reader, thank you from all of us authors! Without you, we’d shrivel.

Cute little puppy, or horrid beast?

Cute little puppy, or horrid beast?

 

Branching Out

I’ve always been told to write what’s in my heart. I stand by that 100%!

I may not be writing the thing that’s popular in the industry, or the books that meet industry standards, but I enjoy being unique.

I don’t have time to read as much as I’d like to, because I’m spending so much of my time writing. But sometimes I think I’m shooting myself in the foot. It’s important to know what’s out there, even if I’m not trying to be trendy.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well …

A year ago I was inspired to write a young adult novel. Up until then, all of my work had been geared toward the women’s fiction and/or romance market. The idea for my young adult novel came after I finished writing “A Golden Life” and wanted to write another contemporary novel with magical realism.

Because my new book, “He’s in My Dreams,” is about a seventeen-year-old girl with terminal leukemia, I decided to write it for the young adult market. Little did I know that another book with similar subject matter had recently hit the bookstores and movie theaters. You now understand why I mentioned shooting myself in the foot. I’m sure any of you reading this know what book/movie I’m referring to without my even stating the title. You’re probably asking yourself if I’d been living in a closet the last few years. Nope. Just glued to my desk, writing where my heart led.

I wasn’t made aware of the book until one of my Beta readers told me about it. I’d given her “Dreams” to test read. She’d read the other book and told me that my timing might be a little off. BUT, the good thing is that she also told me that my book is nothing like the other story.  Better still, she said she liked it! Her encouragement helped me so much. (Thank you, Melissa!)

And though my timing might be bad, I’m pushing forward. I want to share Amber’s story with the world. The industry might be screaming, ‘no, not another one,’ but it doesn’t matter. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not the industry sort of author. I write what’s in my heart. And boy, oh, boy, did it get wrenched writing Amber’s story. I cry every time I do a read-through. But I’m happy to say that my book ends with hope.

I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like facing a terminal illness with your child. And for those of you who have, God bless you. I pray that my story will do justice to the difficulties you faced, and honor the love you’ll always have for the precious life you lost.

HE’S IN MY DREAMS

HesinmyDreams2_300Amber’s just seventeen, but wants to die. With no chance of remission, she’s tired of pain.

Regret makes her even more miserable. She’s never been in love. Never had that first kiss. She wants to know what it feels like.

When she asks her mom, she’s so bitter about her own past, she refuses to answer Amber’s questions. About men. About sex. And most importantly, about what it’s like to fall in love.

Then Amber meets Ryder, and everything changes. He’s exactly what she’d hoped for in a guy. Funny, smart, kind, and better looking than any actor she’s seen on TV. When she’s with him, she forgets her pain. He makes her want to live again.

There’s just one problem with her newfound love. He exists only in her dreams.

 

 

He’s in My Dreams is a young adult novel set in the beautiful city of Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. It will be available on Amazon in both e-book format as well as paperback. Release is planned for mid-to-late April.

 

 

E-Book or Paper?

When I first began writing and then moved forward to publication, I contemplated format and assumed that the people who would want to read my books would prefer ones they could hold in their hands. A paperback or hardcover book, not an e-reader.

Then, after Marked was published, I was astonished that the majority of readers were buying the e-book, not the paperback. I understand the convenience, not to mention the lower cost. E-books make sense. They’re much easier to transport when moving, they don’t take up all your shelf space, and they don’t tear. However, I’m still inclined to prefer a book I can smell, feel, and mark with a magnetic bookmark.

I thought that maybe my desire for the old-fashioned kind has to do with my age. Yes, I’m fifty-something and not ashamed to say so. I’m not as skilled at modern devices as the younger generation, but I pride myself in learning. I’m grateful for the advances in technology. Years ago, I wrote my first manuscript on a typewriter. I much prefer my laptop!

So, to test my theory that only us ‘old folks’ prefer paper books, I queried a group of high school students I recently spoke to about my writing process. These students were, for the most part, aspiring writers. I was curious as to what they like to read, but then when I asked whether they preferred e-books or real books, they unanimously said real. Like me, they said they like to hold a book. Granted, you can hold an e-reader, but it’s not quite the same. Of course, they spend most of their time on electronic devices, so a paper book is a nice change.

So now I throw it out to you. What do you prefer? Are e-books a fad that will fade, will they continue to be simply an option, or do you feel that eventually the paper books will be obsolete and there will no longer be a choice? Curious minds want to know …

I prefer a paper book!

I prefer a paper book!