Where have you been?

Researching the Oklahoma land rush of 1893 has been interesting and time-consuming. I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I blogged. My apologies, dear readers.

Life tends to interfere in many writer’s plans. Illness. Death. Work. Laundry. Home Repair. Vacation. Truly, life goes on. But creativity cannot be denied. It slips into our days in small ways. The key is to be grateful for every moment.

Make a note. Make a sketch. Leave a voice mail, just don’t forget. Capture the dream. Make note of the smells, sounds, sights and feelings you experience. They are the things that make stories real.

I love to write and learn new things. Please be patient. It takes a long time to write that first draft and edit and make it come to life. Thank you so much for reading my books, sharing your precious time with them, and letting everyone know if you enjoyed them. You inspire me. You make all the hours of work worth while.

Bless you, dear readers and Enjoy the Ride.

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Dreams of Media Attention and Snake Oil

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure and honor of being a part of the first WRITERS OF THE WHEAT LITERARY FESTIVAL. What a great time! Lots of friends, families, readers and literary lovers came to visit and listen to a group of authors read and talk about their books.

In preparation for the event we were in the Wichita Eagle newspaper and that was super publicity for us and the event. KAKE and KWCH TV were also on board to talk about the event. LOVE our local news media!

By the way, there are two Bonnie Tharp’s in Wichita. We finally met after being Facebook friends for some time. The other Bonnie is always being asked to sign my books and she shared that with Carrie Rengers a couple of weeks ago. So…check out “have you heard?”

Anyway, what this is all leading up to is this. I received a call today from an online broadcast company who tells me they can make my books a bestseller. Ah, the stars come into my eyes as he tells me all the things I want to hear: my books are poignant, relevant, interesting…. At least those were the words that stuck into my mind, the rest took quite some a bit of my time and sound like “wah, wah, wah” in my memory (like the Peanuts cartoon grownups).

The promise of nation-wide exposure happened to me once before and I bit – I went on the air and got about 2,000 listeners and only a slight uptick in sales. Not enough to warrant the expense, believe me. Was it fun – LOADS! Was it expensive – LOTS! This time, the offer is a bit more money, with the promise of global media exposure, video, web updates, and one year exclusivity – for them, not me. I must admit I almost bit the poison apple again. Their sales people are amazing! You know the kind who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. I need to learn those skills, because then my book would be a best seller, for sure.

Many creative folks get caught in the dream that their work is worth much more than it’s being sold for now. The snake oil salesmen tell us that we are worth much more than we make. We dream of thousands of people enjoying our work and sharing it with their best friends or families or just shouting it from the social media rooftops how wonderful this or that creation truly is… We don’t have to be rich, but it would be nice to make a living doing what we love. We don’t have to be a celebrity, but it would be nice to be recognized as a really good author. And the snake oil salesman senses our desire, feeds it and boom – SOLD.

snake_oil_maker

 

 

The importance of “time off”

skaterWe all know that we need “time off” to recharge our personal batteries. From work, especially. Many of us wear many hats and have many jobs and never really get “time off.” We cook, clean, tend homes, groom yards, take care of our families (including the furry ones) all around the “day-job.” Most writers have a day job and then they write the rest of the time. In between laundry and preparing meals, among other things. Our lives are busy.

Many nights when my body says “enough” my brain just keeps right on going, keeping me from the much needed rest that will charge my batteries for the next day. The notepad on my bed table is filled with thoughts about my new novel, what I’m going to cook tomorrow, what I didn’t get done today, and what is on the list that I must not forget.

Often times we take a vacation and visit family outside of our home town, or we’ll take the weekend and just travel around the state to see what interesting things Kansas has to offer. (There are lots, by the way, but that is for another time.) This past year we’ve done “stay-cations.” I’ve gotten extra sleep on those days, read and wrote to my hearts content, BUT…I still had to do all the daily chores living requires. It’s nice to not wear a watch and only look when it’s time for a movie we want to see. It’s nice to know we have tomorrow to do whatever we didn’t do today and there’s no deadline to meet. But it’s not strictly “time off.”

mature_womanIn my day job I work for a global company and the Europeans understand the importance of Vacation. When they are on “holiday” they are GONE for two or three luxurious weeks, which they tell me is required to adequately unwind and refresh. They travel, ski, go to the beach, but whatever it is – they are taking “time off.” We need to take on that mindset as well if we want to enjoy nice long lives. Too many Americans work on their “holiday” and we are missing out.

Due to medical advances we’re living longer lives, but what about their quality? I’m slowly coming around to the realization that the dust will be there until tomorrow and it won’t hurt anyone if it stays another day. We don’t have to wear our favorite tee shirt or jeans, we can dig out the ones that are in the back of the closet and do laundry later. It’s okay to read one more chapter if you’re at a good part of the book. And if the muse taps me on the shoulder and says “listen to this idea” then I need to stop and write it down.

Making time. Making dreams come true. We “make” them happen, folks. No one else. We are the ones who make the choice. So, when the work day or work week is done, take some time for yourself and recharge. Eat sandwiches instead of a huge meal once in awhile. “Time off” is important. Don’t waste every minute on those lists, breathe, read, walk, write, whatever you need to do…DO IT.

Artists, Scribes and Dreamers

I can safely say that writers, painters, musicians, artists of all kinds are “dreamers”.  We see and hear beauty in the world around us and in our mind’s eye and struggle to recreate it or share what we experience with others.  It isn’t always easy.

woman_reading_riverSometimes the things our muse shows us are very difficult to express in paint or words or clay.  Everything I ever made out of clay could be used as an ashtray or a doorstop.  I enjoyed painting for many years, but struggled to create what I was seeing or feeling onto a blank canvas.

While I have written stories since I was a child I really didn’t discover how magically you can create a world through words until I began writing as an adult.  Maybe it was because I was older and had more experience.  Maybe I am more confident than I was in my teens or twenties.  Probably some of both.  But I still dream about being a successful author and I like to dream BIG.

But there is another kind of dreaming that I wonder if other artists experience as I do.  The dreams you have while you sleep.  I sometimes see scenes and hear dialog during my dreams that I later put in my books.

child_sleepingIn my college psychology class the instructor said that dreams are random and come from the subconscious.  The latter I believe, the former, not so much.  Have you ever had a question or problem that you hadn’t solved before laying down to sleep, and when you awoke the next morning you thought of a solution?  That isn’t random, but that may very well be your subconscious working it out for us.

Just think of all the wonderful things that have been created by men and women over the ages.  Someone had a dream, a vision, an idea and made it reality.

I encourage you to follow your dreams and see where they lead.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave your day job or move to some exotic locale, it just means, make time for that creative part of your self to do its thing.  You’ll enjoy the journey and who knows, the results may be life changing.woman with flowers

Change = Perfection? I don’t think so.

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.”

I don’t know anyone who is enjoys change. Not one person. Change is hard. We get into a rhythm or habit and it’s hard to break. This happens in all aspects of life: work, home, relationships, etc. But sometimes we have to change and that change is good for us in the long run. Easy to say. Hard to figure out which direction to go.

changes

At work we are changing a lot of processes and systems in an attempt to simplify and streamline what we do. It is very painful, but concentrating on our goal of saving money and time helps. We won’t see the results for some time, because changing so much takes a really long time. I imagine it was similar when they built the pyramids, it took a lot of back breaking work and many years. Granted I work in a service industry so it is not physically demanding, but in every other way we struggle under the weight of the changes.

It’s much the same when we write. We start out with a first draft and by its nature it’s just ideas and scenes that seldom hang together completely. I’ve heard “drafts” called “garbage” and to some degree that’s right. Where we find the wonderful word pictures and turns of phrase are in the changes (edits). One of my writing mentors liked to refer to editing as “mining the jewels from the garbage.” So, with that in mind we realize change is required to discover the best story we can tell. Will it be perfection? Maybe to someone it will impact them in a profound way, touching them deeply, but whose to say what is perfect? Not me.

change

Webster’s says:

“Change” is to make or become different: alter. Synonyms: modify, mutate, transform, turn vary.

“Perfect” is to be be without defect or fault: flawless. Exact. Accurate. Impeccable.

With these definitions in mind I think that what I write can never be “perfect.” I write about people, family and relationships. The essence of these are “people” and “people are flawed.” That’s what makes them so interesting, compelling, and the very core of a moving story. My stories will never be perfect, but I can promise the characters will change over time. Isn’t that what living is all about – change? No, it’s about living and loving. It’s about enjoying the journey. Will we find ourselves in a perfect place? Doubtful, but it will be interesting.

What do you think is the most profound change? The seasons of the earth? The seasons of man?

seasonsoflife

 

“I believe!”

The Muse came to visit today and here’s what she said:  “Believe you can – and go for it!”

I imagine that all writers need this kind of advice from time to time.  When we’re kids our parents and teachers say this kind of thing, until we’re older, then caution steps in.  “Writing isn’t a job, plumbing will pay the bills.”  Sound familiar?  In this economy we must be crazy to live our creative dreams, but we’re compelled to do it anyway.

fairy

Remember in Peter Pan when Tinkerbell is about to die and they ask all the kids “to Believe”? Well. I believe! You’ve got to believe your manuscript is as good as it can be. You’ve got to believe you’ll find a home for it. You’ve got to believe people will enjoy reading it. You’ve got to believe and never stop believing in your abilities.

That doesn’t mean we can all give up our day jobs, but it does mean that if writing is important, then we should just do it.

I believed in my stories so much, that I kept editing it to make it as good as I could possibly make it, then I kept submitting until they found a publishing houses willing to print them.

I worked hard for that story and believed it would be published, and Feisty Family Values and Patchwork Family are a reality.

It feels good to fulfill those dreams, so don’t give up.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt (She was an awesome woman and role model.)angels

It’s safe to say that writers, painters, musicians, artists of all kinds are “dreamers”.  We see and hear beauty in the world around us and in our mind’s eye and struggle to recreate it or share what we experience with others.  It isn’t always easy.  Sometimes the things our muse shows us are very difficult to express in paint or words or clay.  Everything I ever made out of clay could be used as an ashtray.  I enjoyed painting for many years growing up, but struggled to create what I was seeing or feeling on canvas.  While I have written stories since I was a child, I really didn’t discover how magically you can create a world through words until I began writing as an adult.  Maybe it’s because I’m older with more life experience.  I still dream about being a successful author and I like to dream BIG.

cosmic tree

But there is another kind of dreaming that I’m sure other artists experience.  The dreams you have while you sleep.  I sometimes see scenes and hear dialog during my dreams that I later put into my books.  In college psychology class the instructor said that dreams are random and come from the subconscious.  The latter I believe, the former, not so much.  Have you ever had a question or problem that you hadn’t solved before laying down to sleep, and when you awoke the next morning you thought of a solution?  That isn’t random, but your subconscious working it out.

Just think of all the wonderful things that have been created by men and women over the ages.  Someone had a dream, a vision, an idea and made it reality.  I encourage you to follow your dreams and see where they lead.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave your day job or move to some exotic locale, it just means, make time for that creative part of your self to do its thing. You’ll enjoy the journey and who knows, the results may be life changing.creativity life

Don’t Look Back…

Don’t look back. You’re not going that way. ~Author Unknown

This statement came to mind when I wrote my second novel, PATCHWORK FAMILY, as spoken by a wise grandmother to her granddaughter. Often we dwell on mistakes we’ve made, or life altering events, and forget to enjoy today and dare to dream about tomorrow.

There is so much illness and bad things happening all around, but there are good things, too. Yes, there’s a foot of snow outside, but the sun shining on it looks like a crystal blanket. The moisture will water the trees and the flowers and the grass (uh, we’ll have to mow come spring). I guess my point is that life is a balance of both good and bad.

As we move forward we need to keep our eyes and thoughts on today. And maybe take steps toward furthering my dreams. We should’ve learned what not to do in the past, right? We may have learned some good “what to do’s,” too. Being open to the possibilities is important. If we’re so busy looking back, fretting about what “might have been”, we just might miss out on something wonderful right in front of us.

Are you wondering what on earth is she worrying about? Nothing, really. I do have a test in a few weeks that makes me nervous. I’m really not ready, but I have 3 weeks to study my brains out. And once it’s done and I’ve passed — then I’m off to read a new book of fiction and work on my next novel. At least, that’s the plan. I keep remembering when I was working on my degree and all the hours I put in after work. I was pooped, but it was worth it.

I need this reminder every so often. Especially when I’ve had a bad day at work or I or one of my friends or family members are sick. It’s like I’m stuck in the mud and every time I try to pull my feet out I sink further down in the muck. Today I’m looking at the sun shining wisdom_patience2and feeling less dreary. Sunshine is nurturing. I need to get outside for awhile and soak up some rays and vitamin D. Then I need to get back to the books. Wisdom and patience are what we need.

 

Stay warm and be safe out there.

Learning to dance in the rain.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

happy_rain

When I was still in grade school I used to love to go out in the rain barefoot and walk along the edge of the street where the water rushed down to the storm drain. It moved so fast that all manner of interesting things got caught up in the flow. It was amazing how many worms were washed up from the soil and tickled my toes as they slid by on their way to who knows where. A very watery adventure, in my youthful eyes.

As a teen I remember crying copious tears over sad songs, missed phone calls, and lost loves. Ah, the emotional upheaval of youth. raindropsThe tears fell like rain (yes, there’s a song about that).

In my thirties I worked for an advertising agency and we had an outside ground breaking ceremony to commemorate a new business being built. We had a tent, but when I asked the director if we shouldn’t procure sides in case the weather got bad he laughed and said the weather would hold. HA. Not in Kansas. My new silk blouse and flowing skirt were marred by mud, as were my nice patent pumps. We strung boards from the street across the muck so people could walk to the tent and get out of the rain. What a mess. All for the lack of contingency.

I’ve learned in my fifties that you can never be too prepared and you can never be prepared for everything. So, when it rains you may as well look at the bright side. It’s going to water the flowers and make the grass grow (husband grumbles about mowing again). It washes the air clean (Love that smell). And I love the feel of the rushing water over my toes when I walk down the edge of the street. Still. friends_n_rain

Do you dance in the rain? Do you picture Gene Kelly and the lampost? I do. How about the two buddies in the photo above. Looks like fun, doesn’t it. Hey, next time it rains, give me a call and we’ll go out and play.

The power of Bedtime Stories.

I don’t remember anyone reading to me as a child, but maybe I’ve just forgotten. (Sorry, Grandma) When my son was little I always read to him before he went to sleep. It was our special time. I’d use different voices for the characters and eventually he memorized the stories and say them back to me. child_readingI loved bedtime story time. My son and I would each hold one side of the book, I’d read, and he’d turn the pages. We’d laugh and talk about the story or the character, or if he was super tired he’d drift off to sleep before we were done.

They say story time helps develop a better vocabulary, stronger reading skills as well as giving the parent and child a time together to wind down and be close. It also works with siblings!reading-100

When my grandson came along it became something special he would do at grandma’s house. And when he got older and wasn’t interested in reading a story together, we’d take turns creating a story. I’d start with a character and scene, he’d add the action. Then it would be my turn again. Some nights it was hard to stop because the story kept evolving and instead of a quiet time before sleep, we’d get all jazzed and the creative muse kicked in for both of us.

glasses_book_bulldogMy son is not an avid reader like I am, but my eldest grandson devoured stories in junior high and high school and even now enjoys a good book (when he has time – he’s in college now). My youngest grandson has his favorite stories, but he’s pretty much an electronic kid. Video games are his favorite past time, even before bed.

I’ve heard of people who read to their pets and while I’ve never done it, I can see how it could be relaxing. My husband used to read to me sometimes and frankly, I loved it! His soothing base voice painted lovely pictures from one of his favorite authors, whose name escapes me right now. I believe the book was called “Tranquility” and the stories were about nature. Very cool stuff, even for a girl.

I posted a link to an article about the value of bedtime stories on Facebook and it got tons of responses. Many folks shared their favorite books as a child. One of my son’s favorites was a little golden book about one of the Muppets, Sherlock Hemlock. The spine is held together with masking tape due to lots of love and reading. Paddington Bear was another favorite, but that book is long gone. But we do have several of my husband’s childhood books that we shared with our grandsons. Sir Kevin of Devon was the youngest ones favorite.

What was your favorite bedtime story or ritual? Did you ever create stories together?