Happy Holidays & Goodbye to 2017

First of all, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season. I hope that it will be a joyous and healthy time. Pay special attention to the stories being told over the dinner table; stories are our lifeblood. Listen with your feelings as well as your ears.  And be present, get out of your head and be present! Santa reading

Thinking back on 2017 it was quite eventful, although I didn’t always realize it. I started the year editing like a fiend on my first romantic suspense novel, “Your Every Move.” It was fun writing about college days in the 80’s, but having a stalker causes serious trust issues. “Your Every Move” was published in e-book in June and in print in July. It’s available in e-book everywhere and print via Amazon, Watermark Books & Cafe, and my closet. 

In case you were wondering why I didn’t blog much this year, well, there were lots of reasons. Life, mostly. You can always find me on the Author Expressions Blog the third Friday each month, however, so I hope you’ll pop over and see what this great group of authors have to say.

Sometimes we creative types have to expand our arena and dabble elsewhere. I like painting and had a blast visiting the Carriage Gallery in Newton with my friend Karen to paint Sunflowers in January. What a wonderful place to express yourselves and enjoy the artworks on display. They have classes for all ages and all levels of skill.

Because I’m not getting any younger (are any of us) my husband and I attended a retirement workshop this year at WSU. That was eye-opening, too bad we didn’t start saving sooner. We learned new ways to save and make money stretch, that’s always a good thing. 

My brother-in-law had a heart attack in February, but he is doing fine, enjoying retirement and learning to cook and count sodium. He is finding that everything has salt and it’s almost as prevalent as sugar. UGH.  We are truly blessed that he is going strong.

In March I had the pleasure of speaking to the First Thursday Bookclub about my novel, “Patchwork Family.” What a great bunch and lunch was very healthy as well as tasty. That same month I visited the Kansas Writers Association meeting, and we discussed query, synopsis and agents. That was a lively talk, I must say.

In April the Wichita Public Library at Westlink invited me to read and discuss, “The Log of the Cowboy.” OMG, what a blast. And I learned so much from the discussion. My current work-in-progress, tentative title “Finding Grace” is set in the 1890’s during the Oklahoma land rush, so the story of a trail drive across the Midwest helped to put me in the period.

I was also a part of the Watermark Literary Festival with three other authors during April. One of the folks from the cowboy discussion at the library came, brought a friend, and bought a book. What fun!

May brought another opportunity to talk about cowboys at Covenant Presbyterian Church. And yes, they were kind enough to feed me. I’m having lots of fun learning about the building of the plains area of our country, and it is fascinating.

Did you see the total eclipse in August? We did, and I must say it was an experience I will NEVER forget. In fact, I will probably become an eclipse groupie, there’s supposed to be one in Texas next year so count me in.

This fall one of my favorite aunts passed away. She had the most infectious laugh, and I loved her dearly. She was the sweetest person I know and we will all miss her.

In December a dear friend of mine, Lois Ruby and her son Jeff spoke at Watermark Books. They both have new books out, and it was so much fun to see them and hear about their writing journies. This is Jeff’s first novel “Penelope March is Melting,” and it’s been on the best seller list at Watermark for two weeks now. Go, Jeff! Lois wrote another spooky novel “The Secret Grave,” and I can’t wait to read it.

I hope you all don’t mind the chatty holiday letter and wish you all well. Let’s all read more books next year!

Bonnie (BD) Tharp

Your humble author and friend.

reading books

November where are you?

Okay, what happened to November? It was here and now it’s gone.surprise

I looked back at the calendar to see just why and it appears to have been inordinately busy, with family visiting, holidays, and birthdays. All good things. Is it my imagination or does time go faster as you mature? I suppose scientifically it does not – but it appears to, none the less.

There’s always something that needs to be done – but do we make good choices? I confess I don’t always. Do we make time for the things that truly matter? I hope so. Some things can wait another day, like dusting and laundry. But sharing a conversation or coffee with friends are important. Make time for them.

Our children grow up, move away and have families of their own. Soon the grandchildren are grown as well. Time does not stop or slow down for any of us, no matter how much we want it to. Some days I am amazed how much time has passed in my life then I think of all things I’ve experienced and realize it’s been not only productive but incredible.

Will things slow down in December? Doubtful. Will I enjoy it? Absolutely. I’d like to repeat myself – make time for the things that matter and have a healthy, happy December.

Santa reading

It’s Fall in Kansas

Everyone is posting such wonderful photos of the Monarch butterflies migrating on Facebook. This beautiful event is a good reminder that it’s fall. The nights are getting down into the high 50’s and low 60’s and I just love it. The Blood Moon tonight looks like it’s autumn up there, too. That’s one of the things I enjoy about this time of year – the colors.

fall_leavesMy first published novel Feisty Family Values started in the fall. I got married forty-years-ago in October, too.

We made our first pot of chili today. Next on my list, something with pumpkin. Pie. Bread. Muffins. I haven’t decided yet. And homemade veggie soup with fresh bread. Yum.

While the trees and plants are preparing for winter and things appear to slow down, this is the first step into the holidays. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. Talk about color! Everyone gets to kick it up a notch every month for the next three months. How cool is that?

We have a new/used Chiminea that we’ll be trying out soon. A glass of hot cider by the fire sounds like a cool way to start this new season. We get to wear cozy sweaters with our jeans, scarves and even boots again!

Long walks in the crunching leaves are another fave of mine. (Raking them isn’t all that great, but plopping into a huge pile of leaves is fun. The first time we introduced our grandson, who was a toddler at the time, to leaf pile jumping he thought his grandmother had lost her mind. But it didn’t take long before he got into the spirit of things. miles1104And dressing up for Halloween with grandkids around ROCKS! I seem to recall a puppy, dragon, Batman, ninja, werewolf and scary looking beast. When my son was young he was a great clown, gunshot victim, the angel of Death, and he even dressed up as me one year. As the boys got older their costumes became more gruesome. And everyone wants to be a super hero at least once.

Another of my favorite things about autumn is that darkness comes earlier, so I snuggle up with my notebook and write, or grab some hot tea and a book to read. LOVE IT!

When I was little we wore these icky plastic masks that made your face sweat. Yes, they still exist, but mostly we use makeup now. The kids are really good at creating the look they want. And my husband’s father told us stories about Halloween on the farm in Oklahoma and the pranks they played on neighbors. The outhouse on top of the barn was quite a feat.

And who can forget Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin – although I think it’s Linus who really believes. A few years ago my cousin bought the cutest pumpkin hat and her brother put them on everyone in a photo. It is so cute.

anna_jim_lana_fall14Enjoy your fall, folks. And don’t forget to read!

Fall has fallen on Kansas

Mother Nature has been a changing her weather patterns all over the globe the past few years. But it is fall in Kansas, you can tell by all of the colorful leaves littering our yard. Personally, I love fall. The colors and cooler weather make me want to walk, read, bake and write. Oh, and make chili. That is one of my favorite autumn dishes. It just doesn’t work for me in hot Kansas summers.

pumpkins_fallThose of you that follow me on Facebook know that I attempted to alter a pumpkin bread recipe and accomplished an Olympic fail. The dogs liked it, though. I’m Diabetic so I try to cut sugars wherever I can, but this time didn’t work at all. I have successfully altered my banana bread recipe, thank goodness, and it rocks with half the sugar. YAY!

Don’t tell Jim, but I cut the sugars back in my chocolate chip recipe and used coconut oil instead of shortening and we really like it. He was hesitant to try one even though they smelled good, but the aroma got the better of him and he has eaten the lions share.

It was fun to share them with our neighbors kid hot out of the oven (he’d just finished mowing the lawn) .

“Did you make these from scratch?” he asked.

“Oh yes.”cchipcookies

“These are delicious.”

Hey, can’t beat that testimonial.

There’s something about baking in the fall when the house smells like baking bread or chocolate chip cookies that just feels like “home.” My grandmother didn’t do a lot of baking the rest of the year because it would heat up the house and the electric bill went up. She saved the cookies and breads for the holidays and that made it even more special. Whenever I smell banana bread baking I think of her. When I got married 39 years ago she gave me the recipe. I cherish it.anna_jim_lana_fall14

My cousin Anna posted a picture the other day wearing a pumpkin stocking cap (complete with stem) on her head. She was with her dad (Jim) and Lana. Anna’s brother photo shopped the hat on all of them. I never would have known if she hadn’t told me. LOVE THIS PIC!

One thing I really miss about fall is preparations for family gatherings. Crazy, huh? When my kids moved to another state I stopped decorating my house and fell into a funk during the holidays. This year is going to be different. I’m pumped about decorating. And while my imagination and reality may be vastly different in what I can and will do to alter my home, I’m enjoying that feeling of anticipation and change. Do you ever get that feeling?

Fall is time to prep for winter when he hunker down to stay warm. It’s time to break out the sweaters and hats and enjoy the leaves swirling down the streets. It’s time to wind down one year and prepare for the next. It’s definitely time to READ.

I love fall. Enjoy!

happy_person

 

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.

Holiday time flies…

My how time flies during the holidays. It seems like only yesterday it was Thanksgiving, and now it’s only a couple of weeks until Christmas.  Is your shopping done? Mine is, thank goodness. And mostly wrapped, too.

christmas_presentsAre you watching your favorite holiday movies? What is your favorite? I watch “White Christmas”, “Christmas in Connecticut”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” every year. Then I remember Christmas’ when I was little or my son was small.  It’s fun to travel to the past and you never know what will trigger a memory.  Smells.  Sounds.  Events.  People.  Places.  Things.

Baking? I haven’t been, but I remember how my grandmother’s sugar cookies smelled. Heavenly!cookies_for_santa

When you’re writing this season use those memories and senses to enrich your story.  And don’t forget to dredge up the tough stuff, too.  Holidays and families are always a mixed blessing, it’s wonderful to be with those we love, but tempers can flair or old hurts can come up and the tension mounts. Tension is important to a story, it’s one of the elements that make it real and exciting for the reader.  So, don’t forget to mine the past, present and imagined future to make your fiction great.  And have a Happy Holiday!

BD

Food and Love

sparkler09 thumbAround our family we like to celebrate with food. Most families are like that, I believe. For Independence Day we grill burgers (smell the beef cooking?), eat fresh fruit, getting together with extended family and friends. Someone usually bakes, there is homemade ice cream, and we enjoy lemonade or ice cold sodas. We tell stories and laugh. It’s a great time, in between lovely lights and areal explosions (with the smell of sulfur thrown in).american-flag-2a

We’re not the only ones chowing down on dogs and burgers, as evidenced by the bare hamburger and hot dog bun shelves at the grocers. What does your family consume during summer celebrations? This year it was my grandson, my husband and I near the grill. At dusk we joined the rest of the family and shot fireworks for hours. It was great fun, even though we were sweaty and tired, smelling like smoke and bug spray.

crankicecreammachine2Every year we reminisce about times past. It’s a happy time. We remember lost loved ones, silly stories of silly Fourth of July pranks, and make new memories. The little ones get bigger and seem to overcome their fear of the loud noises when faced with beautiful colors and sparkles in the air.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with lots of food and fun with your loved ones.

 

We will always remember…

Today is the day in the US when we thank those that have served to protect our country. There are so many who have given the ultimate sacrifice. To you and your families we send our blessings and thanks. This is my daddy below.

PhilThompson1948

 

Writer’s ramblings…

cloudsI’m on vacation. With my laptop, of course. I’m sitting in a sunny dining area with sky lights looking at the ever greens and winter trees. There are small wisps of white floating across the blue expanse, but no wind seems to penetrate the trees that surround me. It’s a little bit chilly, but the sunshine warms my skin. The silence in the house is only disrupted by the refrigerator noise and the snoring dogs. I can’t even hear the cars pass on the street out front.

Usually I would’ve had at least one or two conference calls by now and have a page or two of “things” that need to get done at work. Not here. My work notebook is dark, with only a tiny green battery light to show it still lives and it is totally out of reach.

I promised myself I would write. I am writing. I dreamed I had 80 pages done on my new manuscript “Close to You.” There are only 25 pages so far. Maybe by the end of the week there will be 100. Wish me luck.

I’m not used to having time off. Even when I’m off there are chores – laundry or cooking. But there is no time pressure here. Now. It’ll get done when everything I brought is dirty and my stomach tells me it needs food. Interesting, this lack of stress. Feels good. I’ve been up since 4:44 AM. Maybe I’ll nap later. That is a novel concept. Is this what retirement might feel like? Sweet. Will I get bored? Maybe, but it’s an experience I seldom have – so what the heck.

The kids walked my legs off yesterday shopping. It was fun, but my feet are tired. Maybe my son is right and I am getting old. I’m certainly not getting any younger. But, that’s okay. I wouldn’t like being a teen again. Too much drama. Thirties were fun, I could go there if I had the chance, but even then there were stressers beyond today. Look at my kids. Things in their lives move SO fast. Slower is nice.

I finished a book yesterday. Am ready to read another. Care to join me?glasses_paper_keyboard

Have a good you’all. Enjoy the journey. I hope it takes you someplace quiet and interesting.

The Year is winding down and so am I.

This has been one crazy year for many families all over. Mother Nature kicked things around, many of our friends lost their jobs, there have been huge health issues, moving across the country, and the losses of many loved ones. I guess it’s no different than any other year, but it felt like it and I have to admit that I am happy it’s almost over. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of terrific things about it, too, new babies were born, new jobs were found, couples were united in marriage, I got a contract on my second book, and I’m healthier than I’ve been in a long time.

I’m counting my blessings and they are many. A healthy family. Good friends. A warm home. And by golly the birds are singing outside my window. I’ve been off all week and I’ve slept in, which rocks in my book. I’ve read and watched movies (Les Miz is wonderful!). I’ve done some editing for a friend and for myself, too. Not much housecleaning, but the laundry is caught up. Oh, and I went shopping with my sis-in-law and got some great after Christmas sale items that we needed.

Did I get everything I wanted done? No. Do we ever? Not really. But I make progress every day. I get the priorities done, and have a bit of fun as well. That’s all living is really – doing what you have to do and finding enjoyment in your day. Sometimes the “to do” lists are overwhelming, so I think I’ll keep them short and then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something when everything is marked off. I also think I’ll take a little more time for that enjoyment part – we sometimes neglect that. Like taking short walks. Playing with the dog. Writing a letter or email to a friend. Taking a 15 minute power nap. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be huge – just a few minutes here and there to enjoy the journey.

I hope you all have a Happy, Blessed, Healthy New Year.