This morning I noticed that another one had appeared. This one, bright blue, showed up front- and-center on the catch-all tray I keep on my bedroom dresser.
Whereas my Dad had a thing for guns, and if called to form a Union County Militia, would have outfitted Brownsville Township nicely, my husband is partial to flashlights.
Along with the newbie on our dresser, there’s a pantry full of them steps away in the laundry room. Next to the front door is a coat rack and on it hangs a mini-flashlight, ready for service. In the kitchen junk drawer is at least two flashlights, probably more if you dig deep. He tucks them in our cars too.
If there’s a midnight intruder, Brian will likely spotlight the whites of his eyes before the robber sees ours. And if the power goes out, no problem, there will be light. Flashlight, that is.
As for fresh batteries … that’s another topic.
We may end up in the dark after all. What are your possession obsessions?
Good friends are camping at a state park at a family-reunion. My sister-in-law is returning from Puerto Rico where she’s been on an educational consulting adventure. Son Sam is wrapping up a week’s vacation. What are you up to as we head into Memorial Day weekend?
Brian and I are off work for four straight days, and while there is no trip or amazing outing planned, I will say I’m looking forward to getting lots of things done around the home front.
I hesitate to start listing things in case they aren’t completed, after all. But I sure hope that come Monday night as I anticipate heading to the newspaper Tuesday, there will be more items crossed off my list than remaining on it.
First, I want to take time to remember all those servicemen and women who paid for our freedom with their lives. We owe them so much. And I want to thank those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice as they currently serve the U.S.A.
I know that Brian is looking forward to seeing the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in real time Sunday on TV. It’s the first time the race hasn’t been blacked out in the Indy media market since 1950, is what I understand. This is a special treat given that it’s our state’s bicentennial this year as well as the 100th Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
As much as he looks forward to that, I’m hoping that we can cross off the list a very practical matter – that of trimming back our wild-and-crazy landscaping that has been growing like, well, like weeds with all the spring rain. This is something we always do in May and we’re almost out of May.
I have several different programs I need to work on for my little book-tour talks and it sure would be great if I could make some real progress on those. I don’t kid myself that I’ll get them all done but maybe a goal of two would be reasonable.
There’s also some banking to see to, bills to pay, the grocery store to visit, and little odds-and-ends chores as minor as stitching up a seam tear on my favorite summer sweater.
You know—things that you need doing around the house too.
Even with a list of chores, it all feels like a respite when pressed against the upcoming summer schedule. Don’t get me wrong: I look forward to it all, but there is a lot going on. Wednesday I’ll help judge a bicentennial cookie contest in conjunction with the annual National Road Yard Sale whose roots are in little Dublin, Indiana, and continues east to Baltimore, Maryland, and west to St. Louis, Missouri. The sale’s founder asked me to help. And while I’m there, of course I’ll write a story. I understand that members of the bicentennial commission will be stopping by as this is an official legacy project.
I’m visiting, for a story, Sue Saunders’ new antique store in Lewisville on Tuesday. Thursday is a book-related luncheon. The following week more book fun continues along with visiting the 70th celebration of the Teapot Club. These are English war brides who married American soldiers during World War II and returned with them to Henry County. I love those women, have written about them through the years, and look forward to putting them on the next cover of HER magazine!
If you’re curious about my upcoming book talks, look at the CONTACT tab and scroll down to WHAT’S NEXT. There’s a whole summer’s worth – and then some –of activities on my little tour. And there’s always room for more if your book club, Red Hatters or church ladies need a program.
I have a feeling that the ink on this piece will barely seem dry when I find myself writing a Labor Day post about how fast it all went.
But for now, during this home-based long weekend heading straight into summer, I’m working on a stout to-do list. I’m thankful for the freedom to make my own choices about how to spend my time because I live in the land of the free because of the brave. I love this country.
What are you doing?
First, a celebration for the wonders of the Internet.
If not for The Worldwide Web, you wouldn’t be reading this post, or visiting regularly on Facebook with your best friend from third grade or sharing an obscure memory with a long-ago teacher.
As for my writing, if not for the Internet, you might read what I have to say in local newspaper columns if you lived in my circulation area. But for the most part, the distribution of my work – and that of other community journalists and would-be local authors – would be limited. And the magic of seeing your own story between the covers of a real book would probably not happen.
In the history of mankind, until recent years, the publishing ability for a common person who enjoys writing and thinks she has a book inside her, was limited to vanity presses, and, not many people actually published via that route. It was pricey, unusual, and laborious. Besides that, your friends and family would likely say, “Who does she think she is?”
What’s a vanity press? It’s where the author finds a company to print her work, then orders books to sell or give away after the investment. The slang term is insulting, and is meant to describe someone with no talent other than in her own mind.
So how on earth did this "no-talent" person distribute the volumes printed via the vanity press? That was always the problem, and that’s where the image of dusty boxes of books in the closet came from.
Not so today with print-on-demand options. (This is where your printer / publisher creates as few as one book at a time when you order it). It’s as easy to get your hands on a copy of your own book as it is, with little exaggeration, as it is to run a copy on a copier machine. Essentially, only with bigger and much more sophisticated equipment—that is precisely what a self-publishing company does. And the author doesn’t have to go broke in the process.
I once had someone at a program I presented to a men’s service club boldly ask me what it cost to publish my first book. When I hedged on an answer, he said, “I don’t know if you are talking fifty grand or $5,000.”
Neither, actually. But a whole lot closer to the lower figure. And while each book carries a different price tag depending on various services and add ons, the average price, including, say 200 copies of a book to get her started in sales, creating and listing the book on Amazon and for Kindle, and the set-up service package, would run around the cost of a nice Disney vacation for one.
The Internet opened a new means of both printing and distribution. Increasingly, over the past 15 years, local and regional authors have sent me books to review and consider for newspaper articles, or I’ve come across them on my own. The self-publishing industry exploded.
Suddenly, average people (and average or below-average writers) could have their work bound and boxed, available for their family and friends and for as many others as they could persuade to buy copies. Author fairs sprung up at small-town libraries where there are, generally and ironically, more self-published writers and books in attendance than there are patrons.
But in the authors’ eyes, you see the fire burning for the books they were passionate to write.
At the least, they accomplished something most people just talk about when they say, “I should write a book.” At the most, the book gets good reviews, many copies are sold, fun is had and even a sequel or a book in a different genre results. I suppose most self-published authors fall somewhere in the middle.
I’ve seen some disappointing self-published books. These are the ones that give all of us independent authors a bad name. They are sloppy and full of typos. And that isn’t even counting a judgment as to whether the stories are any good.
Sometimes, the bad ones come as surprises. I once purchased a book from an author who impressed me a great deal in person for several reasons. This author was well-educated, had a skilled job and was articulate and confident about the book he or she had produced. I honestly couldn’t even tell you the writer’s name, and I have only met the person once. (I meet a lot of indie authors.) We enjoyed a long, chatty conversation on the day we met and as a show of support, I purchased the book. I had someone in mind to give it to as a gift.
When I got home and started reading, I immediately realized that I would be embarrassed to give it away. I couldn’t believe it. I actually threw it out. Then I was mad at myself for my blind purchase. (Yet I must admit: I've read some terrible books that were traditionally published by the big houses.)
Still, many other self-published books are well done, review and sell well, and there is little separation between these books and those books which are traditionally published by publishing houses that pay the author instead of the author paying to publish.
Now, a disclaimer. I am no expert on self-publishing (I prefer the term indie-publishing, and will use it from here on out in this post). But with two books out, a decent level of distribution, and plenty of experiences with author fairs, library readings, book clubs and presenting featured programs, as well as a couple decades worth of indie-published books crossing my desk at the newspaper, I for sure have some thoughts on the topic.
I’m currently developing a new program for libraries and other interested venues discussing an overview of this topic. The program will be, “So You Want to Publish Your Book.”
I can’t tell you how to get an agent (but I have a couple of tips that involve diligence and luck), but I can offer some insights into indie-publishing. In short, I’ll share what I know now that I wish I had known before I started this journey. Someone attending should go away knowing what questions to ask or “where to start” on the journey.
The idea for this program came from a friend and marketing professional who told me that such a program – one that helps, educates or includes others – would be a potentially good way to get bookings –yes, to promote my work. You give something, you get something. So there you have it: a tip right there. If you are going to get your indie-published work out there, and for anyone to see what you’ve got, you have to find creative ways to get yourself out there.
And guess what? When I pitched the idea the first time to a librarian, along with the separate program topic that directly relates to my new book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, she chose the indie-publishing program. AND … she said she’d like to have me give the other program for a different group she has in mind. Both venues will be opportunities for distribution and possibly include stipends for my time and effort. That’s my payoff.
Here’s another tip. If you would love to publish a book, think you have something to say, but balk at the idea of self-promotion, and don’t really want to put yourself out there, preferring that others will simply find you, I have a suggestion: Get a diary instead.
This new program will debut in August. If you are interested in having me present it to your group, let me know. And, if you are an indie-published author and would like to offer some of your insights on this topic, I’d love to hear from you. Email me: email@example.com. Or, respond with comments to this blog. I’d love to keep this conversation open ended.
I’m glad that peonies are Indiana’s state flower. That’s why I had Marilyn Witt paint them for the cover of the new book, one of several nods to Indiana's Bicentennial.
In reality though, unless there is some secret tip or clever remedy that I am yet to learn (do share!), peonies are not a great indoor vase flower. They tend to contain ants. Big black ones!
Nonetheless, I am unfazed in my love for peonies. They are big and beautiful, showy and zero maintenance. They have sturdy stems and they come in pretty shades of pink and white. I don't know of an outdoor flower that's any prettier, nor one as loyal as a perennial.
I’m most familiar with white ones, as we had a couple of white peony bushes at home when I was growing up. I'm sure they are still out there on the farm because these bushes seem to last forever no matter what attention you don’t give them and really, does anyone ever give a peony bush maintenance attention of any kind?
They always bloom, without fail, at one of the happiest, if not THE happiest time of the year, around Memorial Day. It’s when Indiana is at its greenest, things are blooming, school is newly out for the summer and when I was a girl, it also meant that my nieces Lisa and Marlene were staying with us for the weekend while their family went to the Indianapolis 500.
It was always great weekend! We created our own variety shows where we sang tunes such as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" or "Put Your Hand in the Hand of the Man." And since Lisa and Marlene were Dixon Dancers, they reprised their recital programs. We cranked up the music on the record player that was part of our massive TV console in the living room, which served as our "sound system." We also hosted, along with the show, a Miss Lisa-Donna Queen Pageant.
The queen candidates were some combination of Barbara, Patsy and Susan Earl, Marlene and Lisa Jobe. The audience consisted of my mom, along with the younger Earl girls. I wanted to be queen, would have loved to have been queen, but I was too busy producing the spectacle to compete for the tiara, which Lisa and I crafted out of tinfoil.
I associate peonies with those shows and those weekends. I’m sure I created corsages with peonies. I loved corsages about as much as I loved tiaras. And who am I kidding? I still love them both.
I think corsages, the traditional kind, the ones you wear pinned high on your blouse and can smell all day long when you brush your chin up against the delicate petals, are wonderful. Peonies were always blooming, and blooming and blooming, in our yard, and in the cemeteries where we went to decorate graves on Memorial Day. Mom and I would do our decorating after Lisa and Marlene left on Monday.
In my book, the character Joy looks forward to May. She’s going through a hard time when she arrives at Sweetland, and the thought of May cheers her throughout the book because some of her goals will be achieved by then, and there is the potential for life to improve and, improve rapidly once that date hits her calendar.
The book cover is set in the month of May when peonies are in full bloom and summer is on the horizon.
When Marilyn and I discussed cover concepts for That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, we considered many ideas. At first, I thought maybe it could be a Christmas theme since the book begins and ends at Christmastime. But while Marilyn would have created something beautiful and Christmas-card-like, I thought it might sell the book well around Christmas – but not so much the rest of the year.
Then I thought about a winter cover. Maybe place a whimsical snowman in the foreground and the inn in the background. Reggie could tug on the snowman’s scarf. But the problem with that cover was that it might suddenly look more like a children’s book than one targeted at women.
I kept coming back to a kitchen scene and that resulted in the buttery yellow walls (which Samantha dreamed Roger was painting in the first book) and the checked floor. The sugar cream pie and peonies were added for their strong Hoosier symbolism and both are in the story, as is the dog, Reggie. And from there, Marilyn took the idea and ran with it. I am in awe of how she pulled everything together and painted the scene with such harmony of color and subject. I couldn’t be happier with Marilyn’s cover painting.
And there’s something I don’t have to worry about regarding the cover: There are no ants in those peonies. Blaise's delicious pie is safe.
In the same way that developing a novel's story line and working out plot lines take some time, so too does developing a recipe. When I considered recipes for my new book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, I knew I wanted a sugar cream pie. Why? It's iconic Hoosier, and because the book is published in our state's bicentennial year, I wanted to include it. It even ended up on the cover! One person in my life circle was up to the challenge of creating a pie recipe for the book. He's Blaise Doubman, the talented baker, cook and food writer who writes Chew This! twice a month for my Neighbors section at The (New Castle, Indiana) Courier-Times. You'll love Blaise's enthusiasm. Check him out at https://blaisethebaker.com. Meanwhile, thanks for the guest post, Blaise. Enjoy, everyone, below.
By Blaise Doubman
Hello everyone! My name is Blaise Doubman, although some of you may know me as Blaise the Baker. It's my honor to write a special guest-blog post for my multi-talented friend, Donna Cronk.
It's been my pleasure to get to know her personally and professionally, and as I'm sure you're all already well-aware, she's not only a strong woman in faith, but a strong woman in inspiration, perseverance, talent, editing and writing. She's been a driving force at The Courier-Times for almost 27 years editing the Neighbors section. Her career is well documented and spans into all skill levels and fields.
I'm here to talk about her new book, "That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland." The book (a sequel to "Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast") doesn't have to be read consecutively to be enjoyed. Her first book was wonderful, and contained several delicious recipes - all of which I tried and enjoyed.
A 'novel' idea
I love how novels include recipes within their covers. It makes me feel even more part of the story. I feel like I'm fixing the food like the characters do, eating like the characters and experiencing almost a "life-like" realness that adds even more to the story line.
When Donna told me she was writing a sequel, I was beyond excited! Grandma Barbra and I discussed the possibility of a sequel after reading the first, but I'm a firm believer in encouraging writers with their current story lines - and not pushing more creative ideas into them - because sometimes a creative person releases what she needs to say the first time.
Grandma Barbra and I discussed what we thought would have happened after the book ended, and earmarked our favorite parts, and placed the book in her kitchen collection of cookbooks. (We decided to keep it in the kitchen with the cookbooks instead of in the living room with the novels because the recipes were all so delicious!)
If you think I was excited when Donna told me about the sequel, imagine my excitement when she asked if I would develop a sugar cream pie recipe for her book! It literally took me an hour to come down off the ceiling ... and then imagine my surprise and excitement when she asked if she could write me into the book! Yes - write me into the book!
Let's start with the sugar cream pie and how it was developed. Donna and I discussed how the Indiana official state pie is the sugar cream pie - so what would be more appropriate? I decided right away that I would call mine "Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie."
I started to work on the development like I do all of my other recipes. I went to my recipe book (a small leather pocket notebook - I have several for recipe developments and ideas) and wrote at the top of the page "Donna's Pie."
I looked at it for a while, and felt extreme excitement, and yet at the same time sadness. I know, you may be thinking, "why sadness?"
I was feeling a little sad because my Grandma Barbra, at the time, wasn't doing well. She was in a rehabilitation center for some health issues. I told myself that this time, I was going to have to develop and research the recipe all on my own. Now don't get me wrong, I had tested and developed recipes on my own several times, but this time it was a pie! How would I do this on my own?
Grandma Barbra is known in my family as The Pie Queen! Would I ever be able to live up to something she would like - and not to mention something Donna would like - and all of her readers of the new novel! The pressure was on. I handled it though.
I talked with Grandma Barbra about it and she said for me to follow my instincts and "just do it," and that's what I did. I immediately went to food-history books, and searched for anything sugar cream pie related. I made notes on what I had learned, its history and how different recipes are different yet very similar in taste and texture.
The sugar cream pie isn't a pie that can be topped with a crumble, nor is it a pie that can be topped with lattice. It's a pie that has stood the test of time, something traditional and familiar. Now I was getting somewhere. This I could handle.
I then searched online for even more sugar cream pie history and searched out some food related message boards. I then conducted a "survey" of sorts as to what people associate "sugar cream pie" with.
The results? Most people selected words such as - custard, vanilla, sweet and nutmeg as what they would associate with the dessert. I wrote everything down, compared recipe techniques online and found that some sugar cream pies are made on the stove top only, some in the oven only and some a variety of both methods.
I would have to try several of each method to determine what would be the perfect pie. I also decided I would absolutely have to use a homemade crust. When I think of pie, I look forward to the crust just as much as the filling.
With my kitchen notes in hand, I spent the next several days testing sugar cream pies. The first thing I had to do was develop a pie crust recipe. I tried several with butter, a few with shortening and a few with both butter and shortening. I found that using shortening only, gave the pie crust the flakiness and the tenderness I was looking for, without incorporating any additional flavor, like the butter did.
The recipe I ended up with is strikingly similar to the pie crust my Grandma Barbra still uses to this day. I took that as a sign that even though she was fighting her own battles at the time of my testing and developing, she was still with me in the kitchen.
After the crust recipe was complete, I wanted to make the instructions as easy to follow as possible. In my experience, people will see, or read, that a pie involves a "homemade crust" and they run the other way!
It upsets me that people think they're so difficult to make, when in reality, they're pretty easy, and so much better than anything you can buy! I wrote the recipe to be pretty self-explanatory, and gave it to a friend of mine who hadn't made a pie crust in her entire life. I wanted to see how she would do following the instructions and I would take the recipe writing from there.
She took the recipe, with worry and concern that she wouldn't ever be able to pull it off, and followed it step by step. And guess what? She made pie crust! The finished pie crust was beautiful and just the way it was supposed to be! She was beyond excited and actually may have jumped up and down, "I made pie crust! I made pie crust!" I knew then that the recipe, and the instructions, were perfect. Now, onto the pie filling. Half way there.
I tested several sugar cream pies using the stove top method, but it just didn't do much for the crust and it had trouble "setting up". It was simply too complicated and too difficult trying to tell people the difference between "blind baking" the pie shell ahead of time, and actually making the pie on the stove top.
I was worried that people would skip the step of making their own pie crust, and I was also worried that people just wouldn't want to attempt the recipe.
I moved on to the method of making the sugar cream pie in the oven only. I didn't care for this method either. These pies had a tendency to burn quickly, and frankly having to wrap the pie crust in foil halfway through baking, just wasn't a step that I wanted to do - and I was sure nobody else would either. I wanted to create something simple and that people wouldn't mind whipping up. Plus, when making the sugar cream pie in the oven only, it changed the texture of the pie from a custard to more of a gelatinous texture which wasn't pleasant at all!
I decided to combine both methods. Why couldn't a person make the pie crust, have it baking in the oven while they're making the filling, and finish it off in the stove? Well, that's exactly what I did!
By making the pie crust first and poking it with a fork there's no need for any extra equipment - no pie weights and no foil wrapped beans. While this baked in the oven, the filling is being mixed up and prepared on the stove top. The addition of butter at the end really brings about a thick creaminess that can't be duplicated any other way.
Once the crust is baked, and the filling done, popping the whole thing back into the oven finishes off the filling by baking it completely as well as warming and thickening the filling - bringing everything together. It also warms up the nutmeg that's sprinkled on top and really incorporates its delicate aroma into the pie.
'It's perfect and ready to go'
I must have made the finished recipe a dozen times before finally saying to myself - this is it - it's perfect and ready to go. My family, friends and taste testers all were great sports about it. Several of the testers said that my pie was even better tasting than a very familiar, locally well-known pie. I was pleased - and thankful.
I sent the recipe to Donna and awaited her thoughts. I just knew she would love it - and I was right! She said she loved the pie, and has actually made it several times since the first initial baking. She was really impressed with the foolproof homemade pie crust, which I found to be the greatest compliment because if I can make something "daunting" a little easier for someone, I've accomplished my goal and that makes me feel good.
My recipe is featured in Donna's new book and I couldn't be any more excited or grateful! And guess what!? I actually make a guest appearance in the book! Well, all fictitiously of course. How and where? You'll have to read it, find out and see where my pie is incorporated into the story.
I'm highly recommending this book in my "Blaise the Baker Book Club" as well as to all of my family and friends. Thank you Donna for asking me about developing this recipe, thank you for including me in your book, thank you for allowing me to join you on this journey.
I highly recommend you buy TWO copies (one for you and one for a friend) of "That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland." Here's a few options...
Have Donna autograph a copy and send it directly to your door! Mail your check or money order for $17.79 (includes tax and postage) to Donna Cronk - 8754 Carriage Lane - Pendleton, IN 46064. Make the check or money order out to "Donna Cronk". Also include to whom you want it inscribed or if you only want Donna's signature.
Local people can get the book for $15 (includes tax and postage) from Donna at the newspaper. Or you can purchase a copy through Amazon.com in print or for your Kindle.
She's also has a new speaking program called "Bloom Before You Are Planted" and is accepting new dates for discussion, book clubs, church and social groups. Congratulations Donna.
While it only makes sense that the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have the business it once did due to all the emailing, Facebooking, automatic paying and depositing we’re all doing these days, I still spend a fair amount of time in one post office or another.
And almost always, there is a line of people, or at least a few. I still buy stamps and mail things. Do you?
I still enjoy the old-timey elements of a post office. There’s generally a distinctive echo in the lobby. It seems that many mid-sized Hoosier post offices retain the same style and feel of being built at about the same time.
There’s a work desk or two for patrons to sort mail and each of the desks always has a green pen holder attached. I remember the work desk and green pen holder all the way back from childhood at the Brownsville post office. And I’m pleased to say that Brownsville still has its post office.
There are the little boxes where townies can unlock their numbered cubbyholes with their keys and retrieve the mail. I think in very small post offices, say the Brownsvilles and Wilkinsons of the world, the chore of getting the daily mail is more like a social time to visit with locals and share town or personal news. A rural water cooler.
Today I mailed out the first round of copies of my new book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, to some readers. I’ve been saving back the nice padded envelopes that arrive at home or work to reuse for this very purpose. Maybe I’ll hear back what the readers think. Maybe I won’t. You never know, but it’s nice to see the books headed into their separate directions on the map to people who I know are awaiting them.
Did you know there is something called media rate? If you are mailing a book, you can send it at a lesser fee than first class. Keep it in mind. I would imagine a goodly number of folks don’t know about this and the postal employees have never mentioned media rate without me mentioning it first.
If you want a copy directly from me, I’ll send you an autographed one. With Indiana sales tax and at media rate it all comes to $17.79. Message me for details. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In other book news, I completed the process this morning on the Kindle conversion and got word earlier that it’s up on Amazon, ready for your instant upload. Or download. I never quite know which is which.
On Sunday, a story about the book will be out in the New Castle Courier-Times, written by my editor, Katie Clontz. And come Monday, copies will be available in the newspaper office directly from me on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you need one at another time, let me know and we’ll work it out. Call: 317-224-7028.
Also this Sunday, I’ll have copies available in the Ovid Community Church atrium at $15 each (including IN Tax of .98). The IN Tax people really want me to point out their share to book buyers so that’s why I did.
I think that is the main book news to share with you today. If you have questions, comments, want a copy or want to talk about some aspect of indie-publishing, let me know. I have a program ready to roll for presentations called “Bloom Before You Are Planted.” And I’m working on another one called “So You Want to Self-Publish Your Book.”
If you need a program for anything, let me know. If I can, I’ll say yes.
We all known them. They are the people we meet along life’s path that stand out. They radiate a certain light, a particular joy, and when their emails land inside your in-box, you eagerly open the information sent your way.
This is always the case with Susan Carey of Buck Creek Church of the Brethren, rural Mooreland, in northern Henry County. A couple times a year, Susan shoots emails to me at The Courier-Times with information about their upcoming church fundraisers.
While I get notices like hers all the time, and it’s simply part of my job to put them in the paper, there is always something sweet about Susan’s. She seemed grateful, kind somehow in our brief exchanges, and well, I don’t know why, but I knew I would like her.
She hadn’t read my book, but somehow, in our brief cyber-howdy-do’s, it came up, and before I knew it, she had invited me to be the Mother’s Day brunch speaker at Buck Creek.
All winter, I had the date on my calendar. The plan was to talk about the first book and give my related bucket-list program. The date might be near when the new novel came out, but then again it might not. So the original book and program seemed the safest bet to plan. And besides, I never tire of tweaking a program to suit the audience.
In this case, the tweaking had to do with experiences covering the Mooreland area. So of course I spoke about the Mooreland World’s Fair, about Mr. Mooreland Fair, my friend Darrel Radford, about various characters I’ve had the joy of interviewing and knowing in and around Mooreland.
That train of thought led directly to one of my all-time favorite people, the late, great Max Hiatt. Max was an old-time farmer who loved Mooreland more than he loved his right arm. We got together each fall for a story about Max’s weather predictions for the coming winter. And to talk about life. Max loved Mooreland because Mooreland loved him.
Once his son was in a terrible wreck and Max said the people of that town prayed for his boy. The boy survived. Max never for a moment forgot those prayers. “What price do you put on a prayer?” he asked me, knowing full well that it was a question without an answer.
So he gave back love. And candy. Red-hot Jolly Ranchers to be exact.
Once Max told me, “If the good Lord had not chosen Eden for his paradise, I believe he would have picked Mooreland.”
I would guess that the Buck Creek crowd would not disagree with that assessment. From the moment I entered their fellowship hall, I felt as at home as if I had been raised in that church. The ladies were so kind and spoke to me as if they had always known me, and possibly they have for a good spell through my work at the paper, anyway.
They know how to cook, too, and did they ever! What a meal of their best casseroles, salads and desserts.
They were not a shy bunch when it was time to share what’s on their bucket lists. One lady wants to write a book about her fascinating life. A 90-year-old English war bride (as in World War II) wants to jump out of an airplane. A great-grandmother wants to drive a semi, just once anyway, down the road.
Oh, what dreams may come for these interesting ladies.
When we parted ways for the afternoon, it wasn’t long before one of their fold who couldn’t be there due to illness messaged me on Facebook that she hated to miss my program but had heard several nice things about it.
I’m thinking: Really? Already?
These ladies are a tight-knit group. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that their friend was given a speedy update. Susan suggested that not only are they close, but their mothers and grandmothers and I would guess their great-grandmothers were close as well.
Rural farm women, from old-time Henry County farms. Salt of the earth.
It sure is pretty out there in the Buck Creek area not so far from the Big Blue River Valley, another gem.
I think Max may be onto something about paradise. I’m sure not going to argue the notion.
So, the news broke on social media late last night that my new inspirational novel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland has been published. I posted it around 10 and no more than fed some words into the Life Event category that the comment pings started: Friends with congratulations, kind words and those expressing surprise. There was no putting it out there and waiting until morning for a reaction. No, so many of my peeps are on Facebook late. Funny, I had taken them for more of an early-morning crowd. I thank them all, each and every one. What a great community of friends and family.
And today, a booking came, one that I wanted most, because I love my hometown of Liberty, Indiana, so much. One of the librarians instant-messaged and asked if I could do a Saturday signing in June. They would have cake. And punch.
We quickly settled on 10 a.m. Saturday, June 18. And my sister-in-law, Jeannie Jobe, said that sure, she and my brother, Tim, could be there. It means a lot.
If you are in or around that sweet little town (I know: I get ridiculously and absurdly sentimental and homesick when I think of Liberty, Indiana) maybe you’ll stop by the Union County Public Library that morning. I’ll have books to sell and sign ($15 which includes Indiana sales tax. I might add that the INTax people want me to spell it out as $14.09 for the book and 91 cents for state tax). You can buy the books if you want. Or you can just eat free cake. Totally your call.
I started working on the sequel two years ago. I was in the midst of promoting Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and people were asking if I would write a second. They wanted to know what happened next! I piddled around on the keyboard and before I knew it, had eight chapters written before I even told Brian I was at it again!
From summer 2014 to summer 2015 I plugged away at it, figuring out plot lines, moving around chapters, enriching dialogue, placing recipes in the story and making them exactly to the instructions to be sure that they worked, as well as figuring out what scriptures might address the circumstances my characters found themselves in.
Then last summer, the book went to three wonderful editors, each with a specialty. Friend Barb Clark got it first, in its roughest form, and made comments, as well as looked at it through the eyes of a woman who became a widow about the time that the fictional Samantha did. Friend and Christian writer Debbie McCray read it through a spiritual lens, and made a key suggestion about how she wasn’t seeing the turning point between two characters as clearly as perhaps I should make it. Beloved retired New Castle English teacher Steve Dicken did the in-depth copyedit and did an amazing job.
Today, there’s an odd feeling that’s hard to explain. I’ve spent so many months with the characters as we have privately hashed out this season of their lives. At times it’s felt as though I’m ready to share them with readers and other times, I’ve second-guessed myself and wondered if I should add or subtract drama, have a character react differently or if they are ready for prime time. And sometimes, they've worn me plum out and I've been ready to cut them loose and let them sink or swim!
But then, things move so fast. I proofed the design, made corrections, then hit the print button, and a "physical proof" arrived on my doorstep. Once I read it through, finally signed off yet again, I hit the publish button and before the day ended, it’s up on Amazon, waiting for someone to find it.
Brian said something profound earlier today. He said there is home, and there is the place where you live. Now let me say that Pendleton, Indiana is a fine place to live. But home this side of heaven shall always be that sweet place, Liberty, in that sweet land of Union County.
Maybe I'll see you there in June.