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Friday, January 8, 2016

Mixing The Arts

Lately my writing has taken a back seat. I've rediscovered (after 40+years) the joy of painting with oils. My first few attempts were exercises in becoming once again familiar with the media. This first was done when attending a group painting party just before Christmas.

After an inventory of brushes and paints, I stopped in this really neat shop I've discovered called How Great Thou Art. ( It's located in the Brookwood Mall on McCann Road and Studio Director Susan L Tanner is just a terrific person. She spent gobs of time with me answering my questions and sharing what tools do what.

Armed with the proper tools, well a beginning of, I've spent pleasant hours these past weeks on the following:
I'm first to admit they are quite amateurish in technique, but am so rewarded by the satisfaction derived from the time spent.

Another blessing came as a result of a brother-in-law's fondness for estate sales. He picked up a well-loved painter's box for peanuts just because it was a bargain. When my sister offered to send it to me, I leaped at the offer. Despite the shipping cost, I've already gotten hours of pleasant occupation out of its contents. A little glue, some time spent cleaning leaked paint and I have a marvelous addition to my newest addiction.

So, now I'm getting serious. In my files was a short story for children written years ago that could become a charming book, I think. Just to prove to myself I can do it, I've started painting the needed illustrations to turn the story into a children's book. Already have two completed, but more on that later as the project develops.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

How Do You Spend The Day After Christmas?

'Tis the day after Christmas, and several of my neighbors are doing target practice, getting familiar with their new 'toys.' At times, it sounds like a couple of them are firing cannons. The sounds of gunshot are coming from at least four or five different directions.

With all this firearm paraphernalia nearby, I don't know whether to feel threatened or protected. I consider myself fortunate that distance and forest isolate me from all that activity. Hopefully, only sound can travel the distance from their targets to me.

I'm wondering, when someone sets up a target for practice, do they take into account the distance a stray bullet will travel? So far, I've not heard the sound of a bullet whizzing past. In the past however, I have had that experience.  Another neighbor two houses over decided to warn away a stray dog with gunshot. I just happened to be in the bullet's line of travel. My yell got his attention and he quickly did a disappearing act.

So far no bullets have come my way but we have discovered a number of golf balls in the past. A neighbor used to set up in his back yard to practice his drive. He had a powerful swing and managed to send  golf balls across a half-acre field, the road, and into my front yard.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Morning Musings

Unseasonable weather drew me to the front porch for my morning coffee time. Through a gap in the treeline, I watched brisk, southerly winds drag high clouds across the sky. A gray overcast sky foretold of rains predicted for later in the day.

The calm surrounding me as I sway to and fro on the porch swing holds a multitude of sounds. To the west, a distant train signalled its approach to a country road crossing. A few minutes later, my neighbor's rooster crowed out its morning call. And overhead, a squirrel chittered down at my two black cats, Sammi and Midnight, as they maintained the distance between them all the while vying for my attention.

'Shalom' reads the sign hung from the arbor designating entrance to our front yard. My talented husband built the structure some years back after I put in a request. With only a picture to guide him, he used natural materials from our land to construct it. The sign was a joint project and peace really is a constant companion here on my country acreage. Frequently, new visitors will comment on the peace they feel upon stepping into my world.

But, living in the country also has its disadvantages. Neighbors are far enough away that I have no clear view of their houses. Stormy weather often brings a disruption in our electric and phoning supply. We must travel distances for any shopping or recreational needs, which is sometimes annoying.  I'm thankful for the recent advent of internet service, making purchases online available. It does simplify shopping, epecially for larger, once-in-a-lifetime purchases.

Some would bemoan the inaccessibility of culture and entertainment venues such as movies and museums, but one soon learns to find pleasure in the simpler pleasures country living offers. There are fields and forests to explore, with something new to discover all the time. The fleeting glimpse of deer browsing in the distance, the buzz of various birds that congregate at our feeders, coming unexpectedly upon an unknown flower blooming in the wild—all these occurrences and more bring a rewarding feeling.

Well, that first cup of coffee is finished; time to move about and get the day started. So, the welcome doormat is out if you ever have need to pause in your busy city life. Stop by and we'll sit together on the front porch, enjoying life.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Exlploring New Creative Worlds

I've been exploring a different area of my creativity lately. I recently took up the pursuit of oil painting after an absence of over forty years. The last time I picked up a brush was previous to the birth of my second son who is now forty-eight. My, how time flies!

Above is a painting completed when I attended a painting party sponsored by a local community action group, LoveBig Sandy. It was a fun time and very helpful in building my confidence.

Earlier that day, I stopped at a shop called Art World and spent a half-hour asking questions and getting technique tips. Susan was really gracious and helpful. They also offer what they call an 'open class' where anyone is welcome to come spend a couple hours painting under a teacher's supervision and assistance. I'm considering attending a time or two if my schedule allows.

In the meantime, I've been dabbling on my own. My little cabin has had to 'stretch' a bit to accommodate this new pursuit. I'm also realizing the need to re-learn everything I ever knew about painting with oils.

And how is my writing doing, I hear you ask? The latest novel, Not Bound By Blood, is presently in the editor's hands and I'm anticipating a contract from my publisher with the goal of a spring 2016 publication. The second in my series of fictionalized biographies for Young Readers, temporarily titled Harriet Tubman, is still in critiquing mode. However, now distracted by this new venture, I have yet to begin writing the third in the series based on the life of Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy.

The energy and enthusiasm for my newest stress-reliever has fueled a new project - I've begun the task of doing the illustrations for a proposed children's book; a story about this ramshackle old man who lives in a ramshakle house and his adventures with uninvited guests. 

In the meantime, here are a couple oil paintings I've indulged myself with the past few weeks.

 This last is still a work in progress.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Meet Midnight

Now, for all you extreme animal lovers,you probably won't want to read this posting.

Meet Midnight, the cat that recently adopted us. I didn't name her - a relative visiting from out of town, who shall remain nameless, gave that name to the cat.

It was early last Monday morning. I was headed for the toolshed to find a replacement coupling to fix a broken hose.  A car-load of family members had driven in (two hours, one way) to give my husband and I a hand with yard chores we hadn't been able to keep up with. Chore of the day were the huge piles of deadwood gathered beyond the pines to be burned. When I released water to the connected hose extended to the burn area, it broke.

I spotted a solid black cat nearby as I approached the toolshed. Thinking it was our current resident, I called out a hello to Sammi. But when it rose and stretched, I saw my mistake. Sammi came to us as a rescue kitten with a stub tail. I never knew the circumstances of that deformity. This cat was smaller and had a long luxurious tail. It followed me back to the group where the cat-lovers there made a big fuss over it. In fact, it followed me everywhere that day, dogging my footsteps and causing me to stumble a couple times.

Now, I knew adding a second cat to our household was a no-no. I tried to ignore it even though it showed much affection toward whomever allowed it in their lap. All day long, that cat remained the center of attention.

Company left at the end of the day, but not that cat. It was right there at my back door the next morning, and the next morning, and the next morning. Entering my house became a battle because that cat was swift to take advantage of the slow-closing screen door. A couple times it slipped past despite my efforts. Then I had to catch it quick and put it out before I opened the door to the main part of the house.

Meanwhile, Sammi, who usually asked to go out and would be through the open door in a flash, got the surprise of her life. When confronted by this strange cat just outside the door, its hissing intimidated our cat who tucked tail and retreated. We resorted to Sammi exiting by the front door until this cat figured that out and managed to play keep-away there also. Would you believe it became necessary to distract the stranger at the back door while my husband let Sammi either in or out at the  front door?

Anyone who lives in the country knows dropped-off animals are a regular occurence - all of our pets over the years have been rescued strays. Don't feed it and it will go somewhere else...right? By Thursday I couldn't stand it any longer...I opened a can of cat food.

For the past three days of steady drizzle,that cat has remained just outside the back door. It perches on top of the wooden box covering the faucet, protected by the roof's over-hang. A whole week later, Midnight is still making its presence known every time anyone approaches the back door. Today an empty box has been set up in the corner for additional shelter.

Please,someone, take this cat home with you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thanks-giving Post

Could not let the day end without sharing some of the things I'm thankful for. Many of you have been blessed to spend this day and share a meal surrounded by family and/or friends. For as many years as I can remember, it's been my husband and my custom to drive a hundred miles to be with extended family on this special day.However, this year is different. Because of diminishing health, my husband can no longer make the journey. 

This year we spent our day and enjoyed a simplified Thanksgiving meat at home, just the two of us. Over the years, I've reduced the effort required to prepare our meals. I no longer browse cookbooks or collect recipies. 

But, today I went the extra mile. My day started with the making of a sweet potato pie, using a fantastic recipe given to me years ago by a dear friend from Georgia. Earlier this week, I'd purchased a Cornish hen as a substitute for turkey knowing it would be ample for the two of us. A cup of stuffing made with bread crumbs and an assortment of seasonings filled the cavity to fullness. It provided just enough stuffing for two.

Next came a dish of peas and carrots swimming in Bernaise Sauce. Actually, the sauce was a left-over from a previous meal but made the vegetables just a bit more special.

When I check the pantry shelf, I was disappointed not to find a can of jellied cranberry sauce. This is a staple in our household; we eat it all year round.

I thought about rolls - always keep some on hand in the freezer - but decided it might be a deterrent to dessert.

And so, with a half-glass of wine to wash it all down, we sat and enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal. 

As the day comes to an end, I've come to the realization that attitude is everything. I could have made myself miserable and my husband feel guilty because of changed circumstances. Instead I chose to do what I could to make the day pleasant...and enjoyed myself doing so.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

On Its Way

Well, it's official. My latest work is finally in the publisher's hands. I've chosen to send it toWhite Bird Publications, a mid-sized publishing house that has done such an excellent job on several of my recent releases.

Titled Not Bound By Blood, this novel is about two girls with totally different ambitions who connect in high school and despite sometimes being separated by continents, maintain a life-long friendship.

As is normal for me, this novel doesn't drop easily into a recognizable genre. So it will probably be categorized as women's fiction. Those familiar with my work know I am not a "genre"author. My stories are driven by ordinary characters who experience extrordinary circumstances in their lives.

Also in the early developments is a children's story/coloring book. More about that later.

With Not Bound By Blood on its way, I can now concentrate on a historical figure who captured my attention some months back. Right now I'm in the research words on paper yet. But soon will come that excitng time when I set about recording the extraordinary life of Belle Boyd, A Confederate Spy. I'm including a link to if I've peaked your interest.

Belle Boyd, A Confederate Spy will be the third  fictionalized biography in my series for Young Readers. She  accompanies George Washington and Harriet Tubman...both already completed. Pretty good company, if I say so myself.