Friday, June 20, 2008

How did you meet your honey?

Did you meet your sweetheart in a funny...romantic...unexpected...or otherwise interesting way???

Tell me about it and WIN!

Warning: You may find your story tweaked and twisted and turned into a romantic novel!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

From the Heart of a Daddy's Girl

I’m a Daddy’s girl. Always have been. And now that he’s gone to be with the Lord, well…I’m still a Daddy’s girl. Always will be.

Just a bit about Obie Kennith Dawson, the man who was my father. (No, I didn’t misspell his name. He and my oldest brother may well be the only two Kennith’s in the world with an “i” in their name!)

He was a gentle giant—a big man with a heart to match, and a pair of humongous hands that fit the overall picture. One of my all-time favorite childhood memories involves sliding my small fingers into Daddy’s great big ones. His fingers (which were always warm back then) just kind of enveloped mine—the same kind of picture it would make if I closed my fist around a peanut. That little ritual filled me with the most incredible feeling of safety and love and belonging. It warmed me right down to the tips of my little toes.

Another favorite tactile memory is that of rubbing my cheek against Daddy’s when he came home from work at night, his face covered with the five o’clock shadow that only lasted as long as it took him to wash up and shave. By the time he pulled out his chair for dinner, he was clean-shaven and smelled of Old Spice. I loved the rough feel of those bristly little hairs against my soft cheek. Daddy would cuddle me close and allow me to play cheeksies, but only for a moment. Then he’d laugh and gently pull away. “Stop that, you silly girl. You’ll scratch your cheek.” And he’d be off to remove the offensive stubble.

He was never afraid to cry. I saw tears on Dad’s face many times. He couldn’t read a greeting card without choking up. Saying good-bye was never his strong point—even just “so long” brought on the waterworks if it meant one of us eight kids would be off on a lengthy trip that meant long, dangerous miles to travel. Sympathy…yeah, Daddy hurt right along with his friends or loved ones. Humility and gratitude…oh yes. He rarely talked about his salvation without crying. Daddy came to God late in life—sometime around age 48, I believe—and he never lost that sense of heartfelt awe in the presence of the Almighty.

Obie Dawson was not a rich man. He raised most of us kids on a farm laborer’s pay. About ten years before he retired, he got a maintenance job with the County (a maintenance job...and it was the easiest work he’d ever done in his life.) Funny thing is, we kids didn’t know we were poor. We had everything we needed. What we didn’t have, we had never had, so we didn’t miss it. We were happy and we were loved. What more could we possibly have needed?

My dad was my dearest friend, my confidante, my hero. Father’s Day to me will always be about him, no matter how many years I must celebrate it without him. He was the best Daddy in the world, or at least…he was to his baby girl. I trust that the angels will bear him my message this year and every year to come…Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! I love you, and I miss you every day of my life.

Be sure to wish your earthly father a Happy Father’s Day on the 15th. Give him a hug. Rub your cheek against his if you want to. Just don’t forget to say, “I love you!”

You’ll be glad you did.

Notes of Devotion: Pamela James

A Clean Slate
by Pamela James

2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

You try hard to eat right, keep your calories under 1,600 and suddenly temptation smacks you between the eyes and you blow it, big time. What do you do? Call the whole day a bomb and eat everything and anything you want? Or do you take the goof in stride and reign yourself in, promising extra time on the treadmill in the morning?

Why do people begin diets (and other good habits) on New Year’s Day? On a Sunday, or a Monday? In the morning?

It’s because of the clean slate feeling. Somehow it feels wrong to pop that new healthy habit in the middle of a day that’s already sullied by. . .well, life.

I think some people approach their Christianity the same way. We think we can’t be blameless. We don’t see ourself as sinless. We’ve all sinned, the Bible says so. The enemy would like us to believe we can’t start over with a clean slate. We’ll never be perfect. But that’s a lie!

If we were already perfect we wouldn’t need the blood of Christ. And it is through the blood of Christ that we can be blameless and pure in the eyes of our Father in Heaven.

Purity rings are quite popular right now. My niece got one recently. I even saw one for the young lady who’d already been sexually active but had changed her ways. She can ask Jesus to cleanse her and she becomes blameless in His eyes (and should be in our eyes as well).

Best of all, this cleansing can come at any moment. Any minute of any day can be your clean slate. Your new beginning.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I know sometimes I fail. I ask You to look into my heart and forgive me of my trespasses, heal the wounds my failures have caused in me and others, and wash me clean. Give me a clean slate. Let me know I am pure and beautiful in Your sight. Let me share that peace and joy with others. In my Precious Savior's Name, Amen

Author of Note: Margaret Garrett Irwin

Our Author of Note this month is Maggie Garrett Irwin, an author who lives in the beautiful mountain town of Oakhurst, California. I’m delighted to have her as our guest this month.

Q. Welcome to The Bookshelf, Maggie! I know my readers want to know all about you as a writer, and we’re going to get to that right away. But first, we’d like to know who you are outside your office. Who is Maggie Irwin, the lady next door?
A. I don’t think I am the lady-next-door type. Outside of the office which I have in my home, with a beautiful view outside, I have been married to my Irish husband for nearly 14 years. I am originally from London and he was born near Belfast. We met in Fresno, California. I came to Santa Cruz in 1962 and went from being a London secretary to a California cowgirl. My first husband was a cattle rancher and I have written about my many experiences. I am a Christian and belong to the Anglican church which is in walking distance from my home. I sing in the choir and am also a lay reader. Besides secretarial work, sales and being a cowgal, I have been a caregiver . I love to swim and do water aerobics, walk, play the piano, read and knit. I am presently making writing and marketing my main work.

Q. Your novel, The Journal of Anne Reading, released in ’06. Give us the nutshell version of the book.
The correct name is The Journal of Anne Reading (from Florence Nightingale to Dorothea Dix and Beyond). The book tells in diary form the experiences of my great great aunt, first nursing in the Crimea, then traveling by sailing ship to New York, nursing in New York for two years. When the American Civil War breaks out, she nurses for the Union army, first on the hospital ships and then in a hotel turned into a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. She marries and has to leave nursing. She works as a forewoman in a tobacco factory, making and trimming hats and describes life in New York, Chester, Pennsylvania and Newark, New Jersey and other places during the rest of the war and the years afterwards.

Q. What inspired you to write this book?
After my mother died in 1972, I asked my father for the quilt and the handwritten journal that were both made by my great great grandmother about her daughter’s experiences with Florence Nightingale and then onto nursing in the Civil War and beyond. After reading the journal, I was inspired to make several manuscripts, editing as I went. I felt the experiences were so interesting, they should be shared with others.

Q. Anne Reading is your debut novel, I believe. How long did it take you to write it, from first word to putting it in your publisher’s hands?
I tried for several years to be published with a traditional publisher. The university presses told me my book was interesting enough to be marketable with general trade publishers. The general trade publishers told me it would appeal to university presses dealing with historical biographies. So it went on. In between, we moved twice. I had other jobs, caregiving, church secretary and Avon sales. Finally I spotted an ad in The Writer magazine from Trafford publishing in Victoria, B.C. Canada for on-demand publishing. I sent for their prospectus in 2005 and published in April 2006. It cost me money but they took care of everything. See next answer.

Q. Your book was printed by an on-demand publisher (subsidy printer). That particular end of publishing has been on the reputational downside for some time. In hindsight, how do you feel about Trafford and their handling of your book? Would you choose the POD route to publication again?
I possibly would use the POD route again and Trafford because it is very hard to get published by traditional publishers without having a well known name or being a recognized author already. Trafford provided me with a web site—still going—and the book can be purchased direct from them, or from or through Baker & Taylor , Lightning Source, Inc., a subsidiary of Ingram books. My understanding is that these days, even if you publish through a traditional publisher, you will have to do much of the publicity

Q. What’s next? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?
I spend some time getting old articles out and sending them out to magazines. I am working on a novel which starts during World War II in London and will go on to this country and life on a cattle ranch..

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing? Least?
Doing research and typing. I dislike being interrupted which happens too frequently.

Q. It’s impossible to interview an author without asking...where do you get your ideas?
From life’s experiences.

Q. What books are on your nightstand right now?
The Avenue by R.F. Delderfield, Trains & Buttered Toast (selected radio talks) by John Betjeman, How to Pray When You Think You Can’t by Marci Alborghetti, Daily Guideposts - Spirit Lifting Thoughts for Every Day of the Year and Evergreen, A Miscellany of This & That & Things Gone By, Britain’s Little Quarterly

Margaret Garrett Irwin has been writing for about 20 years and has some published articles. She was born in Muswell Hill, London in Sept. 1937. After a lot of moving when war broke out two years later, the family moved to Mill Hill, a green leafy suburb on the outskirts of North West London in 1942 where their home was hit by an incendiary bomb about 18 months later. Margaret lived in England through World War II and the austere years afterwards. She was educated in England and also obtained an Associate of Arts Degree in Fresno, California. Margaret has two diplomas from the Long Ridge Writers Group.

Margaret was a secretary for seven years before moving to California in 1962. She married a cattle rancher and has a son and daughter and one grandson. She divorced in 1983 and worked in a variety of jobs—secretarial, Avon sales, telemarketing, weight loss counselor. Following a serious illness in 1991, she became a caregiver and a water aerobics instructor. She is an avid reader, plays the piano, sings and knits.

In 1994, Margaret married Johnston Irwin, an Irishman from near Belfast. They met in Fresno, CA. They moved to Los Osos for seven years and have now lived in rural Oakhurst on the way to Yosemite, for five years.

Notes in Review

by Carol Cox

The year is 1893; the setting is the Chicago World’s Fair. Handsome Columbian guard Stephen Bridger delivers a lost child to the Children’s Building. In the busy, chaotic atmosphere, children often become separated from their parents. It’s nothing new.

Emily Ralston signs the little boy in, unaware that the action means the end of life as she knows it. The charming toddler, obviously suffering more than just separation anxiety, is only the first small piece in an intricate puzzle.

Two days later, the body of the child’s mother is found on the fairgrounds. In an effort to protect little Adam from the dangers that claimed his mother’s life, Emily and Stephen make themselves targets to the same deadly enemy, risking their lives—and their jobs—as they do so. But as they work together to keep the little one safe, Emily finds herself in danger of losing her heart to the gentleman guard.

Can they keep Adam whole and happy without forfeiting their own lives? And will it prove possible for a young woman raised in an orphan home to claim the heart of one such as Stephen Bridger, whose past and future seem so far removed from anything she dared ever dream for herself?

A Bride So Fair is the third in Carol Cox’s A Fair to Remember Series. Several characters will be recognizable to readers of the other two books, and it’s so much fun to see what’s happening in their lives now—after the “end” of their story. Given the author’s flair for creating unbelievably real characters, it’s like running into old friends and catching up on their lives since you saw them last. The added little touch of history surrounding the Fair is a pleasant bonus…to say nothing of the sweet, delicately woven romance threaded throughout the storyline.

I loved the previous World’s Fair books, and A Bride So Fair did not disappoint. It’s another beautifully written tale packed full of all the components that make a reader long for the next book from any author. Good job, Carol Cox—keep ‘em coming!

Reviewed by Delia Latham
The Bookshelf Newsletter

Contest/Drawing Notes

The Bookshelf’s monthly drawing is undergoing some changes. I’ll fill you in as I decide on them. For right now, here’s the deal:

You no longer need to do anything to enter the newsletter drawing each month. If you are subscribed to The Bookshelf, you will be automatically entered.

How to subscribe? Use the icon on my website’s
Home page, or the link in the website Navbar (right-hand column), which will put you on my e-mailing list. If you want the Bookshelf articles to come right to your inbox each month instead of receiving just a link, use the FeedBlitz link in the top left corner of this page in addition to the manual icon subscription.)

There was no winner for May, as there were insufficient entries to validate the contest.

Included in the June drawing are two great books:

Beloved Castaway by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Courting Emma by Sharlene MacLaren

If you missed my reviews of these books, you’ll find them on My Book Bag—my “interview and review” blog.

Note: The Bookshelf contest is completely separate from the
BIG Goldeneyes Contest Series on my website. Be sure to check that out—it’s a seven-month contest series with some absolutely fantastic prize packages—some with values in excess of $100—to be awarded each month.

The Creative Process

by Teresa Slack

There are as many different ways to get the creative juices flowing as there are writers. Just because some methods work for one writer does not mean they will work the same for another. We all have to experiment and play around to see what gets those words down on the page.

Like every other writer, I’ve read books about how to be more productive. One exercise I’ve read about on more than one occasion is called among other things; free writing. The premise is that you set the clock for a certain amount of time—not very long in the beginning—remove all distractions, clear your mind, put the pen to paper, and start writing. One writer of a book that guaranteed freedom in writing and thought, suggested it be done every morning immediately upon rising. As you got better at the exercise you were to add time until you were free writing for one hour.

I tried this for several mornings in a row. I still have the notebooks to prove it. This exercise never worked for me. On a good day, I recounted the dreams I had from the night before. Other mornings I wrote line after line of complaints. This is dumb. Why am I doing this? I bet Sue Grafton isn’t up doing this. What a waste of an hour. I could be sleeping. Or at least kick boxing. I gave it up after five or so mornings with nothing more to show for it than a few pages of bitter, nearly incoherent ramblings of a cranky, sleep deprived literary genius who really could have spent the time on her gluts. At least those exercises would’ve benefited me in some way.

Free writing does not summon my muse, connect me with my inner child, or increase my productivity during my regular writing time. It just annoys me that I lost an hour of my day. Maybe exercises like this work wonders for your creativity. If so, great. Don’t agonize that your way isn’t for everyone. Neither is what works for me, I’m sure.

After all these years, and more than a few wasted on procrastination and excuse making, what works for me is writing. Plain old, plop myself down in the chair and make myself write whether I want to or not writing. More than once I sat down in front of a blank monitor without anything to start on, and my fingers have taken over. That’s when writing is at its best. When words and ideas are flowing effortlessly. That’s when I praise God for making me a writer.

Then there’s all the rest of the time. I sit and stare and nothing happens. I can’t think of a word. I force out something and it sounds forced and hollow and dull. Those times I wish I had a nice predictable office job. Those thoughts never last long but they do come.

But I digress. Back to the creative process. We all like to imagine ourselves at a clean, uncluttered desk, our hands poised over the keyboard, a clear view before us of whatever inspires us—whether a snow capped mountain, a picturesque village in the valley below, or a bustling city street—and the ideas and words fly out with no apparent effort on our part. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every workday went like that? But alas, those days are few and far between.

Writing is work. If it weren’t, more people would be doing it instead of just talking about it. It’s hard. It’s not glamorous. It’s too much agony and aggravation for too little acknowledgement and even less actual pay. So why do we do it? Month after month and year after year when the words and ideas are forced, and no one understands why we’re lonely and frustrated?

Because something inside us won’t let us stop. We have to create. We can’t ignore it.

Each of us must find what inspires us, motivates us, keeps our rears glued to the seat when there are a hundred things we could be doing that might better serve humanity, or at least earn a regular paycheck. If we don’t find what it takes, then we are like the rest of the world who talks about writing without ever taking up the pen.

There are plenty of books, courses, and exercises to make us powerful, productive writers. But if we aren’t willing to find and follow our own personal creative process, we’ll still be talking about that book, article, idea, or screenplay we never got around to writing twenty years from now.

Teresa Slack still lives near the small Ohio town where she once dreamed of writing books. Her first novel, Streams of Mercy, won the 2005 Bay Area Independent Publishers Association’s award for “Best First Novel”. Her fifth novel, Evidence of Grace, the third in the popular Jenna’s Creek Series debuted nationwide at #18 according to Christian Retail Magazine. She is currently working on Book 4 of her series. To learn more about Teresa and her books, visit her online at