Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rational Fear or Irrational?

Most people have some kind of phobic-like fear such as heights, spiders, or water. For me it's lightning. I've never been struck by lightning, and don't know anyone personally who has. Yet, ever since childhood I've never liked it.

And, as an adult I came to like it less when I would hear about fires started by lightning strikes, and then the most recent thing, people being struck by lightning because a bolt hit the umbrella they were using thanks to the metal handle and pole. It's like walking around with a lightning rod in your hand!

Some of you may be thinking, "She's a Christian. Doesn't she trust God for her safety?" And my answer to that is: yes, I do trust God, but I also say He gave me a brain and common sense that tells me it's not safe to be out walking with lightning shooting from the sky. Yet, I see people doing it all the time.

I live in a condo complex with only non-assigned outdoor parking available. I love the grassy front yard my windows look out over, and then beyond that, the cul-de-sac, and beyond that the parking. If I park in front, I have to cross a parking lot, the cul-de-sac, and then take a long sidewalk up to my building's front door.

If I park in the back where I do, I might park a tad closer to my building, but to get to MY backdoor I have to walk under a canopy of very tall trees. And we all know the warning that's been out there for years. Don't stand under a tree during a lightning storm! So if such a storm is in progress when I arrive home, I sit in the car and wait it out. At least now I can get radar on my cell phone, so I can  know how long my wait will be. If it looks like it's never going to end, I do give in and race, heart pounding, for my door, praying the whole way. LOL

Last night was one of those nights. I had been enjoying a lovely dinner with my Bible study group when we looked outside and saw dark clouds approaching. Then someone said, "There's lightning we'd better make a dash for our cars." I froze and told them I'd wait it out and to go on head. I took the teasing for a while, because they thought I was joking. I finally said, "No joke." They tried to convince me it was better to make a run for my car, and when it was apparent no one would leave me there, I agreed. One friend even offered to follow me home and walk me inside! I told her no, I wasn't that much of a wimp. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

By the time I arrived home, having to park further away because all the close-in slots were taken, lightning was streaking across the sky right over my head. Walk through those trees? No way! The clouds were moving fairly fast, and it hadn't started raining yet. So I waited and, suddenly, a kid ambles along, bouncing his basketball. No fear in the boy, but here sat a woman in her car many years older than he, afraid to open the door. So, I said a quick prayer and made a dash for the door.

As you can see because I'm writing this, no sudden bolt of lightning shot out of the sky and struck me dead on the spot. But, that doesn't mean I'm going to fearlessly walk in from my car the next time a storm happens.

Somehow I think this will end up in a story somewhere.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book Review: The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

I haven't agreed to review very many books lately due to my own deadlines, but when Revell Publishing offered a copy of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport, I jumped at the chance.

The story is set in Chicago in 1893 just as the World's Fair was about to open. This is Book One of a series of historical romances set on an actual street in the city called Prairie Avenue, where during the late 19th century many of the well-to-do of the city built lavish homes.

Although the Banning family is fictional, Newport name drops familiar names such as the Pullman family (think train cars), the Field family (think department store), and the Kimball family (think pianos). The street reads like a Who's Who in the up and coming business world of Chicago in that day.

Although Lucy comes from a well-heeled family, her interests lie more with helping at a local orphanage and taking college courses, which she does on the sly. She's expected to marry the son of her parents' best friends and wears the young man's ring. But, the more involved she gets with the orphanage and getting an education, planning a high society wedding just isn't at the top of her to-do list. And when her brother introduces her to a young architect who has just moved to town....well, you'll have to get a copy of the book for yourself to find out what happens.

I loved this story from beginning to end. In fact, the other night I sat here reading way past my bedtime because I was so close to the end of the story. It was well worth losing sleep!

You can learn more about Olivia Newport by going to her website or her FaceBook page. And you can purchase the book on line, in both print or ebook formats. Or at your local brick and mortar store. Don't miss it!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Noticer is a Story Worth Noticing

I am red-faced about this one. A long, long time ago, the people at Thomas Nelson Publishing sent me a review copy of The Noticer by Andy Andrews. I read the book, enjoyed the book and the touching story, then thought I'd reviewed it.

I got busy writing my novels, doing ministry work at church, etc. and went on with my life in general. Since I've been facing deadlines of my own, I haven't requested many reviewer books from any publishers, but I recently received a notice from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program, offering a review copy of a book I'm interested in. I went on line to request it and there sat a picture of The Noticer, showing I'd never reviewed it and still owed a review!

I still have the book, and I remember it well because of the heart-touching story about a young man, down on himself and homeless, spending most nights under the Gulf State Park Pier. Maybe the opening stuck with me because I visited that pier about ten years ago during a visit to Alabama to trace my maternal family origins, and I could easily visualize the setting. An older man enters the scene and the young man's life is changed forever. The young man is the author Andy Andrews. And the story is true.

It is more than the fact I had visited the opening setting of the book that caused it to stick with me all these many months. The real reason being the message of encouragement the old man had for the younger man and for the readers of this book.

It was quite popular a few years back, but something this good should still be promoted today, so I'm going ahead and offering this encouragement to check it out.

The book description provided by the publisher describes it well:

A moving story of common wisdom from the bestselling author of The Traveler’s Gift.
Orange Beach, Alabama is a simple town filled with simple people. But they all have their share of problems – marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, and many of the other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.

Fortunately, when things look the darkest – a mysterious old man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” Jones explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. In his simple interactions, Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what they can do about it.

Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration.

You can also visit this video for more information.

The message this story evokes is relevant now, just as it was back when the book first came out, so check it out for yourself!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Lake Geneva Wisconsin Library - A Backstory Like None Other

A few weeks ago, I headed to my hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and its wonderful public library to begin researching the old mansions wealthy industrialists and bankers from Chicago had built on the lake shore during the last half of the 19th Century and into the early 1900s.

The librarian guided me first to a folder on Mary Delafield Sturges, the woman who willed the property the library occupies, as well as the park that stretches to the west of the building, all situated on the shore of Geneva Lake, offering an unobstructed view for passersby.

But to explain all this, I must take you back to 1871 when Mrs. O'Leary's cow famously kicked over a lantern that started the Chicago fire. A great portion of the city was destroyed, including businesses and the fancy homes of the well-to-do.

Until that time, the wealthy businessmen often headed north over the state line into Wisconsin a few miles to a beautiful spring-fed lake that was surrounded by virgin forest. There they hunted and fished, and  then likely spent their nights in the small village at the western end of the lake called Geneva.

After the fire, these men whose homes had been destroyed, wanted to get their families out of the horrible mess of the city until it could be restored. George Sturges, a prominent banker, brought his wife, Mary, and their children to a boarding house that sat on Main Street--probably one he had stayed in while on one of his fishing or hunting trips--and they moved in, along with another family by the last name of Rumsey. And that's where they lived for many months.

The following summer, someone planted corn on the land between the house and the lake, and when it grew so tall, the home's residents could no long see the lake from the back porch, Mr. Sturges bought the house and the property. The first thing he did was chop down the corn so they would continue to have an unobstructed view of the lake.

Fast forward to 1894 when Mary Sturges, the widow of George, executed her will of the property, including the house they'd lived in right after the fire, to the city of Lake Geneva "for use as a public park and public library."

When I learned this in such detail, I sat there looking out the library window at the lake and tried to imagine corn growing there. I couldn't blame them for wanting to cut down that corn!

The house that was once the Lake Geneva Library
I actually do have a vague memory of the old house that still served as our library when I was small. By then it was falling apart and becoming unsafe for occupancy. I remember my mom volunteering to help pack boxes of books for moving to the library's temporary location while a new modern library was built. One designed by an affiliate of Frank Lloyd Wright.

And I remember when the new library opened to much ballyhoo and delight. But if I was told the details of how our wonderful library came to sit on such a prime location, it must have gone in one ear and out the other. If the forward-thinking Mary Sturges hadn't specified the property was to be used for a library only, and a public park for all to enjoy. That land could now have fancy condos facing the water, giving no view of the lake to people on the street.

I grew up often going to the new library to take out my first chapter  books, then later, Nancy Drew mysteries. When I reached high school I spent many hours there studying and researching for my term papers. Then life moved on, and so did I when I moved out of state.

The newer library & the walkway that sits where corn once grew
Now here I am, a published author, back sitting in the library of my childhood, researching facts about the history of the town and lake I've come to love all over again. The old library that began life as a boarding house figures in a scene I wrote for Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (out April 2013) and the new library is in a scene in Thyme for Love (released last November), a contemporary novel set in fictional Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, a few miles east of Lake Geneva. In both books, I have my lead couples take the walkway that goes between the lake and the library.

Before I left the library for the day a few weeks back, I sat in front of the window wall that faces the lake and thought about how the Sturges family was treated to the same view (minus a few buildings on either periphery) as I experienced that day. And that's kind of cool.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Where Do the Days Go?

It's often said that the older one becomes the faster life passes by. Well, right now life is zipping past at warp speed for me. I hate to think what it might be like if I live into my 90s.

As a result, this blog has been very neglected because something has had to give over the past months of overseeing the ACFW Genesis writing contest and writing the sequel to Thyme for Love on deadline. Unfortunately, the blog was something that felt the brunt more than most other things in my life.

I am learning, as I have since this time last year when I received THE call telling me I'd sold my novel, that once on the other side of the line that separates the published from the unpublished, life takes on a different persona. 

I am truly blessed to have book contracts and being able to serve ACFW by giving back to an organization that has done so much for me.

As May slipped in quietly yesterday, I determined  to work hard at posting here at least twice a week.

I walked past this large home last summer on the lake shore path.
Writing-wise as I am preparing my ms. called Love Will Find a Way to send to my new crit partner for her review, my head is already spinning with new ideas for a three-book series set in Lake Geneva, my hometown, once again. But this time involving the families that built the gorgeous 19th century mansions on the lake shore. Many are still there, but so many have disappeared, either by fire, tear-downs, or whatever else. Slowly the legacy of what was Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for so many years is giving over to newer, equally grand homes, but at the same time, we are losing an era that can never be replaced.

I hope to share some of my findings here as I prepare a book proposal.

Truly, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is a gem in so many ways, and I hope to perpetuate the grandeur of yesteryear in the stories itching to be written.