Coffee with a Pioneer?

Hello, Thursday morning friends! I hope you’re enjoying a successful week.

It’s been an interesting one for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a vacation. I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years.

But not yet.

Lately, I’ve been reminiscing here on the blog. There’s a reason for that. I’m working on possible plots for future stories, and wondering which path to take first. I have a couple of ideas and the freedom to choose.

Some of you may have traced your family and found interesting folks and stories along the way. I haven’t done that, but some of my cousins have. My mother’s family traces back to Scotland in the 16th century. They came to Virginia and raised tobacco. Some of them moved west to Missouri. One was a Union sympathizer with a beard down to his waist. I read that he was not a popular guy. But his son dressed like a cowboy. He went to Arkansas and later, to Texas where he settled in the panhandle.

He was my grandpa’s grandfather. His son married and had four sons, but died in his forties. His wife, my great-grandma Christy, married her late sister’s husband. Think about that one. I suppose there were children involved that needed both parents to survive. Or, maybe they were in love.

I always admired my Great-Grandma Christy. She was a pioneer, and pioneers were tough. This time, I do have a picture. That’s Grandpa in the middle. He’s the second-youngest. His two older brothers were twins. Redheads, and don’t they look like trouble?

The Christy Family, circa 1911-1912

Folks didn’t smile for their pictures back then, but sometimes personalities shone through. Just as you can easily read the mischief in the faces of the twins, you can’t miss the hint of a smile on Great-Grandma’s face.

I wonder what it would’ve been like to visit her at home in those days? Would she offer coffee? Not in a Texas summer, I’ll bet. But in winter, she’d have a roaring flame in the cook stove and maybe brew coffee in an enamel pot.

This photo has always fascinated me. The first time I saw it, I wondered how my younger brother Ed could be in such an old photograph. That man on the left, my great-grandfather Christy—looks a lot like my younger brother—even the way he combed his hair.

I may be finished traveling memory lane. I really don’t know what’s up next. I’m reading a really good book. If I finish in time, I may write a review.

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join me on Saturday at the Plainview Barnes and Noble. Here’s an official invitation:

 

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Real Life and Romance

Hello, Thursday morning! Have you had your coffee yet? No? I thought you looked a little bleary-eyed. Oh, wait—that’s a mirror—I’m the bleary-eyed-one. Be right back.

I don’t think there’s any way I can top last week’s post. It was a winner. It’s apparent to me, my readers like real life stories, especially when it involves romance. Which may be why I especially enjoyed one of the reviews I found on my latest release, Rebecca’s Legacy:

Thank you, Caroline Gabor!

As a young reader, I enjoyed biographies. The real-life stories of some of my favorite people interested me. That’s the appeal of writing non-fiction, I suppose. Getting to know folks better, especially when extraordinary things happen.

Which is probably why I was always fascinated by my maternal grandmother’s life. I was only two when she died, so I have no memory of her. Only snippets of stories my mother told over the years. For some reason I was never privy too, my grandfather left her and his two daughters behind in Seattle, and moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he cleared out their bank account before he left.

Right off, you’ll probably think how horrible that was, and figure the family hated him afterwards, but that’s not really what happened. He was angry when he left, because he wanted to move, and my grandmother didn’t. So he took all his hard-earned cash and went away, probably thinking she would relent.

He should’ve known better.

Grandma and Bernie Alonzo, 1952

Audrie Leon Packnett Christy (Alonzo), my grandmother, was of Austrian/native American descent (both came from her father). I hear she had a strong will. “Sit up straight, Joan.” My mother told me how she’d demand that her girls stand tall. Straight shoulders. No slouching. Walk like a lady. Maybe some of those demands are the reason my mother left home at an early age. She was still in high school when she went to live with a friend in a small downtown apartment.

Mom married at seventeen, her sister married at fifteen. My grandmother remarried around the time my mother left home. There are a lot of blanks in this story. My mother never talked about that time, and I’ve never pressed her to tell. I wonder, though, because my step-grandfather said of my grandmother, “She was the love of my life. I will never forget her.”

I know he was the one who drove my mother to the hospital when I was on my way into the world. My grandmother named me, and was the first, after my mother, to hold me. I think she created a bond that’s never left me.

I look through Mom’s old photographs and dream up stories to fill the holes. One day, I’ll tell the stories.

Henry Earl Christy, my grandpa, lived in Southern California until he died at the age of 75. His health was bad, but every photo shows him smiling, and most photos include a dog. He also remarried. My step-grandmother’s name was Viola, and that’s what we called her. Never Grandma, or any variation of it, just, “Viola.”

She smoked a lot and usually had an alcoholic beverage in her hand. She had a low voice, and she laughed easily. But, she also dictated where they would live. When Grandpa wanted to live in the Santa Monica mountains to be near a hot springs (relief for his Rheumatoid Arthritis), she put her foot down. It was too cold there. She preferred the valley, so they moved to Paramount.

In Paramount, Grandpa met some of the “movie stars” when they visited the hospital. There’s a picture somewhere, of Grandpa with Betty White. I hope I inherit that one someday. 🙂

He spent a lot of time in hospitals, sometimes as a patient, other times, as a volunteer. Volunteering helped pay the hospital bills. He also became a guinea pig, allowing them to try new procedures, hoping to help others overcome RA and Emphysema. After his death, he left his body to research. I try not to think about that. I’m sure he joked about it. Maybe they’d call him “Joe.” He’d hang out with the other cadavers.

That was my Grandpa. I didn’t know him well, because most of my life, I lived over here, and he was over there. But, he wrote almost weekly letters to my mother, so we knew about him.

Maybe someday, I’ll write that story, too. There’s a romance in there somewhere, I just know it.

An Anniversary on Labor Day Weekend

Hello, Thursday morning readers—

Is there anything better than that first sip of that first cup of coffee of the day?

On this first Thursday in September, I thought I’d share a little something personal. We’ve just celebrated Labor Day, which is the Forty-Fourth anniversary of a first date.

It wasn’t a traditional date, however. I wasn’t actually with the guy I ended up married to. But we were on the same date.

I guess you might be wondering what I mean by that. Well, I was on a double-date. It was sort of a double blind date. Now I know for sure you’re wondering about it. 🙂

At the time, I was living in Columbia, Tennessee. I decided to visit a friend (Pam) in Louisville, Kentucky, and I thought it would be nice to invite one of my Tennessee friends (Carol) along for the ride. When Carol and I arrived, Pam told us she had a date on Saturday night, and hoped we wouldn’t mind. Being a kind and very attentive hostess, she couldn’t leave us unattended, so had been trying to set us up with dates of our own.

I was dubious, especially when I heard she’d only been able to secure a date for Carol. How humiliating was that? Pam explained that most of her friends my age were in college or seminary. Since it was a holiday weekend, they’d gone home to visit family. That was her story.

Her plan was for us to go to an outdoor concert at the Iroquois Park Amphitheater. It was a Christian event, and was supposed to be really good.

Carol was shy. Really, really, shy. So she didn’t care if we just hung out in our hotel room for the evening. But Pam was persistent. Once she decided on something, she was going to make it happen.

Mid-afternoon, Carol’s “date” rang the doorbell. Pam confessed to me that he wanted to “get a look at” her before going out. Hmm…

I accompanied Pam to the door, and as it opened, revealing Pam’s friend, Bob, something happened inside my heart. Something like a little bell ringing. No, I’m not kidding—it really happened. Well, either that, or an alarm went off somewhere in the house. I’m sticking with the “bell ringing in my heart” theory, though I didn’t really pay much attention at the time, other than to note it.

The guy at the door didn’t ring my bell. No way. His hair was too long, he had a mustache and “chops” (long sideburns for those unfamiliar with that term). Way too much hair, y’all.

Pam & Bob standing, Donna & Brenda seated. Not sure who the dog is.

I will admit, he had a nice smile and a great personality. We were soon joined by his best buddy, Rick. I knew Rick from school. We’d sat across the table from each other in Physical Science class, and spent a lot of time laughing. The class was taught by one of the school’s favorite teachers, who liked to take us on nature walks in spring. The smokers liked those nature walks, because they were allowed to smoke.

Back to the double-blind-date in process: I suggested we go out with Bob and Rick, and it not be a real date, just four friends going to a concert in the park. The plan was accepted, so Carol and I returned to our hotel room to get ready, and wait for our “non-dates” to pick us up.

When they arrived, Carol and I headed out, but there seemed to be some confusion at the car. Bob was in Rick’s face in some kind of low-voiced discussion. I heard a few words.

(Bob) “What do you think?”

(Rick) “I think we should leave it the way it was planned…wouldn’t be right…”

(Me) Hmm….

Bob opened the door for Carol, Rick opened a back door for me. So far, so good. We arrived at the park, the concert in progress. We sat, Bob and Carol, me and Rick. Bob kept leaning forward and talking to me in front of Carol. I thought it a bit odd.

The next day, Pam took me aside (actually took me into the bathroom and shut the door so no one would overhear). She told me Bob liked me. A lot. And wondered if I was interested.

Gee. He was younger than me. He had a lot of hair. He wore raggedy pants. And really, really short shorts. Actually, those were once blue jeans that had frayed back to almost nothing. The pockets were longer than the shorts. His tennis shoes had holes in them, too. I know, it was the seventies, and it was the style, but I had never really liked that look. Still better than droopy pants, though.

Before I left town, he asked if it would be all right if he wrote to me. I said why not. I think I actually did say that. I was a big believer in God’s perfect will and God’s perfect timing. If God was in a thing, it would come about.

The rest is history, as they say. Bob and I married on December 21st of that same year. Yes, I know that was only a few months later. It was crazy. But don’t ask if it was love. Bob will tell you one thing, I’ll tell you another. That’s because he’s a pragmatist, and I’m a romantic.

All I know, is we’re still a couple and pretty happy about it. And we’re still friends with Pam.

Betty to Betty

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I have a special treat for you this morning, so pour another cup, and settle in.

Elizabeth “Betty” Noyes is one of my favorite authors. I’ll never forget the first time I picked up one of her books, also published by Write Integrity Press. I was so amazed by the world she created, the characters, and well-researched background. With the release of Imperfect Promises, the series is complete.

So, let’s get down to business!

Thank you, Betty Noyes, for taking the time to visit with me. There are two very important elements in your Imperfect series: family and setting. As an introduction to the stories, please tell us a little about each of these elements.

Family – I am a Christian writing for a Christian press, but I don’t want to just ‘preach to the choir.’ As we age and die off, the choir must be replenished. I want to reach outside the Christian community for those readers searching for a good, clean, entertaining book that isn’t glutted with the profanity, explicit violence, and gratuitous sex so prevalent in today’s literature. My goal is to deliver a satisfying, entertaining story that readers can get lost in while ingesting some of the seeds I’ve sown. I want them to see Christians, not as adversaries, but as real people like themselves, people who struggle with the same problems, moral dilemmas, and failings. In my books, I want them to know what a strong, family unit can do through love, support, and devotion. I believe our country and way of life is in peril unless we reestablish and fortify the family unit.

Setting – The key to engaging a reader is to provide a connection for them—to a character(s), to an event or circumstance, and/or to a setting. The trick is to describe these people/events/places just enough to give something familiar to the reader, someone they can picture, an event they recall, or a place they’ve been to or seen. For example, I think just about everybody can remember a time spent in doctor’s office or hospital emergency waiting room. Enough description—uncomfortable chairs all lined up, squalid carpeting, antiseptic smells, sick people slumped over, a sobbing child, television turned to a boring program, dogeared outdated magazines—can drop you right back to that moment.

The opening scene of your final book is gritty, and kind of ugly, but a page-turner, because I want to find out why Jonas Cameron is in this place, doing what he’s doing. How would you describe your main character? Give readers a sense of who he is (without revealing too much).

It’s interesting to me that you see the opening chapter as gritty and kind of ugly because all of my male readers loved the realism. That’s been one of my biggest struggles while writing from dual point of views. As a woman, it’s hard to put myself into the mind of a man. That’s why I have several male beta readers I call upon all the time. This opening scene does not show Nigeria as the beautiful country it actually is, rather it reveals the mindset of the main character, a soldier. It reflects the resentment he feels for being there, the extended time his mission has taken, the harsh landscape and difficult weather conditions he’s subjected himself to, how he grapples with doing the deed, and the fact that he might not yet get to leave. All of these factors flavor his attitude, his state of mind, his thoughts.

As I mentioned earlier, all my characters are flawed, hence the name Imperfect in the titles. We all mean well, but seldom live up to our intentions. Jonas is the middle child, older than his twin sisters, but the youngest of the three brothers. While he followed in his brothers’ footsteps and joined the military right out of college, Jonas’s path took him down some pretty dark roads. Now separated from that life, he’s still bound by oath to keep those secrets, and struggles with the right or wrongness of his past decisions.

I loved the realism. I was immediately drawn in to the story. And you’re right about male readers.

In the last couple of books before this one, I picked up the idea that Jonas is a little hopeless where love is concerned. It will take a special woman to deal with his past. So, who is Shea Townsend? Can you give us a glimpse into her character?

Jonas comes with the typical bachelor attitude. He’s watched his two older brothers and wants to sow his wild oats just as they did. But as his brothers and sisters all fall into committed relationships, he begins to recognize the emptiness of his life. He sees the joy his siblings have found, and wonders if it might be available to him, too.

Shea Townsend is a complicated character. She lost her mother’s influence at an early age, and was raised by a mentally unstable father who saw her more as another hand to help out than as a child to raise. Having grown up on a cattle farm, she became very knowledgeable about the biological workings of the world and yet remained intriguingly naïve with little real-world exposure. When her one foray into a relationship ended in betrayal, she chose to protect herself by shutting down any man who showed interest in her.

Shea actually appeared in book one of the series, and had several more interactions with Jonas as the series progressed. Their connection was a slow build, a necessary requirement given her wariness and his commitment phobia. They actually became friends first, before the attraction between them was allowed to sizzle. Shea’s character arc takes from self-inflicted independence and zero trust to accepting that others could love her without having a hidden agenda. She learns to accept Jonas as he is, while recognizing there are some parts of him she’ll never know.

About the author: Who is Elizabeth Noyes?

I’m a southern girl. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, but lost much of my southern accent when I married an Army man and spent the next twenty-five years following him around the world. Now that we’ve settled in a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta, I like to say that I still speak the language.

My husband and I still like to travel, but we also enjoy spending time with our three grandchildren who live nearby. We go to soccer games and gymnastic meets, and babysit the g-kids and g-dogs whenever asked. I’m involved in several Bible studies and am active in our church, but I also enjoy playing bridge and baking. Oh yes, I’m an avid reader and usually consume 3-4 books a week.

Of course, there’s my writing. I’m not the typical author who sets a word count quota and works a little bit every single day. When an idea comes to mind, I will spend hours upon hours for days upon days lost in the story until I get it all down.

I like your writing style! You visited the setting of your Imperfect stories last year, and I believe it was a special time for you. Tell us a little about that adventure.

As I mentioned, my husband and I enjoy traveling. Alaska was one place I’d not been, but he’d made many visits there while still in the service. I finally talked him into going (I told him I was going with or without him!), and he agreed it would be fun. The cruise to Alaska turned into a train trip across Canada following the cruise, and then it morphed into a road trip across the northwestern United States the week before the cruise. We spent a year planning all the details.

On this road trip we took Route 93 down through Montana and Idaho to the (fictional) town of Hastings Bluff where the Camerons live. We stopped in the neighboring (real) town of Challis for lunch, toured the area, visited the library (yes, I sent them my books), and pointed out the places where different events in the books took place. What can I say? It’s was magical. Like coming home!

 

As this series ends, are you sad to say goodbye?

I’ve read many series that seem to go on and on … until I got tired of them and just stopped reading. I didn’t want my readers to reach that point. Could the story continue? Absolutely, I mean life goes on, right? Do my readers clamor for more? Yes, they do. Some have asked for a continuation, others want the parents’ story, and still others have asked for a spinoff. While I won’t rule out any possibilities, I’ve set my mind on another project for now.

Saying goodbye to Cate and Cody Cameron, Garrett and TJ, Wade and Lucy, Jonas and Shea, Mallory and James, and Cassie and Derek is … I’ll be honest, it’s hard. It hurts. They’ve become very real to me. They’re family, but I know I’m leaving them in the fond hearts of my readers, so I’m okay with The End.

What’s next for you?

I mentioned a new project above, but I actually have three I’m considering. One is a two-part story, another is a three-book trilogy, and the third is similar to The Imperfect Series, but with totally different characters. All three projects are screaming to be heard, but I need to get through the flurry of book release activities before I can settle in for a long day of writing. That’s when I’ll determine which of these new characters want most to be heard!

Follow Elizabeth Noyes on Facebook, Twitter, and at Amazon.

In Alert Expectancy

Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I hope you’re having a successful week. I am well aware that sometimes our days are filled with trials and tribulations. That’s when hope comes into play.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” [Romans 5: 1-5 NIV]

In The Message Bible, that word “hope” is translated as “in alert expectancy”. Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? Do you live in alert expectancy, looking for a brighter tomorrow? Or have you lost hope, as so many have?

I know all about that. I’ve endured depression and spiritual and physical weakness, when I felt completely incapable of enduring one more ounce of pain and sorrow.

If you examine the verses above, times like those build character, like steel in the forge. There are so many things in life I’d rather not experience, but if all of life was easy street, I’m not sure I’d have much to talk about. For one thing, that’s never going to happen. Everyone goes through difficulties in life. Some, more than others. You may question, “Why, me?”

One possible answer is found in scripture. Your character is revealed and strengthened by the forge of troubles, in much the same way as that mix of metals is heated white hot and pounded into the perfect instrument for use.

How do you endure such a test? By living in alert expectancy, giving God’s grace entrance into our lives. That grace is like the cold water the hot, newly-shaped steel instrument is dipped into. It cools the steel to the point it can be handled.

Okay, then how do you find this hope—this “alert expectancy”?

I renew my hope by reading passages such as the one above. I read encouraging scriptures, listen to worship and praise music, build myself up with devotionals. Listen to uplifting sermons. Take long walks and meditate. Spend time with loved ones. Spend time away. Get a mani-pedi. Go shopping. Whatever it takes.

There are times when I’m muddling through life, because I don’t have time to get away. I have too long a list of necessary things. I have people waiting on me to finish something. Do this, do that. And all the while, my heart is aching. I’m in mental and spiritual anguish that can result in physical pain.

Morning comes. I open the blinds to let in the bright sunshine and my heart is lighter. Hope is renewed. It’s baked fresh every morning, and its fragrance fills my spirit and lightens my load. I can do this. I CAN live in alert expectancy, waiting for the JOY that always follows.


In Rebecca’s Legacy, my protagonist goes through some character-building tribulations that lead her to examine her young life and reassess what’s really important. She discovers something that’s been there all along. The grace of God.

Too easy? I wouldn’t call what she endured easy.

Another character in the book goes through a trial-by-fire, too. For him, it’s an adjustment that changes his life path. That change sets to right so many things, giving not only him, but his entire family a brighter future.

So, if you knew ahead of time that what you are asked to endure for the present will result in a better future for yourself and your family, would you submit? Read that scripture passage a few times, until the words penetrate your heart and mind. Until you gain understanding. Look it up in The Message Bible and read it again. Let the Word of God build you, refine you, until you’re ready. Ready for what?

Your answer will come. Wait for it–in alert expectancy.

If you have time, please visit today’s interview with Margaret Kazmierczak. She marooned me on a desert island. You’ll find it here —the interview, not the island— Coffee, life and encouragement on the island couch.