Once Upon a Time…

…four little words that deliver instant peace. Am I alone in this? Perhaps for me, they spur a pleasant, long-ago memory of being read to before sleeping.

As you can see in this photo, I’ve been reading for a long time.

This simple phrase opens a gateway into my imagination. Sleeping Beauty lies just beyond the gate, or Cinderella, Rapunzel, or Belle in Beauty and the Beast. As a child, I could easily imagine myself in one of those roles.

Once upon a time, I started a little story, having no idea where it would go. But writing it was fun and by the time I had mapped it out, the ending surprised me. I suppose that may be the reason I love to write. So, here is how it began:


Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a tiny house on a large hill. Her name was Adelaide Thornton, and every weekday morning at exactly seven-ten, she said goodbye to her mother and began the long walk down the large hill. She stopped at the mailbox, where she waited until exactly seven-twenty-five, when her school bus arrived.

She greeted Mr. Augustus, who always answered, “Mornin’ Addy,” and then she made her way to the fifth row and sat in the seat on the left. This particular seat was always empty as if someone was saving it for Adelaide.

Though the bus was already filled with youngsters, no one else spoke to Adelaide, or even acknowledged her. And she was okay with that.

She scooched over, sitting close to the window, which left plenty of room for someone else to sit, but there was never anyone there. At least, no one that anyone else could see, other than Adelaide.

On this early spring morning, the bus made an unexpected stop before continuing on its way. Adelaide watched the front as a new kid climbed the steps. He seemed to be about her age, but he was taller. He had scruffy red hair and lots of freckles.

His eyes searched the bus and then, to her chagrin, stopped on the empty seat beside Adelaide. The only empty seat on the crowded bus.

As he made his way down the aisle, Adelaide noticed that no one was talking. The kids on the bus had gone completely quiet, as though they waited to see what would happen when the new boy tried to sit next to “Crazy Addy.”

The boy stopped at the fourth row and stood looking at Adelaide. “Is it all right if I sit with you?”

She heard a whooshing sound, as though everyone on the bus gasped at the same moment. And then she heard a whisper, “He’s very polite. I like him. Let him sit with us.”

All she could do was nod.                                                                              

The boy smiled and sat down.

Adelaide scrunched over, even closer to the window, so there would be room for everyone.

The other children on the bus began to titter and chat, but Adelaide knew they were watching…and waiting…and wondering. She also noticed Mr. Augustus’ eyes on her in the rearview mirror. He gave her a smile and a nod before setting off.

As the bus rolled forward, Adelaide heard, “He’s new in town. You should tell him your name and ask his name.”

She frowned at the empty spot in the middle of the seat, where someone sat. Someone no one else could see, except for Adelaide. But what he had said made sense to her. After all, the boy did seem very polite and had asked her permission to sit.

She cleared her throat.

Again, the other children hushed.

Adelaide ignored them and focused on the new kid. “I’m Adelaide Thornton. What’s your name?”

The new kid looked at her. “Nice to meet you, Adelaide. I’m Matthew Sommers, but everyone calls me Rusty.” He ruffled his dark, red hair and grinned.

Adelaide smiled back at him. Rusty was not only polite, but he was kind of funny, too. No wonder her brother liked him.

Oh yes, her brother. Adelaide was a twin. Though her brother had only lived two days on this earth, he had never left her. Some folks thought she was nuts and that’s why they called her, “Crazy Addy.” Others, mostly older folks, smiled and said she had an invisible friend. Only Adelaide knew the truth. He might be invisible, but he was not just a friend. He was her twin brother, Paul.


To be continued… Click here for PART2

Energize Me!

How has it been a month already since I last posted on here? Where did the time go? Well, I’ve been typing away, working to finish that first book in a new series. It’s a different genre for me, so it brought along a learning curve. I ran into a few snags along the way. Toss in a pandemic, and a couple of serious medical dramas in the family…but I won’t bore you with those details. We have all had some life changes this year.

So, I’m really late in doing this: updating my calendar.

For some, replacing the old year’s calendar with the new one is enough to awaken their senses and renew their hope.

For me, it takes a little more planning and lots of coffee.

First, coffee, then planning…

Nothing inspires me like reading from the Bible everyday. I read, meditate, and pray. That’s my foundation. From that point on, the rest of the day seems to fall into place. Most of the time.

Setting goals is hard for me. I’m not really a planner and my writing style is “seat-of-the-pants” — I don’t always know where the story will lead, but I love to follow the trail.

Rabbit trails are my specialty.

However, a little structure helps guide me through my days. So, I usually jot down a list of things I hope to accomplish monthly, weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly. Drawing a line through an accomplished task is one of my favorite things!

I’m still working part-time, doing the bookkeeping for a small business. So, I’m always learning in order to keep up with the latest upgrades to the program they use. Not to mention the “t” word (taxes).

And then, I’m a writer. Like many other pursuits in life, writing requires constant work and study just to keep up with the basics.

For that, I receive newsletters and blog posts from some of the best teachers. I attend a local writers group monthly and try to attend one or two conferences each year. These are valuable for continuing education and connecting with other writers.

Other writers.

Yes, they are out there. This can also be challenging. I’ve learned that they are not as rare as they once were. Interaction with them takes skill and training. They speak a different language–it’s called book-speak. It includes acronyms like POV and SOTP. You have to learn the language to survive among them. If you join a group, it may be called a crit group. They express opinions about your writing and include things like IMHO and MOO.

You’re laughing, but it’s true.

Once again, I’ve headed down a rabbit trail. There are some important points I need to make here. In the coming weeks, I’ll wrench myself free of that deadline rabbit hole and get back into the habit of communicating with my readers. I know I’ve been threatening to do that, but I really mean it this time. 🙂

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my silly post. I hope this year is treating you well so far. There is hope out there. For some, it may be a tiny thread. For others, a full blown sunrise, flooding the horizon with gorgeous colors. For me, that’s the most energizing of sights, if I can drag myself out of my warm bed in time to observe it, fully armed with a cup of hot coffee and a fresh prayer for all of you. Joy comes in the morning! May your days be blessed. May God arise with healing in His wings for all of us.

To Learn a New Task

When changes come, I usually balk and declare, “I will never…”

No Way

But then I do. I adapt to the changes, (sigh) listen to tutorials, (sigh) study…whatever it takes to learn the new way of doing things.

Life is like that, even when you’re in your sixties. Always learning something new. Hey, it’s actually good for you. Keeps your brain active.

I’m feeling a little sheepish…

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

Michelangelo

So, here I am learning new things. I delayed it as long as possible and then life added more delays until I actually became anxious to get started.

A new path

It kind of sucks you in, doesn’t it? You want to see where it goes. In case you’re curious, I’m mostly talking about this new blogging experience, using those “blocks” to build my post. I balked at first. Didn’t like it at all.

So, I watched some tutorials and kind of got the hang of things. Now I’m kind of (sort of) having fun with it.

But that’s not the only new path these days. After heart surgery, my husband had to make some major changes to his diet and lifestyle. So, I’m learning to cook a new way. It really didn’t require a lot of work. We use a few different ingredients like healthier oils, herbs, and spices instead of salt, heavy on the veggies. We are both benefiting from the changes.

And then of course, there are these other things going on in the world. We’ve adapted to wearing masks everywhere. It’s really not that bad, I tell myself. I miss my visits with Mom. We have to communicate by phone for a while. Quarantines are not my favorite things.

But those are just things that come and go. All told, I’m doing well and hey–I’m writing! Yay! Getting back to it and looking for those illusive two words, “The End.” I hope to find them soon and then I’ll tell you all about it!

I am still learning.

Michelangelo
alarm, time, grass, red, green
It’s time to set your clock back. Sunday November 1

See The Need

Writing in a time of uncertainty can be therapeutic. Finding ways to express our deepest fears, our repressed sorrows, can heal us from the inside out.

I think of the stories, poetry, and songs written during the great wars, pandemics, and struggles of our past. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, is one of those, among many. I know my readers could name more.

“I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!”

– from the poem, Sympathy by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the inspiration for Maya Angelou’s biographical novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – one of my favorite books.

The Christy Family, 1937

I was thinking the other day of all the things my mother’s eyes have seen. She was born in the dust bowl, in the midst of the Great Depression. Her parents moved to Seattle where rain fell often enough to dispel the dust. Her mother could breathe again.

Mom was seven years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Fear hung over them as their society changed. Suddenly, their safe harbor seemed threatened. Would the enemy attack here, too? The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard scrambled to protect the vulnerable West coast.

The fear was real. Around her, the Japanese nationals were herded into internment camps to protect the general population. New words entered their vocabulary. Words like rationing and shortages. The face of the nation changed almost overnight. The sleeping giant had awakened.

And then Hiroshima.

Fast-forward to 1950 when the U.S. sent soldiers to help defend South Korea from North Korea. Mom gave birth to two children before the Korean War ended. I was the second born.

War, pestilence (polio and influenza), more wars and upheaval, happened over the next few decades. Our nation suffered a collective shock as we watched the scenes from Texas on television: our president was shot. We suffered a great loss that day.

I remember Vietnam. Many of my classmates were drafted or joined to avoid the draft. All the young men had draft cards. Some left, never to return. College campuses erupted in riots, protesting a war they felt we didn’t need to be involved in.

And then, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis. Another great loss amidst national shock. Riots erupted. Two months later, presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Rioting continued.

What kind of world was this?

What kind of world is this now? What does our future hold?

Will normal ever return? This is the question Mom recently asked me. I saw the weariness in her eyes. She’s tired. Sometimes, I am too.

It is becoming all too clear that many of our children and our children’s children know very little about the history of their nation. Is it not important to teach them these things? To help them understand why?

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. – Proverbs 2:1-5

Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom.

Ask and it will be given. The best place to start is here, in the Word of God. This is the most important history lesson of all.

I encourage you to consider teaching your children and grandchildren. Read them stories from our history. Help them gain an understanding of what is happening all around them. Help them find their footing in this sideways world.

Teach them the most important commandments: to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It’s a start, a new beginning. Baby steps? Perhaps, but moving forward. Our future depends on moving forward.

Will normal return? Yes, but it may not look like the old normal.

See the need and become part of the answer.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

 

It Truly Takes A Village to Raise a Debut Novel

By Jennifer Hallmark

When I began my writing journey in 2006, I thought of me and my computer tucked away in my study tapping away at the keys, only emerging to run to the bank to cash my royalty checks. Yes, I had a lot to learn. Though writing is a solitary endeavor, many people came by my side to help and influence me along the way.

I know I can’t name everyone or even try to because someone would be left out. So, I’ll talk about three ladies I love who had a part in seeing my dreams come true.

  1. Fay Lamb. I met Fay when she was the coordinator of the ACFW Scribes group. That’s the online critique group for the American Christian Fiction Writers. I didn’t really have a clue to what I was doing. After being in the big group for a while, she moved me to a small group and even did editing for me at no charge. She was my first real online writer pal and I am so thankful for her past mentoring and for being my friend to this day.
  2. Betty Thomason Owens. I met Betty in that first critique group and we became friends. Later, we joined with Christina Rich to start a blog for writers, a way to give back to the writing community. The blog, Inspired Prompt, has grown tremendously and much of that credit is due to Betty and Christina. I had ideas but sorely lacked technical skills. They helped me to learn so much. Betty and I have ridden to many conferences together and I consider her one of my best friends and a great influence on any writing success I have.
  3. Eva Marie Everson. When Firefly Southern Fiction first came on the scene a few years ago, I knew I wanted to write for them and Eva Marie Everson. I was able to meet her at the Catch the Wave Conference in Atlanta and sign up for every class she taught. I came to her with a raw story and she was interested enough to give me a chance to better it. She mentored me and I learned so much about writing and editing. And on June 17th, Jessie’s Hope was released into the world.

Influence. John Maxwell said that, “Leadership is influence.” These ladies to me are strong leaders and have influenced my life for the better.

Thank you.

 

Jennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and has published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations. Her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, released on June 17th, 2019.

When she isn’t babysitting or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on her two blogs.  She also loves reading detective fiction from the Golden Age and viewing movies like LOTR or Star Wars. Sometimes you can even catch her watching American Ninja Warrior.

www.jenniferhallmark.com

www.inspiredprompt.com 

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Jessie’s Hope

Years ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

June Blog Tour Giveaway Extravaganza

June 10th-June 30th

Prizes include:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  • Print copy of Jessie’s Hope
  • 2 Kindle copies of Jessie’s Hope

 Giveaway details: Go to my Rafflecopter Page to enter and possibly win one of five prizes to be drawn by Rafflecopter. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 1st. You can only enter by visiting my June blog tour from June 10th until June 30th. My visits include:

June 13thJennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud/

June 14thFavorite Friday Fiction/

June 15thInspired Prompt/

June 17thAuthor Trish Perry/

June 17thSouthern Writers Magazine

June 18thAuthor Liz Tolsma/

June 19thInspired Prompt/

June 21stSnark & Sensibility/

June 24thFear Warrior/

June 24thAuthor June Foster/

June 25thTrumpet Tuesdays/

June 26thSeriously Write/

June 27th Author Betty Thomason Owens

June 28thHeartfelt, Homespun fiction/

June 29thThe Write Conversation/