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Always The Same, New Every Morning.

Posted by on Jan 16, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

It is ever changing, the ocean. Yet, always the same. How incongruous.   From my vantage point twelve stories up, I watch. This time of year there aren’t many people out there, always less than ten. There’s the woman with her Irish setter. What a beautiful dog, even from here. They meander down the beach. A family with three teen agers stands on the edge of the water, huddled together in the cool morning air. Are they coming or going from the pancake house? They drift apart, each following his own thoughts and the element that has captured his interest until they come together again. For a picture.   The romantic couple walks hand in hand. They stand at the edge arms around each other and look out to sea. Are they just starting out? Are they here to rekindle their romance? Last ditch effort? No, these two don’t look like a last ditch effort. A woman races past them, her arms pumping. She is here for exercise. The elderly couple creeps along. No hurry. They have been here before. So many memories.   All day long I sit and watch the parade. Ever changing, yet always the same. Like the ocean.   Up the beach is a canyon of sorts. The storm drain at the next resort over has worn a path to the ocean. I first noticed it when the beach patrol pickup cruised right down to the water’s edge to avoid the crater. A river through the beach. That’s strange.   The sunrise this morning happened behind clouds so the show was delayed. An hour later the sun slithered its way out from behind the thinner clouds and a stream of light shot up through the clouds and down across the water where the beam of light made its own path, this time across the water and onto the beach. The cloud colors—not to be outdone—reflected off the water in the sand. The iridescence of the shallow water reminded me of the conch shell my daddy retrieved from the ocean in California. He came out drenched from head to toe, his hand triumphantly holding the shell overhead. That shell sat in our home and I could hear the ocean when I held it to my ear. Or was that shell really the one he rescued? Memories, real or how we remember them. I’ll have to ask today.   As the sun and water put on a spectacle, the birds get into the act. A line of black birds glides along the surf, barely skimming the top of the water. A perfect formation . . . almost. One, at the tail end can’t quite keep in line. He can’t fly straight. Must have missed his morning coffee. Either that or he’s a free spirit.   The sound of the waves breaking, always going in and out. Always the same. But, ever a different view. They remind me of God. Never changing. Always the same. But, no matter...

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Here, Let Me Show You . . .

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | 2 comments

Here, Let Me Show You . . .

What do my plans for the month, Mentoring Month, and you have in common? Let me tell you! I hear these questions often. “How do you write a book? How long does it take? Where do you get your ideas?” There are several questions here, but the bottom line is, “What is your process?”   I do my best to answer the specific question, but sometimes I can tell that the person asking would love a little more information. But telling someone how you do something in detail is a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?   This is National Mentor Month, something I didn’t know until I looked at my “National Day Calendar.” Who knew? Certainly, it seems that I have already had several opportunities to encourage beginning and young writers this year. I love it. It makes me happy to help someone who is just starting out, or maybe just needs a bit of encouragement. So, how can I celebrate National Mentor Month? God gave me an idea yesterday while on my way to Myrtle Beach for a working retreat. Yes, I will be at the beach for most of the next month to work on important projects. I have a list. A long one.   But, the number one item on the list—the priority—is to write the fifth mystery in the Double Cousins Mystery Series. I don’t have a title yet, but it will be set in North Platte, Nebraska, and I do have a pretty good idea of the plot! My goal is to go home with a completed manuscript, ready for my last-minute edits. During writing break times I’ll work on the rest of the list. So, what’s all of this about mentoring?   I would like to invite you along on this journey. There are many of you out there who love the Double Cousins. Some of you love writing.  You may be contemplating writing a book yourself. Now, I’m not here to say this is THE WAY to do it. I just want to share MY process and maybe you can gain a little information from it—and probably a whole lot of amusement!   So, if you are up for the experience, make sure you have “liked” my Double Cousins Mysteries (Ages 7-13) Facebook page because THAT is where the action will be. At least once a day, maybe several times, I’ll be journaling there about the process: the good, the bad, and the “what was I thinking!”   Some posts will be educational, some informational, some silly, and some probably mindless I’ve-been-writing-so-long-my-brain-is-fried. But, hopefully you can get a feel for what is involved. Here are a few possible  topics:   How I organize the project. How I stay focused. . . or not! How I work to overcome personal writing pitfalls. What happens when the story takes a turn I don’t expect. (It can happen, you know!) What I learn along the way about writing and editing. Things I pick up from writing books...

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Jasmine and the Christmas Card

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

It’s time to take down the decorations now that the Christmas season is over. Admittedly, at our house this year there aren’t many. I was more focused on getting things back in order after our crazy-busy Fall and didn’t really want to drag out the decorations. But, we had a wonderful Christmas. We enjoyed family on Christmas day, and we received a lot of cards in the mail.   I love receiving Christmas cards, but I’m not good at sending them—except to our friends, Paul and Chari. We really do try and get them a card every year. If we don’t, there are consequences. Well, not really consequences, but we might hear about it! And hear about. And did I say, hear about it!   So, this year we were early. In November we spent a couple of weeks in South Dakota and as usual we stayed with our friends, Paul and Chari. A couple of days before we left, we were at the store and happened into the card aisle.  Of course there were Christmas cards already on the shelf and one caught my eye. It had a cat on it. Chari likes cats. Paul—not so much. Hmmm.   You see, Paul loves Christmas cards and he wants lots of them. So we decided to get the card. After all, not only did it have a cat on it, the inside had action. Lots of it. When you opened the card there was a cat all rolled up in Christmas Lights and upon opening it the cat and lights started spinning and yowling! We hooted. It was perfect. It was also expensive enough we figured we could claim that it would make up for any years we have missed. Yep, it’s that kind of friendship.   So, before giving it to Paul and Chari, we decided to share it with my parents. First, Bruce handed it to Mom, who was sitting in her rocking chair. She opened it, jumped when the cat yowled, laughed and handed it back. Bruce took it over to Daddy and he opened it, jumped when the cat yowled—even though he knew what was coming. We all laughed and he handed it back to Bruce.   All of a sudden, out of nowhere came Jasmine, my sister’s cat. She growled, hissed, and attacked Bruce’s leg. This might look like a man, but she KNEW there was a cat in there somewhere and she wasn’t having any of that! She takes her job as “homeland security” very seriously.   It was kind of funny, but obviously Jasmine was VERY disturbed. Her fur stood straight out and her back was arched. She obviously thought there was a threat to her people and she was going to deal with it! She took quite awhile to settle down.   When Vonda came home from work we decided to show her the card. Mom and Daddy were gone, but Daddy had warned Vonda. “Make sure you go outside to...

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Batman and the Flip-Flop

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Batman and the Flip-Flop

This morning I took a pile of envelopes to the mailbox. They were long overdue thank-you notes. Wow! What a relief to get that “chore” done. Yet, it didn’t seem so much of a chore when I finally got started. After all, there is something very uplifting about writing a thank-you note. Not only are you doing the right thing, but the actual reviewing of what the recipient did for you can be very encouraging. After all, isn’t it amazing to remember kindnesses shown to you?   Thank you’s are also fun to receive. If nothing else, they are another communication with someone you care about. One of my thank-you notes was to my cousin who hosted us in her home in November. (I told you they were way overdue.) I threw in a fun comment as I was writing. I thanked her for the Batman Story. You see, not only did she provide us with a place to stay, she also provided me with an idea for a blog post! So, here it is.   Batman and the Flip-Flop   First off, you have to realize that my husband and I are not really cat people. Oh, cats like us all right. In fact, cats really seem to like my husband which annoys him. He believes they like him just to annoy him.   Batman, as you can imagine is a black cat. But, surprisingly, BatMAN is not a man. Batman is a dainty pretty female. This is because of an honest mistake on the part of the previous owner and once a cat has a name, why change it? Really. Who cares, right?   So, my cousin kindly gave us her room and moved upstairs to a single bed. We were grateful, but aware that Batman may see this as an intrusion into her domain. The evening was uneventful except for Batman’s insistence on personal space intrusion behaviors. This is what I call a cat using me as a walk path. I believe this to be a sign of a passive-aggressive feline.   Off to bed we all went, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I was just drifting off when I heard an exclamatory remark from my husband. I don’t remember now what word he used. It was probably “NO” but I do remember the tone. It was that “the cat just jumped from the floor to the bed landing right on top of me just as I was drifting off” tone.   I’m not absolutely sure Batman wasn’t as surprised as Bruce. After all, maybe Batman didn’t realize her owner was upstairs. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m pretty sure my cousin made sure the cats knew where she was. Uh-huh. Passive-aggressive.   So, Bruce bopped the intruder on the head and Batman made her exit from the bed. Bruce heard some sliding and skittering on the floor and then all was quiet. We slept.   My cousin...

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime!

Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins |

An Opportunity of a Lifetime!

  This week my daddy celebrated his eighty-third birthday. You might think that is really old! I understand. When I was a kid, I thought it was too. In fact, when he was 38 I told him in two years he would be an old man! Believe me, when I turned 38 he thoroughly enjoyed reminding me of my words. Sigh. A few years ago we sat down and I asked him a series of questions. I interviewed him. I wanted to hear his stories and boy, did I. I had warned him and he was ready. He even had a list of things he wanted to talk about. I typed it into the computer as he talked, and we taped it. So, now we have it. The memories of Marvin Jones. It was an opportunity of a lifetime! It’s a good thing because he recently had a stroke, and speech is very difficult for him. He wouldn’t be able to have that conversation today. Next week is Christmas. You will be seeing grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, maybe even great-grandparents. Now is your chance! Make a list of questions, let them know ahead of time what you would like to do, and then be ready to record what they say. Smart phones usually have a really great recording device and then it can be transferred to a computer and shared with the family. Here are my list of questions, but if you want more or different ones just google “questions to ask your elders” and you will get many sites with wonderful suggestions.   Have fun and get those memories down. You don’t have forever! Miriam’s list What is your first memory? What is the most important thing you learned from each of your parents? What was Christmas like? What is your favorite story that your dad would tell? What is your scariest memory from childhood? What was your favorite food that your mom made? What other memories stand out? What was the most important lesson you learned while in the military/college? What is the most important thing you would like your children and grandchildren to know? How did you meet your...

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A Dream Come True. . . Mostly

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

A Dream Come True. . . Mostly

Most of us have ONE place we think of when we are asked where we grew up. For some people, like my husband that place is still home since we live in the house he was born to and grew up in. It is really an awesome thing. For a preacher’s kid, I think I had a fairly stable childhood. I look at North Platte, Nebraska as my place, even though we only lived in that house 6 ½ years. It was the most consequential 6 ½ years of my life, by far, and when you are in grade school time does pass slower, doesn’t it? Have you ever gone back to your childhood home? I did last month and it was a dream come true. . . mostly! Because the next book in my Double Cousins Mystery series will be set in North Platte, we planned a side-trip through Nebraska on the way home. We pulled into North Platte about noon and the first place we stopped was the park, simply because we passed right by it on our way into town. There were three specific memories that popped into my head when we were there. First, were the peacocks. I loved seeing the males showing off all of their gorgeous colors. The peacocks were too far away for me to get pictures, but just the sight of them across the park sent the memory-picture shooting through my head. Memories are great that way. The second thing I remembered was the carousel and the cotton candy. Of course, in November there wasn’t any action there, but once again, just the location brought back all of the sounds, smells, and sights of an afternoon at the park. We stopped and I pointed out the area where I remember having church picnics. Picnics where the women threw rolling pins, the kids had gunny sack races, and the men. . . I don’t remember what the men did. Any childhood friends remember? After that, we drove around town a bit and then ate at Wendy’s. That part of town has changed so much I didn’t recognize anything. Even the big old hospital appears to be gone. It was kind of sad. But, we forged onward to the part I was most looking forward to. That morning as I was waking up, I had one of those dreams. The ones where you are half awake, half sleeping. I thought, “What if when we get to my childhood home it is for sale and I can go inside and see what it looks like?” Then the dream part started, because I bought it. Believe me; I do not need to buy a house in Nebraska! So, when we pulled up to the house and I saw the for sale sign (FOR REAL-NO KIDDING) I was a little taken-aback. Whoa! We parked beside the house. There was much activity going on. A man was blowing the leaves from the side yard. Another man was...

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Remember and Be Glad. . . My Choice

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Remember and Be Glad. . . My Choice

We visited an outlet store the other day. They advertised a free coffee mug if you purchased $30.00 of items. I wasn’t there to buy. I was there to see about a book signing. But, the more I walked around the store, the more Christmas sales I found. I ended up with a mug. It has the verse Psalm 118:24 on it. Christmas is everywhere these day; stores, work, home, church. If you are a Scrooge, it isn’t a good time of year for you. Or, if you’ve recently lost a family member. Or maybe, it is the first holiday season since your loved one passed. Either way, it is difficult. As a nurse, I’ve seen it many times. I know this first-hand, too.   November 23rd was the due date eight years ago of our unborn child. It seems like every eight-year-old child I see this year is cuter than cute. December 2nd was the 85th anniversary of marriage of George and Mildred Jones, my grandparents. It was also the 18th anniversary of the day Grandma McKnight went to heaven. December 7th is remembered as Pearl Harbor Day. But, for me it is remembered as the day Grandpa McKnight followed Grandma to heaven. Next month there are more such anniversaries, ones that I note. Every. Single. Year.   So, what are we to do? What would my mother and grandparents want me to do? Would they be thankful if I spent the day moping around and feeling sorry for myself? I think not. Yet, that can be a real temptation. Sometimes, the loss just reaches out and grabs me by the neck and squeezes. It comes at the strangest moments.   Maybe it is when the girl’s choir lines the walls of the church and raises their voices in praise to the Lord. I glance at my husband, his eyes shut, head moving slightly to the music, a look of joy and peace on his face and I am reminded of the look on Grandpa McKnight’s face when he heard glorious music. Of course, the pew would have been shaking from his laugh-cry if it had been Grandpa.   Maybe it’s when looking at an adult coloring book of Psalms and I flashback to memories of Grandma McKnight listening to us recite Psalms to her.   Or, maybe it is in a patient’s room when the old man in the bed is watching episode after episode of westerns. I stand there, holding my breath. Will Matt Dillon save Miss Kitty? And, why didn’t they ever get married anyway? Then, in my mind I see Grandpa Jones sitting on his couch watching his favorite show. My eyes burn.   Or maybe, when my husband opens the shades in the kitchen to let in the morning sun and sings, “Sunshine in her window, makes Miriam happy. . .” and I remember just how much Grandma Jones loved John Denver.   Or even when the eight-year-old young lady and her daddy...

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Rolls, Muffins, Cookies, and Bread. . .

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins |

Rolls, Muffins, Cookies, and Bread. . .

In the Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Rushmore Treasure, Chad makes up a chant to help sell items at a bake sale held to save Mr. Crosby’s store. It goes like this:   Rolls, muffins, cookies, and bread. Help keep the water off Mr. Crosby’s head. Stop and get yours before the bake sale is dead. Rolls, muffins, cookies, and bread.   When my sister-in-law read it out loud to her children, my youngest nephew, then six got a huge kick out of the chant. He walked around saying it over and over. His brothers picked up on it and it mutated to:   Rolls, muffins, cookies, and bread. Make Aunt Miriam famous before she is dead! I thought it was hilarious. Evidently Chad is the favorite cousin in some circles because he is so funny. My source said this: “He gets all the good lines.”   Last month we had an opportunity to once again celebrate rolls, muffins, cookies, and bread. Well, at least cookies and bread! When planning the book launch party for the most recent mystery, The Double Cousins and the Mystery of Custer’s Gold, my husband and I decided to use recipes from the different nationalities who immigrated to Nemo, South Dakota during the Sawmill era.   The countries represented were Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, French Canada, Ireland, and America. We sent out a message to friends, looked online and came up with cookies, Irish soda bread, potato candy, zucchini bread, brownies, and Swedish rosettes, among others. My husband made flags for each country and a label for each cookie. I enjoyed watching people gather around the table and discuss the different cookies. It ended up being a highlight of the event. I believe the favorites were the potato candy and the Norwegian pepper cookies. The prettiest, by far, were the rosettes.   The only thing missing from the day was a real visit from Chad. I would love to hear what he had to say about that table of food!   Cookies and bread, Chad would have said. To promote the book, whatever it took, to plant a rhyme in their head, using cookies and bread.   Today, I want to share the recipe for potato candy. After all, it really won the award for the most unique! Old Fashioned Potato Candy  1 small potato  2 pounds confectioner’s sugar   Peanut butter Peel and slice potato. In small sauce pot, cover with water and cook until soft. Drain potato and place in mixing bowl. Mash potato. Add ½ sugar and mix well. Mix in remaining sugar, scraping down sides as needed. Line countertop with waxed paper dusted with powdered sugar. Place dough on wax paper and dust with sugar. Roll out to ¼ inch thick. Spread dough with peanut butter. Roll up like cinnamon rolls into a log. Roll up in the waxed paper. Cut it in half. Place in ziplock bag. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Then remove waxed paper and slice...

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A Memory-Building Detour – Creating, Reviewing, Protecting Legacy!

Posted by on Nov 29, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

A Memory-Building Detour – Creating, Reviewing, Protecting Legacy!

Today I struggled to come out of a fog. I had a nap—longer than I intended. I bolstered myself with a touch more caffeine. Still, I needed something. So, I put on some baroque music and the constantly moving lines of the pieces start to wake up my brain. On the counter I spotted the tea cups I brought home with me from our recent trip. Ah, yes. A cup of tea. Just the thing. I smiled as I poured the water over the tea bag. This cup will always be a special memory of our detour to see cousins.   Usually, when we come home from South Dakota we shoot east and drop down through Chicago, or at Sioux Falls drop down to Kansas City. This time we chose to come back through Nebraska and Kansas.   In Nebraska I had two goals; the first was a stop in North Platte to research the next Double Cousins mystery. The other was a visit with my cousin Gordon and his wife Jan at their ranch. Something about that ranch fills a hole in my heart. The hole left when Grandpa moved off the ranch? Maybe. The hole left when Grandpa died? I’m not sure. But what I know is that their hospitality is a challenge and a blessing to me each time I am there. Their love for the stories of our elders, the details of the history of our family, and determination to leave a godly legacy for the children remind me so much of Grandpa and Grandma Jones. And, well . . . there is the fact that Gordon is a horse man, through and through, just like Grandpa, AND the fact that his ranch is right in the place that Grandpa loved more than any other, the Sandhills of Nebraska. We stayed at their home one night.   First we met in Gordon, NE, for pizza before Jan went to work the night shift at the hospital where she is a nurse. (Yes, my cousin Gordon lives outside of Gordon, Nebraska—how cool is that?)  While Jan worked, Gordon, Bruce, and I spent the evening talking about family history:  Gordon found another barn built by our great-grandpa Jones, memories of our grandparents, Grandma’s ability to do what she wanted without making a scene, and the project at hand, the re-publishing of Grandpa Jones’ books. By the time Jan got home in the morning, Gordon had decided he needed to get on the road with some cattle he was moving. A storm was coming. We ate a quick breakfast—delicious cinnamon buns—and Gordon was out the door, a bit ahead of us.   A quick visit, but what great memories. I wish I had taken a picture of Gordon and Bruce talking politics the night before, but I didn’t . You’ll have to imagine that! From there we drove to North Platte where I lived as a child and where Carly, one of the “double cousins”, lives with her...

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Of M&M’s and World Peace

Posted by on Nov 22, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Of M&M’s and World Peace

Recently I was challenged to take time to evaluate just what my heart desires. Not just the big things like world peace. All of it. From M&M’s clear up to. . . yes, world peace. So, I thought about it and made a list. I want nothing bad to ever happen to my loved ones again. I want to sit in bed and eat M&M’s, ice cream, and watch old movies all day. (Without gaining weight) I want a library that holds all of my books. I want my house in perfect order. A place for everything and everything in its place. And when I put something down instead of putting it away, I want it to go back to its place. God can do that, right? I want my books to sell like wildfire. I want every shift at work to be an easy day with lovely patients who get well and go home. I want to be in control at all times. I want my foot to work again. I want all of the people I love to follow Jesus as they should. I want to always do God’s will and never be grouchy. I want to be the perfect wife. Oh, and besides all of that, I want world peace. . . I could go on and on. But, you get the idea. I am a control freak. But, then I realized. Much of what I am longing for; no pain, no sin, no sorrow, complete order, it will happen someday. But, that is called heaven. And, how about here on earth? What would happen if I never had trials, problems, challenges, or failures? Besides the fact that I would be morbidly obese from eating all of those M&M’s and ice cream, I would be immature and shallow. I would have no character. For, it is in the challenges and the trials that our character is developed. So, maybe those desires are fun to dream and laugh about. But, when you look at the end result (consequences) of getting all of those dreams, maybe just maybe that isn’t what I want. Maybe what I need to be focusing on as my desires are those things God says HE wants to see in me. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  Galatians...

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Someone’s Example, Someone’s Hero

Posted by on Nov 18, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Someone’s Example, Someone’s Hero

  I Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Have you ever noticed that no matter your age, someone is always looking up to you? Who do you look up to or admire? I bet if you made a list it would include older siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, parents, grandparents, sports figures, teachers, and even your Pastor. What do all of these people have in common? For the most part, I would say they are older than you! It is normal for us to admire and look up to those who are older than us. Elementary kids look up to the teenagers in their church and school. They want to be just like them. They hope to attain that status soon. Similarly, the teenagers look up to college students, college students to young parents, and young parents look up to older adults. Where does this leave you? Say you are ten years old.  Does it matter what you do? After all, you’re just a kid. No one would look up to you! But wait, hold your horses! What about those younger kids, you know the ones? The little kindergarten, first, and second graders that hang around and get in your way? The ones that annoy you until you think you will scream!? Why don’t they just go play with their friends and leave you alone? Here’s why. They look up to you. They admire you. They want to be just like you when they are ten. Gulp! That’s right. They are watching you, imitating you, learning how to behave from you. So, when you are tempted to fudge the rules, think! Who (besides God) is watching me? Who am I influencing? Believe it or not, you are someone’s example. Someone’s hero. Be a good...

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The (Music) Doctor is In!

Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

The (Music) Doctor is In!

  Everyone has their own way of doing therapy. At least everyone should! For some people it is exercise or team sports. Not me. For some people it is shopping! That’s not me either. Some people cook and eat. Yes, I am probably guilty of that, but that is a different blog. Some people read. Check. Some people use music. . . Bingo! That is me.   When I get frustrated or sad, the best (nonfattening) way I can deal with it is to sit at the piano and play. I’ll pull out a classical book and play a few simple pieces. I’ll play through a book one piano teacher insisted I buy if I wanted to take lessons from her. I resisted, but those pieces speak to me. I pound out the hymns in the hymn book that express God’s might and power. Sometimes, I pull out hymn arrangement books and play pieces I learned in the past.   My mom said she could tell what mood I was in by how I played the piano. It is my best therapy. I love playing for church. I am not the most talented or accomplished pianist, but I have developed a unique style over the years. I play a lot by ear, but can read notes. I use a lot of broken cords in my accompaniment and I like to alternate octaves to add variety.  There is probably a technical term for how I play, but I don’t know it.   Before I was married, our church in South Dakota hosted a Singspiration for area churches every few months. Often a young girl would come up and ask me if I could show her how to play like I do. I was always at a loss. It is just how I play. I did eventually figure out the broken chord thing and I would share that with her. Hopefully, it was helpful.   This started me wondering. How did I get this style? Where did it come from?   The other day, I sat down to play. I felt like playing some of the hymn arrangements I have learned over the years so I pulled the first book out of the pile. Wow! It had been years since I first played from that book, nondescript cover, worn by years of use. Then it hit me. This was the first real live hymn arrangement book I ever used.   I remembered how daunting the pieces seemed when I first opened the book. They were way beyond my ability. But, taking on the challenge I learned the pieces measure by measure, line by line, until I knew it. If a section was just too over the top difficult, I made up my own little arrangement using a similar style to the rest of the piece. I improvised. I started playing through it, piece after piece. My fingers stumbled in spots that I once played by heart. It had been too long. But,...

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Recording Stories-From Every Day To Extraordinary

Posted by on Nov 12, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

Recording Stories-From Every Day To Extraordinary

Recently I visited a school in Greenville. While I spoke with one class, I saw the principal come in and stand in the back of the room. I was at the point in my presentation where I discuss the concept of “Write What You Know.”   In this section, I share how I decided to write a chapter book about my experiences with my siblings and cousins on Grandpa Jones’ ranch rather than a picture book about Grandpa’s experiences because I learned you are to write what you know. Then I showed them pictures from our days at the ranch in the 1970’s. I saw her lean over and say something to one of the professors. After the session the principal came up and introduced herself. She commented on the presentation. “Your story about the ranch brought back memories to me,” she said. “But not about a ranch. My memories were growing up in a mortuary!” She went on to explain that her grandpa ran a mortuary business, and she grew up on the grounds. Her memories were of funerals, grieving families, her hairdresser aunt doing the hair, and hearing the stories of the lives people lived. She pointed out that a lot of people think it is a sad business, but she said her grandpa always felt honored to hear the stories people tell at funerals. He always heard the best things about people. I encouraged her to write down the stories from her childhood. An unusual childhood, certainly, but so very interesting to this storyteller. A few days later I had the opportunity to swap stories with two good friends. My mouth dropped open several times, I’m sure. These two have some incredible family stories. “You need to write those down,” I said, several times. I think I am becoming a broken record.   You see, as more people share their stories with me, I am convinced more and more of the absolute necessity to record our stories. Our culture is hurting for historic perspective. We are so wrapped in the here and now, we don’t stop to learn from the past. And you know what they say about that, don’t you? Here is the quote:   “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905 This is often attributed to Churchill, but it appears it was first said by Mr. Santayana. Whoever said it first, it is true. It also reminds me of this verse in the Bible: Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. So, start today! Write down your stories. They don’t have to be incredible. The every day can become extraordinary with the perspective of...

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Hook, Line, and Sinker—What Hooked You?

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 4 comments

Hook, Line, and Sinker—What Hooked You?

  My publisher recently posted this meme on Facebook and it started me thinking. What was the first series of books that got me interested in reading? Was it a series? Or, was it an individual book? My husband said he felt it was the Hardy Boy’s Mysteries for him. I guess if I had to pick a series it would be Trixie Belden Mysteries, but that was long after I started reading. The truth is, I don’t remember not reading. Books are such a huge part of my life. But, there are some books that make me draw in a breath when I find them. The other day we were in a bookstore in Columbia, South Carolina. The book that jumped into my hands and wouldn’t let me put it down was The All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. It was paperback and had a great colored picture on the cover, but the way I remember it is as a hardback maroon book with a pebbly feel to the cover. I think there might have been the outline of some girls on the front. The title took me right back to my childhood. This was one of my favorite books, and the truth was there were two more in the series. So, maybe it was this series that piqued my interest. I bought it and I read it again the other night. I didn’t remember much of the story. It is set in New York and the family is Jewish. There are many traditions different from mine. The time period is the early 1900’s, and as I read it I realized that these girls were from Grandma Jones’ era. A connection.   My shelves are like walking down memory lane. Whenever I find books from my childhood I buy them. The Little House On the Prairie were favorites. I loved and still love The Trolley Car Family, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan. I read anything I could by Lois Lenski. She had an entire series of books about different children living in different parts of the country. It was social studies in a series.   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was possibly my favorite book as a child. However, I read it from the Reader’s Digest Condensed books for children that we received as gifts from our grandparents, and I’m telling you that the unabridged book has parts that were NOT in the book I knew and loved. I loved the main character, Francie. Even today, when I want to relax I get some candy or some crackers, a little treat. I put them in a special dish and get an ice-cold drink. I go out to my porch—the closest thing I have to a fire escape—and I read. I read and I watch the neighbors. Just like Francie Nolan.   It struck me the other day, both All of A Kind Family and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn take place in New...

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Reporter Max. . . Interrupting Regular Programming

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins |

Reporter Max. . . Interrupting Regular Programming

Hi! This is Max Rawson and I know I am interrupting the regular blog programming schedule, but I wanted to make sure you are aware of the opportunities this weekend. FIRST: This one is for EVERYONE! Today and tomorrow, only our newest adventure is only 99 cents on Kindle! WOWZERS! The author also tells me that she noticed ALL of the other Double Cousins Mysteries were also 99 cents on Kindle! Get the whole set. SECOND: THIS SATURDAY, as in tomorrow, at Nemo, South Dakota the author is hosting a launch party for our newest mystery. It is set in Nemo. I hope to see you there. (You won’t see me as I reside securely in “The Author’s” imagination.) You will, however, spot some of the real live Double Cousins. There will be door prizes, a self-guided tour of Nemo, lots of good cookies from all over the world-just like the immigrants to Nemo-and a fun, informative program from 2-3 p.m. Come a bit before the program or stay after the program. The event lasts from 1-4 p.m. and is at the restaurant in Nemo, which is a really cool place! THIRD: Sunday Afternoon – from 3-4 p.m. the author will be speaking about the writing process and the Double Cousins Mysteries. She will also be signing books! This will be a blast for families. (And educational too. . . just thought I would slip  that in for the parents.) Hope to “see” you there too. This ends the interruption to our normal blogging schedule. Thank you, and goodby! Max Rawson of The Double Cousins...

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Keep Your Eyes On The Line!

Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins |

Keep Your Eyes On The Line!

Keep Your Eye On The Line!   “How much further to Cade’s Cove, Dad?” Bryce leaned as far forward as his seatbelt would allow. May Lynn looked up from her book, waiting to hear their dad’s response. Bryce and May Lynn had been looking forward to this trip to Tennessee for several weeks.   Mr. Neely glanced into the rear view mirror. “A little over an hour, I think. We’re just getting to The Gorge.”   “What’s The Gorge?” May Lynn asked.   “You’ll see,” he said. “It’s the road they built through the Pigeon River Gorge between North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s windy, narrow, and steep. It’s a lot of fun.”   May Lynn covered her face with her book. Bryce grinned. “Sounds fun to me.”   “Tell me when it’s over,” May Lynn said   Soon the curves came more often and were tighter. Bryce could tell they were entering the gorge. Semi trucks lined the right lane and Mr. Neely carefully navigated around them. Bryce found himself leaning toward the middle of the car and away from the trucks as they passed.   May Lynn grinned at him. “Dad, I think Bryce is a little nervous.”   “Why is that?”   “He’s leaning toward me whenever we pass a semi.”   Mrs. Neely turned around and smiled at them. “I don’t blame him. It made me nervous too until your dad explained how he does it.”   Mr. Neely nodded. “See, I keep my eyes on that outside yellow line as I pass. That’s where I keep my focus. That way I don’t wander into the truck.”   “But what if the truck comes toward you?” Bryce bit his lip. This was freaky.   “Good question, Bryce.” Mr. Neely held the steering wheel with both hands and his eyes never left the road. “My focus is on the yellow line, but out of the corner of my eye I watch the truck.”   Bryce relaxed. “That makes a lot of sense.”   Mrs. Neely tilted her head to one side. “You know, life is like that in a lot of ways. You need to keep your focus on God and pointed ahead, toward the goal, not on the world and all of the things going on around you.”   May Lynn piped up. “So, that way you don’t get sucked in by the bad stuff and start worrying.”   “Right,” her mother said. “You have to be aware of the dangers and what is around you, but you sure don’t want that to be your focus.”   Mr. Neely let out a big sigh. “Whew, I think I’ve managed to get around that long string of trucks. Oh, look here is a tunnel.”   “Honk the horn, Dad,” Bryce said.   Mr. Neely glanced back at his son. “That’s just what I was thinking, Bryce. Tell me when!”   May Lynn and Bryce looked at each other and at the same moment they called, “Now!”  ...

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