Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We viewed some truly beautiful carousels like the one pictured on the right. It’s a 1924 Denzel/Muller carousel that was completely restored in 2008 and is located in the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia—a wonderful children’s museum that provides hours of pleasure to families. Then we saw some carousels that need lots of TLC—like the one at the lower left. You can see the outside horse needs lots of work while the one in the middle has been been restored. Quite a difference! The National Carousel Association offers grants to help restore many of these carousels. We stopped in Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, Pennsylvania where we rode a 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Company frame with Ed Roth carvings. Ed Roth is considered one of the finest contemporary carousel carvers in the world, and he attended this year's convention.
I think my most enjoyable event was a trip to Pottstown, Pennsylvania where the community came together to purchase a PTC (Philadelphia Toboggan Company) frame and commissioned Ed Roth to carve all of the animals. The animals are currently being completed and anticipation is growing in the community where this carousel will help bring revitalization to the downtown. Among the ones we viewed was this goat that is still awaiting paint. Isn't the carving detail gorgeous?
Once again, God was with me in the details. At the conclusion of the conference, I had books that needed to be shipped back home. When the hotel informed me they didn’t provide mailing service except for the FedEx small mailers, I wasn’t certain what I would do. I didn’t have a car to take the books to the post office or UPS—besides it was Sunday and the post office wasn’t open and neither was any UPS office in the nearby vicinity. Fortunately, a sweet 84-year-old lady who had befriended me at the convention said she would take the boxes in her car and mail them to me when she arrived home—about thirty miles from the site of the convention. Her sweet, generous spirit blessed me, but I worried about the heavy boxes. She grinned and said, “Don’t worry, Judy. I’ll find some young, good looking man to lift those boxes. Just you wait and see.” When we parted, she promised she wouldn’t lift the boxes even if she had to wait several weeks to send them to me.
When I talked to her last night, she said, “Oh, Judy, you’ll never guess what happened. I went into the post office and sure enough, there was a young man and his ten-year-old son who offered to carry those boxes for me.” She giggled and then said, “I gave each one of them a kiss on the cheek for helping me.” This is a picture of Eurla, one of the dearest ladies I’ve ever met, and she rode those carousels like a champ. The only time she had trouble was when she rode one of the cats. When she tried to dismount, her shoe kept catching on the cat’s tail. I’m not sure how we finally got her off there, but we did—and it didn’t deter her from getting onto one of the goats. She laughed as she got on board and said, “I shouldn’t get stuck on this one.” And she didn’t!! Throughout the conference Eurla exhibited a genuine example of Christian love toward everyone she met. I am truly thankful I had the opportunity to meet this sweet lady.
May you find joy as you exhibit Christ’s love to others. ~Judy
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
HOW I GOT INTO WESTERNS
How One Writer Picked His Genre
By Stephen Bly
Folks often ask me if I always wanted to grow up and write books about cowboys. Nope. Not me. I never wanted to be a writer. But I did grow up on a large farm in the fertile CA San Joaquin Valley and wanted to be a cowboy. I had Roy Rogers PJs and curtains and a plastic statue of trigger on my dresser.
However, as a lad, I only read a few western novels. My aunt and uncle had a box of dusty dime novels in a room next to their garage. I’d go to sleep reading them when I got a chance.
Not much different than kids in the Old West. They had dime novels then too. Most were written by men who had never gone west. They invented many of the clichés and stereotypes that linger today. Think of them as old time supermarket tabloids and you get the picture.
But what really caught my fancy was history. I liked the nonfiction accounts of life in the Old West. I learned to grab all the University of Oklahoma and University of Nebraska titles that I could find.
After I married and started raising kids of my own, I developed a taste for very black, boiled coffee, the kind I could almost feel the coffee grounds strain between my teeth. I bought some corrals and learned how to ride and care for horses. I read lots of western fiction too.
One birthday my mother gave me some Zane Grey stories. Then, I picked up novels by B. M. Bower, Owen Wister, Will James, Luke Short, Ernest Haycock, Elmer Kelton, Vardis Fisher and, of course, Louis L’Amour. Somewhere in the middle of the 63rd L’Amour book, the idea struck me . . . I can write one of these. By then, I had a dozen nonfiction books to my published credit, so I knew I could fill the pages. But I didn’t know if I could spin a tale people would want to read.
Meanwhile, I’ve traveled down most every highway and unpaved side road in all eleven western states.
I thought through interesting sidekicks. In a western movie, theme music can move the story along. In a western novel, without a partner for your protagonist, you’re forced to use a lot of interior monologue…or he or she talks to a horse. I’ve even included a burro and a moose…and a saddle…as a sort of sidekick to converse with in my novels. But a human compadre is also essential.
I researched all the possible rustic Old West settings possible…places like cabins, saloons, dance halls, jails, hotels, cafes, sandbars. In my newest release, Creede of Old Montana, a whole episode happens inside an outhouse.
But back to western numero uno…one summer wife Janet and I and our youngest son camped in the Beartooth mountains, south of Red Lodge, Montana. I took along an old typewriter and wrote my first western novel, called The Land Tamers. Since I had no idea if I’d ever have the chance to write another, I tried to pack every scene I ever wanted to write in that one book. An editor from Tyndale commented that it moved about as fast as the movie, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. She meant it as a critique. I took it as a compliment.
As it turned out, that was just one of many tales I was allowed to publish. I haven’t run out of ideas yet.
Christy Award winning Stephen Bly’s newest release is Creede of Old Montana, available October 1, 2009. It's a hardback version published by Centerpoint Publishing/Thorndike Press in print large enough for anyone to read. Order through your local quality bookstore, favorite online book outlet, public library, or www.BlyBooks.com
Follow the Blys at www.twitter.com/BlyBooks
Friday, September 25, 2009
As you read this, I'll be boarding the Zaandam for Alaska. This is a fun business trip that family just happens to be tagging along on. My mother and sister have reserved a cabin, as have my aunt and her sons. Jim and I will round out the adventure. We're taking books to Sitka where I will sign them. I'll be speaking with several people about other Alaska series ideas, and touring a history museum in Juneau just to name a few things. I also plan to get a lot of writing done on the ship. I told my husband, if I experience writer's block and need to check into a hotel somewhere - I think I'll make it one of Holland America's ships.
We will see a lot of other familiar sites while on this trip. We head to Glacier Bay first thing and while there a US Wildlife and Parks Ranger will come on board. These people are fascinating to talk to. I always learn so much and get such neat information for stories.
We will also head to Juneau and enjoy the museum there, as well as touch base with a couple of folks who have been good to give me research information. Jim will probably bury himself in the museum where he'll be researching for me.
Sitka is next, then Ketchikan. Ketchikan is a fun little town. There will be lots of shopping for the travelers, but I like to experience the forests and learn about the vegetation and native people. We will definitely have fun researching and learning.
Last but not least is Victoria, BC. But I'll save that for next week as I love this little town and have enjoyed spending time there before with authors Judith Miller and Cathy Marie Hake. We had a marvelous time brainstorming on our booktour in Canada a couple of years ago.
I think I hear the ship's whistle blasting for us to leave!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
When the opening session ended, Connie received a steady stream of hugs and congratulations from ACFW members. Very, very heart-warming. I think that's the nicest part of being in Christian fiction. Because we all have the same goal--glorifying God through the telling of stories--we aren't in competition as much as we're all a part of one big support group. Witnessing so many writers--some wannabe, some published--offering their sincere congratulations to Connie was so touching.
Watching Connie's overwhelming excitement carried me back to March of 2005, when an email from Tracie Peterson (that's the two of us at conference this year) arrived in the middle of the day (actually in the middle of Parent-Teacher conferences!) to tell me she was contracting Dear John for the Heartsong Presents line at Barbour. After years of writing, honing my craft, praying, hoping, and waiting...my first contract. I will never forget the thrill of that moment. In my "special file," I have a copy of the email messages that flooded my inbox, congratulating me and sharing in my joy.
Deut. 26:10 advises "...rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family..." Christian brothers and sisters make up the Family of God. I believe our Father smiles in approval when we rejoice over the good things happening to one another. As the song goes, "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God!" And if you know Connie, send her a note of congratulations!
May God bless you muchly as you journey with Him! ~Kim
Crit Group 14 surrounding Connie with our support (she's on the phone with her husband).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
In anticipation of the event, one of the coordinators emailed to let us know that rain was expected in the area on two of the days we’d be there. She went on to say that we need not pack umbrellas as we’d be receiving an umbrella with the convention logo as one of our gifts. I was delighted. It seems I’m always forgetting my umbrellas, but you can bet I’ll do my best to hang onto this one. She also sent along a couple of photographs from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company that I’ve posted for you to see. Aren’t these wonderful? They didn't have a date, but I'm guessing they were taken around 1910. I loved seeing the painters in the picture on the right. Seems so strange to see men in a white shirt, tie and canvas apron while they performed their duties in a factory. Times have certainly changed. There will be a visit to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company archive center, but I won’t get to go since they scheduled that visit for yesterday and I’d already made my plane reservations. A visit to Hershey Park is on the schedule, and you know I won’t miss that! The buses depart each morning before 8:00 a.m., so the days will be full of lots of fun and new friends. At least I plan to make those people into my friends whether they like it or not. LOL. So hang onto that brass ring for another week. Once I return, I'll share what I've learned--whether you want to hear it or not! :)
I hope the remainder of your week is filled with joy as you discover what new fun and friends God has in store for you. ~Judy
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
- Bring good news to the afflicted
- Bind up the brokenhearted
- Proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners
- Comfort all who mourn
- Repair the ruined cities
Friday, September 18, 2009
This year's conference will include
keynote speaker Debbie MacComber
It's been a lot of fun being a part of ACFW and this year my husband Jim and I are teaching
the new authors continuing session. I love working with this group. New authors are like sponges. They want to learn and absorb everything they can. They are hungry to hear what experienced authors, agents and editors have to say.
It reminds me of when a person first gets saved. They are hungry for the Word of God and for the spiritual understanding of those who are more experienced. They seek out the Lord and work hard to line up with His guidelines.
As the years go by, as with experienced authors, we can take things for granted. We can stop worrying so much about learning. We can think we know it all or that there's nothing new to experience and see. We can even become prima donnas as authors and as Christians.
For me, I like to come and sit in the beginning classes and see the wonder and feel the excitement of those who haven't yet seen and done it all. I learn new things all the time from those who are seeing things for the first time. It's my way of keeping "new eyes" for familiar things.
I pray, as Paul did in Ephesians 1:18 - that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened
Thursday, September 17, 2009
You can imagine my surprise, then, when no editor expressed interest in my proposals. One editor even went so far as to say there really wasn't a place in today's market for "gentle stories of hope." I spent that weekend in a real state of despair. Physically, I was in a tremendous amount of pain due to the change in altitude; emotionally, I was so confused. Why had God gone to so much trouble to get me here only to let me down?
After the closing worship service, I met up with a dear woman named Ruth who insisted that I allow her daughter to pray for me. Her daughter is Brandilyn Collins, a wonderful Christian author and beautiful, vivacious woman. To be honest, I didn't want to bother Brandilyn. But I also didn't want to hurt Ruth's feelings, so I agreed to meet Brandilyn in the room set aside by the hotel for prayer.
And God met me there.
During that prayer session, He reached down and stripped away an emotional burden I had carried from childhood. When I left the prayer room, for the first time since I was a little girl, I had no stomach pain. However, my joint pain and dizziness were horrible--the worst they'd been all weekend. Despite that, I couldn't stop praising God for the healing He'd brought to my soul.
I came to Denver five years ago expecting a publishing contract; what I received was much, much bigger--and much longer-lasting--than seeing my name on a book. What wonderful gifts He bestows on His children! Thank You, Lord, for making me whole!
May God bless you muchly as you journey with Him! ~Kim
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
With that thought in mind, I glanced through one of my books titled The Essential Handbook of Victoria Etiquette and thought I’d share a few of the revelations I discovered. Even though I think we need a return to civility, you’ll notice I do have a few objections to some of these rules.
The following is from the section titled: Behavior to be Avoided at the Table
1) Never allow butter, soup or other food to remain on your whiskers. (I assume this is for the men, but as I grow older, I’ve developed an occasional “whisker” of my own, so it might be for women, too.)
2) Never wear gloves at the table, unless your hands for some special reason are unfit to be seen. (This would be for those of you who might spend time working in the flower garden—that would not be me.)
3) Never, when serving others, overload the plate nor force upon them delicacies which they decline. (Aw, come on—I MIGHT say I don’t want another scoop of ice cream, but are you really going to believe me?)
4) Never make a display removing hair, insects, or other disagreeable things from your food. Place them quietly under the edge of your plate. (Hmmm. I don’t think I agree with this one. My objection to finding any of those items in my food would be loud and clear.)
5) Do not pick up your plate and lick it clean. (Boy, those Victorians sure knew how to ruin a good time, didn’t they?)
Although many of the rules of the Victorian era are antiquated and far too formal, I’m beginning to think we’ve come a little too far with our lack of manners and lack of common courtesy. That said, I’ll jump off my soapbox and get back to plotting my book.
May you find joy as you follow God’s rules for your life. ~Judy
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
What a week I've had leading up to this post! I finished writing A Matter of Character (Daphne's story, the third book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series). It is desperately in need of lots of revising and polishing and tweaking and editing and cutting and adding. But the manuscript, as it is, is now in the hands of my wonderful editor. God bless her! She'll be sure I make this story all that I wanted it to be when I set out to write it.
Friday, September 11, 2009
In researching for any book, I try to really apply myself to the historical details. Researching my series set in Sitka was no exception, and proved to be a lot of fun. There were many people in Sitka who provided information and were very helpful to my studies. Folks at the Sheldon Jackson Museum, Bob at the Sitka Historical Museum, Carole at the Alaska Ocean View B&B, to name just a few offered great insight.
I highly recommend a visit to the museums in Sitka if you get a chance to visit. I've included photos of some of the things they offer. The museums, though small, are full of wonderful pieces of history. Sitkans are very proud of their heritage and it shows. Here's a wonderful diorama of Sitka in 1867.
We had a wonderful walk in this ancient cemetery.
The skunk cabbage was in bloom in April.
As I walked in the forest, I was always brought back to a sense wonder and praise. God has created some very beautiful places in this world, and Sitka is definitely one of them.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I am still touring Germany--this is day eleven of a 12-day venture. We’ve had a marvelous time, but I must admit, this morning was difficult. You see, we visited Dachau (pronounced duh-COW), the first and longest-operating concentration camp erected to house law-breakers or those whom Hitler opposed (which of course included many Jewish men).
Much of the original camp has been destroyed, but enough exists to give a clear picture of the horror that once existed here. On the gate leading to the grounds, a sign claiming “Hard work brings freedom” lied to those arriving. There would be no freedom earned here, but prisoners could expect constant hard work and torture.
A ditch of water surrounded the grounds. On the far side of the ditch lay rows of barbed wire on the ground, then an electrified wire fence around eight feet high. On the other side of the electric fence was a six-feet wide path where guards patrolled, and then a tall cement-block wall on the far side enclosed the path. Escape was impossible, although I learned several men deliberately ran into the electric fence as means of ending their suffering. I couldn’t help noticing an apple tree growing outside the cement wall. I wondered if it grew there during the time the prisoners were held--did they look at those apples with longing, wishing to appease their never-ending hunger?
The barracks were stark places with bunks lined three high and ten across. Tiny boxes with a straw mattress and thin sheet--little protection against the cold.. Each bunkhouse was meant to hold 400; but as many as 2,000 men crowded into the minimal space. The living conditions must have been unbearable. How could you rest at all in such crowded quarters? If one became ill, all become ill since they were so close together, and of course medical care wasn’t offered. So much suffering...
Between the guard houses/office building and bunkhouses is an open yard, where the men stood at attention in the morning before being assigned their duties. Endless duties. Pointless duties. Duties designed to demean and destroy a man physically and psychologically. In my mind’s eye, I saw rows and rows of emaciated, weary, hopeless men. It was not a pretty picture.
Even less pretty was the place where they burned the bodies and then dumped the ashes in various holes around the area. The burial spots are set in stands of trees--an idyllic setting for something so atrocious. While we were in the crematorium, facing the ovens, one of the members of our group began singing a Jewish prayer of mourning in Hebrew (he's in the center left of the picture below, holding his prayer book). I couldn’t understand a word, yet the meaning somehow penetrated my being. I don’t know when something has touched me as deeply as that song, in that place. I will never, ever forget it.
From the moment we entered the gate, I felt a weight in my chest. It’s still there now: Heartache at man’s inhumanity to man… Oddly, the day before yesterday we visited Hitler’s “eagle’s nest” high in the Bavarian Alps. A place of indescribable beauty. Comparing that view to the images of Dachau, I wondered how the man who spent time looking out at God’s majestic creation could still perpetrate such horrific deeds. I’ll never understand.
It occurs to me that God creates beauty. Period. Everything He does is good--it says so in Genesis. Men most definitely have the ability to create beauty. I've seen it in towering castles, magnificent cathedrals, and amazing statues and buildings and gardens. But men also have the ability to decimate. Why we choose to do so when creating beauty is so much better...?
In another day we go home. We’ve seen heart-lifting loveliness here, and we’ve seen heart-breaking ugliness. Despite the difficulty of this morning in Dachau, I’m so glad we came. Being here has given me a glimpse of my heritage, a taste of another world, and has awakened something unique within my heart. I know I've been changed by the experience.
May God bless you muchly as you journey with Him!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. While on book tour in Canada with Tracie Peterson and Cathy Hake a couple years ago, one of our signings was at Dove Christian Supplies in Lethbridge, Alberta. The owners of the store, John and Wilma Gerlock, mentioned their grandchildren would be coming in to meet us. Sure enough, once school was out, we met their granddaughter, Carrington, and grandson, Tyson. I was immediately drawn to their names and asked if Carrington would permit me to use her name in a book. She heartily agreed. Her brother then asked about using his name. I told him I would do my best. Although I couldn’t use his full name, I did use Tyson’s name in the book, as well. He became Tyson Farnsworth. Although I wasn’t in Denver for ICRS this year, my editor told me that she had met Carrington when they came to the Bethany House booth. Needless to say, I was delighted to receive a picture of the real Carrington beside the book cover.
When I began to formulate plans for The Carousel Painter, I thought my story would be set in Leavenworth, Kansas, and I had planned to use the C. W. Parker Carousel Factory as the setting for the book. However, history intervened and caused me to reformulate my plans. Once I began my research, I discovered that C. W. Parker originally set up his factory in Abilene, Kansas and didn’t move to Leavenworth until 1911. I wanted the book set at an earlier time, but had hoped to use the prison in Leavenworth as part of my story. As often happens with historical fiction, history wasn’t cooperating with the story I had in mind. And though the story changed and I didn’t use the Parker factory or Leavenworth prison as part of my story, I learned lots of interesting facts while researching at the C. W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth.
Like almost all of the factories producing carousel horses, C. W. Parker’s horses had their own distinctive traits. The bodies of his horses were more elongated and he placed a ‘horseshoe’ stamped with his initials and last name on the hooves of the horses produced in his factory. Even though the vast majority of Parker’s carousels were made for traveling carnivals, the company would on occasion produce what were called “permanent location” machines. One such machine featured this outstretched flowered horse, which is over seven feet long and weighs close to two hundred pounds. The dramatic pose is typical of many of Parker’s horses although the size and ornate quality are quite unusual for the horses produced in the factory. This Parker horse was carved in 1918, and I think it is quite beautiful.
Unlike many of the immigrant carvers who came to this country and set up their factories, Parker expanded his business beyond the creation of carousels. The picture at right is a 1901 Parker carousel. By 1911, Parker was making Ferris wheels, shooting galleries, and monkey speedways using live monkeys as auto drivers in a fixed course. I don’t know about you, but I can picture those little monkeys in their racing gear with their teeth bared as they wait for the flag to signal them out of the gates. The whole concept leaves me somewhat speechless—and that’s pretty difficult. Even though none of this information made it into my book, I still laugh at the thought of those little monkeys clinging to steering wheels as they race their cars around the track.
Receiving Carrington’s picture today was such an unexpected pleasure that it truly lifted my spirits. May you find joy in unexpected gifts from the Lord. ~Judy