You've heard of nesting, right? That time near the end of a pregnancy when a mama gets this unexplained urge to clean anything and everything so that her "nest" is completely ready to bring her chick home to. I somehow never had that urge hit me with either of my pregnancies. I wanted the home to be ready, but I wasn't willing to get on my hands and knees and scrub baseboards like some I have heard of.
I'm not pregnant, but I am sort of getting some nesting urges as November draws closer. With Nanowrimo starting in only a few days, I know my life is going to take some major changes later this week. My mind will be half in the real world and half in the world of the book I'll be writing ... or birthing, if you will. That makes it hard for me to focus on things that need to be done. But am I focusing on normal things, like making sure we have clean sheets or getting ahead on meal prep or anything? No. I'm wanting to dig out all the mostly empty bottles of lotion from under the bathroom sink and combine them into one that will actually squirt when I push the pump. Or work some more on getting stains out of clothes that are piling up around my dryer because the regular stuff isn't working. Or starting to make Christmas lists even though it's not for another month after I'll finish Nano. Or thinking about a dress I want to sew my daughter for next Spring. None of this is urgent. We've lived without it for this long, and can live without it for another month. But the urge is there, nonetheless.
Ridiculous? Maybe. Or maybe I'll save a few of those for the days when the muse is silent and I need to procrastinate my word count ...
Nanowrimo starts November 1st. My username is jersgirl, if you'd like to come follow along on my journey to more than 50,000 words in 30 days. If you're participating, too, I'd love to friend you. Do you have anything you're wanting to complete last-minute before you start focusing on words?
The Romance of Spilled Milk
Did my title intrigue you? Let me tell you the story behind it.
Very early in our dating relationship, my sweetheart decided to surprise me with a rose. My roommate had headed to the store to buy some milk because we were all going to make milkshakes that afternoon after classes. He rode with her and was helping carry the milk in when they came back. Unfortunately for him, I stuck my head out the dorm window to give my roommate a heads up about something else that was going on in our suite. In his haste to hide the rose behind his back, the gallon of milk dropped from his hand and hit the parking lot pavement. Milk went everywhere.
Why is that sweet? The sweetness is in the motivation of wanting to surprise me with something he knew I loved. Gift-giving is one of my main love languages, and he was definitely getting bonus points that day. Although my roomie was a bit put out with him. (He did replace the milk.)
In the story I plan to write next month, several people are going to tell my main character, Genevieve, to remember why she fell in love with her husband in the first place. What had caught her eye? What had he done early in their relationship that were so special to her? I don't know if he'll spill milk in my story. It doesn't really fit. But I love to hear other people's memories of things that happened while they were falling in love. So, please, share with us. Got a story as funny and sweet as mine? Did your husband spill more than milk? Or even something with no mishaps that won your heart over the moment he pulled it off? Lay it on me!
Just Keep Falling in Love
It's fun to read and it's fun to write. It's even fun to watch on television or movies. Or listen to in songs.
But it's not always easy to put our finger on exactly what makes something romantic. I imagine it's a little different for everyone. For me, it's my husband jumping in when he can see I'm stressed and helping out with making a cake or saving lunch when the slow cooker died the day I had invited friends over. It's giving the kids a bath so that I can sit and read for a few minutes. It's making sure I get time to myself to shower without interruptions. Taking out the trash. Offering to swing by the store on the way home because we're out of milk. Coming up behind me and snuggling for a moment with a kiss to my cheek. It's sharing a smile when the children do something funny or cute. It's listening when I need advice on what to post. It's telling me I look nice.
See? It's not all roses and chocolate ... although I never turn those down, either.
It's the little things. On my grandparents' fiftieth wedding anniversary, all 13 of their grandchildren sang for them. The girls sang a song that played on the radio when they were dating, "Little Things Mean a Lot." It's been about twenty years, but every now and then a line from that song still goes through my head because the truth is still there.
So, I want to hear some of the romantic things your sweetie does for you. Anything swoon-worthy? What's something little that means a lot to you?
A Time to Vent
"Oh my goodness! You are never going to believe what he did now!"
We've all heard something like that before. In Christian circles, we tend to downplay it by referring to it as venting, or sharing a prayer request, or commiserating, even. Let me tell you where I stand on it.
Before we got married, some of the best advice I ever received was when I was told to never talk badly about my husband to anyone. Especially if it wasn't something I would talk to him directly about.
But what about venting? If you keep everything bottled up, you're just going to explode and make it worse, right?
Here's my reasoning. If you're constantly "venting" to your friends about your husband, letting them know all the things that drive you crazy or wear you out or even gross you out, you're never going to have time to focus on the good stuff. And you know there is some. Even after being married over 14 years, we still have sweet moments, where he just reaches over and holds my hand for no reason other than he wants to. He still gives me kisses that make my insides flutter. He still catches me off-guard by unloading the dishwasher or bathing the kids one night even though I know he's exhausted, too. If I never focus on those and only focus on what ticked me off last night, my friends will never see the good in him, either. They'll only see the bad parts. That's not being a help-meet or building him up. And, it's going to put my focus more on the bad stuff, which will make it harder for me to see the good, too.
Keep reading ...
Now that I've said all of that, I need some help.
I've mentioned several times that the book I plan to write next month is about a couple who are facing divorce after only a few years of marriage. One of the reasons I've come up with is simply that she's letting all the little things build up, and focusing only on them. So, now I'm wanting to pick some other people's brains. I need more "little things" for him to do that drive her crazy. What are some things that might drive you crazy if the person you were living with did it? I will pick some favorites and see if I can't incorporate them into my novel next month. What might cause problems in your marriage if your husband did it all the time and you just let it fester inside? Help me make my characters more real, please. And thanks for your participation!
It's Coming ...
It's almost November, which means it's almost time for Nanowrimo. Know what that is? It's when I do most of my writing. It's short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Although, last year I set my goal at 65,000, and totally rocked it. ;-)
This year, my story is going to be about a couple who have been married about four years, but are already talking about the possibility of divorce. Be ready, because over the next few weeks, I plan to get you involved. How? Well, you'll just have to wait and see, but I hope I get lots of participation. Who knows? Your ideas and suggestions might end up in one of my future novels!
One of the many blessings that has come my way since being published is getting to know so many other authors. I met Pat last June at the KenTen Writers' Retreat. She is an Arkansas girl from the area I've lived in a couple of times, so we struck up a friendly conversation the first night. Since then, my mom and I have had the privilege of reading her first two books. She is in the middle of working on a historical romance series set in Arkansas in the 1800s. Her stories are sweet and incorporate a lot of history, which I love. Want to get to know her better? Here we go!
I know you are retired from teaching school. Which is harder? Teaching or Writing?
I taught school for 40.5 years, working with several hundred kids over the years. I believe teaching was (and still is even though I am retired) my calling and my gift. I still teach Sunday school and Bible studies at church. When I worked, I taught English, Spanish, leadership, psychology and counseling practicum. I also served as a high school librarian and a high school counselor. I worked with kids from grade seven to graduate school students in college. I love teaching. I don’t remember ever thinking it was a difficult job. It was busy, and hectic at times, but I think all jobs are like that.
I have been writing since 2012. Some parts of writing are extremely difficult. The creative part is wonderful and so much fun. I love the opportunity to be expressive with language. I enjoy the role as storyteller. When I wrote the Shiloh Saga, I believe the Holy Spirit dictated at least half of the story to me. Some days the words came so fast, I could hardly get them on paper, they came so quickly. I also love the research that is such an important part of the historical writer’s craft. The more you know, the easier it is to build a believable world for characters to live and grow in.
The hard parts of writing are editing, rewriting, and marketing. All of those are a critical part of this vocation. All of these things are definitely hard work!
I can definitely agree with that! Editing and Marketing are probably my two least-favorite things, too.
I know this series you’re writing is going to have five books. I do well to be able to come up with enough words for one book at a time. How hard was it for you to be able to stretch Mac and Laurel’s story over so many novels?
When I started, it was only one book…a very long, long, long book. ‘Til Shiloh Come was the working title of my story. Being very much a punster, I had a story to tell, so I just started writing. At the end of nearly five years, I finished the novel. I wrote it in long hand using black gel pens on notebook paper. The final word count was 685,000 + words. The first publisher I talked to about my book laughed at me. Truthfully, he hurt my feelings. I thought the book was pretty good. He said no one would talk to me seriously about my book. I asked him why. He said they couldn’t guarantee the pages would stay in the binding. He was right, of course. This was my first attempt at writing a novel and I didn’t know that books in my genre –historical romance/fiction—were from 80,000 to 120,000 words. He told me I had written six books. Actually, that original manuscript has turned out to be four novels. I still have to write number five to complete the story. I need to write Mac and Laurel’s War Story.
As I said, I can’t take all the credit. I believe the story was inspired. I am very grateful for the gift of the much loved story I have been given. I have been blessed to pen this story this story. I’ve shared history of Arkansas, the nature and early history of Arkansas Methodism, and my faith.
What first inspired you to write about Arkansas history?
I believe a person writes best about what they know. I have lived here all my life. Arkansas has some very interesting “facts and stories” from its past. I just want to share some of that history. I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “If you want people to remember something [in my case, the past of Arkansas] tell them a story. The Shiloh Saga is a pretty long story and while the characters are fiction and the plot is mostly my imagination, the history is as accurate as I have been able to research. I even read the 1858 and 1860 Arkansas Legislative Journal to learn what was going on in the state general assembly during the sessions before Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1961. Interesting reading!
Wow! I am impressed! Has it been hard to research the history for various parts of the state? What’s been the hardest things to find out about?
Some things are difficult to research. In the earliest days of statehood, the population was sparse, so few people were around to capture the history of small places that vanished over time. Writers need to make their connections in those areas with the older people who have “oral history” of the area. I also find that census records can help with drawing generalizations of the area. Some years note whether people were literate and occupations. By looking over a group of people in a voting precinct, you can find out what kinds of industry was located in a community. For example, I learned that Greensboro had a dressmaker, a jeweler, and a saddle maker from reading the census. I also love to look through county historical books and the quarterly historical journals from local historical societies. They have sometimes done the research for a place you want to write about.
The best part of doing historical research is going on trips to visit the places the story is set. A writer can pick up a world of sensations by visiting courthouses, cemeteries, local museums, and historical markers. Researching is awesome! You just have to keep digging.
That actually sounds fun. I know your home is in the Northeast corner of Arkansas. Is that your favorite spot or do you have another you like better? What draws you to that area?
I am a native Arkansan. I still live in Arkansas. God will, when my time comes to an end, I will still be in Arkansas. I was born in Jonesboro (Northeast Arkansas). I live now at my “retirement porch” very near Greensboro, the town I used as the setting for the Shiloh stories. In the 1850’s, this now non-existent town was a vibrant, promising community of the northeast part of the state. Like so many rural communities, Greensboro perished little by little as improvements in transportation, roads and commerce passed it by. All you will find in Greensboro now is a beautiful monument on Old Greensboro Road that marks the cite of the place that could have been the county seat of Craighead County. Now it marks the deaths of a town and a school.
Northeast Arkansas is important to me because it is HOME. My family has called Craighead County home since the 1940's. My purpose in writing The Shiloh Saga has been to portray my state in a realistic, positive nature that I believe is representative of the type of people who settled Arkansas from the 1830’s to post Civil War times. I believe Arkansans still embody most of those same qualities today—Arkansans are industrious, dedicated to family and friends, respectful of our country, and believe in God. My daddy, Gene Clark, brought us back to this state in the mid 1950’s because he said he wanted to raise his kids in a place where they had a chance to grow into good people. Daddy knew the worth of this state.
One thing that truly makes me angry is people to make fun of my home state. People who actually believe those silly stereotypes of “The Land of Opportunity” could learn a lot from looking at our history and meeting some of our citizen…names like Walton, Clinton, Grisham, Driftwood, Cash, Angelou, Campbell, Green, Ladd, MacArthur, Pike, Fulbright, Dean, Caraway, Brock, Martin, Joplin, Portis, Cramer. Need I go on? These are only a few of the people who have taken the opportunity they found in Arkansas and made the world a better place. I am proud of Arkansas, and bless to be a daughter of the Natural State.
I love Arkansas, too. My family has quite the history connected with that beautiful state, so I loved reading about the history in your stories. Speaking of those stories, can we get a sneak peek into what’s coming up in the next book or two with your characters? Any plans for what you might tackle after Mac and Laurel?
Mac and Laurel are living in the years leading up the Civil War. The saga will follow them through the War Years in the final book of the Saga. In volume 3, they will experience some separation, great joys, and definite hardships, trials and blessings as does every family. They face day to day problems as does every frontier couple in all the western states in this period of growth and development in the USA. I believe readers will see them grow as people and yet remain true to themselves through the turmoil of the most difficult years in American history.
I hope to write another book after the Saga dealing with the Reconstruction Period of Arkansas. A working title I have in mind now is No Man’s Chattel. This will be a stand alone book that I want to publish through a Christian Publishing House, just to see if I can. The setting will be rural Arkansas about the year 1867 or 68. I think the story will be timely because of the interest in the “Me Too” Movement we are living in at this time.
One last question. Can you please leave us with some little-known fact that very few people know about you?
My life is pretty much an open book. My friends know me pretty well…I know! Like Laurel, my favorite meal is fried swamp rabbit. When I was a girl, my daddy was an avid hunter and he helped feed our large family with wild game. There aren’t many large swampers in Northeast Arkansas anymore. Our swamps are pretty well gone now. No habitat…no game. Oh well, I’m pretty sure they serve it in Heaven regularly, along with Banana Pudding.
Mmm. Banana pudding! You may not have many swamps, but I know some boys in my high school class that would get up early and go duck hunting in the rice fields!
Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us. I'm looking forward to reading more about Mac and Laurel in your third vlume, coming out soon.
Want to know more about Patricia or her books? See below.
Patricia Clark Blake is a life-long educator. Now retired from the Arkansas public school system,she spends her time writing and reading in her favorite genre, historical fiction. She holds degrees from Arkansas State University in English, Reading Education and Counseling Psychology. During her career, she taught students from seventh grade to master-level college students.
Known as Pat to her friends, Blake has published in juried psychological journals, but the Shiloh Saga novels are her first attempts at writing fiction. Her proposal for ‘Til Shiloh Come won an award from the Blue Ridge Christian Novel Competition in 2016. This proposal eventually became her first novel, In Search of Shiloh. The next book, The Dream of Shiloh, will be released in February of 2018.
Blake volunteers in her church, teaches Sunday school, and participates in Writers’ and Readers’ Clubs. She is passionate about genealogy and Arkansas history. Both have been wonderful resources for her writing. She is blessed with a wonderful daughter and son-in-law. She is Nanna to a beautiful granddaughter and a fine grandson. She resides near the Greensboro community of Jonesboro, Arkansas, the town mentioned often in her Shiloh stories.
Keep up with her here at Patricia's Place.
In Search of Shiloh - - The state of Arkansas is seven years younger than Laurel and a thriving destination for pioneers and homesteaders. State law forbids women from owning property—a fact Laurel’s dying father understands all too well. To protect his daughter, Mark Campbell arranges a marriage of convenience to Patrick “Mac” MacLayne.
The situation doesn’t sit well with Laurel, who’s no man’s chattel—not even a handsome and godly man like Mac. For Mac’s part, a past heartbreak has left him leery of “falling in love” even with his new wife.
Together, the two begin the long and dangerous trek to Shiloh, Mac’s distant homestead. The only thing Mac and Laurel have in common is faith, but is faith enough to build a new life together as husband and wife? Will love play no part in their relationship?
The first story in the Shiloh Saga, In Search of Shiloh celebrates the Arkansas pioneers’ strength, loyalty, and devotion to both God and each other.
The Dream of Shiloh -- For the MacLaynes, Shiloh represented yet to be fulfilled dreams, now partially within their reach. They knew they could do the tangible parts: build a cabin, grow crops, and earn a livelihood. Yet, could they forge a successful marriage based on friendship, mutual faith, and vows spoken when they'd known each other only four days? Neither was so foolish as to think challenges would not face them before their Shiloh dreams would be come reality.
Laurel is grateful not to be alone, but also annoyed at the obligation she feels toward the man her father has given her to. Can she accept the terms of the arranged marriage to a man who has clearly stated love is something he cannot offer? Likewise, will Mac be able to put to bed his past and build the life he wants with Laurel? Are their desires attainable and waiting for them at Shiloh, or is the dream of Shiloh just too distant?
Beyond Shiloh (coming soon!) -- Patrick “Mac” MacLayne, an Arkansas homesteader, lives a lie. From the outside, he appears to have anything a man could want. Since March 1857, he’s marriage of convenience has blossomed into a passionate relationship. He and Laurel, his life mate, have built a promising homestead from a family land grant that had laid dormant since time began. And because of God’s grace, Patrick was making amends for his misguided youth.
Life at the MacLaynes’ place seemed a dream, but it wasn’t his dream. He didn’t want the life of a homesteader. He was already restless and bored with the tedious routine. Patrick’s calling was something different—something beyond Shiloh. Therein lay the problem. Mac loved Laurel.
Laurel Campbell MacLayne has sunk her roots deep into their homestead on Crowley’s Ridge. She found her call in the people of Shiloh. She loved teaching at the subscription school. Her life had become ingrained in the life of the community and church. Her dream is to give Mac children and raise them with him in their Greene County home. The beautiful cabin Mac gave her as a wedding present was so much more than a house. In this place, she found security and fulfillment. She was home at Shiloh.
Volume three of the Shiloh Saga, a historical romance set in Arkansas, will again allow readers to embrace this pioneer family as they strive to do God’s will, grow in faith, and fall deeper in love…with their home, their state, and each other.
This is a place for me to tell you about what I'm writing, talk about the process or where some of my ideas came from, or even have other authors come in and talk about their books.
Authors I Love to Read (in no particular order)