Monday, December 30, 2013

TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE

As the old year ends and a new one begins, I often look back and silently chide myself over the time I might have squandered and should have used more wisely.

The New Year is always a great time to say good-bye to all our yesterdays and give a hearty, forward-looking hello to a new start in a new year. It’s a feeling that invades our thinking and whispers, “Your slate is now wiped clean of all the troubles and missteps you’ve experienced. Let’s begin anew.”

So, how will you use this unbiased fellow we call TIME--who credits you every morning with 86,400 seconds in the day? (Or 31,536,000 seconds in the new year?)


Imagine a bank that credits your account with $86,400 each day. It carries no balance over from day to day, and every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use. What would you do? I believe everyone would agree we’d be foolish not to draw out every cent.

Each of us has such a bank. It’s called TIME. And every morning we are offered 86,400 seconds. Every night, TIME writes off, as a loss, whatever seconds, minutes or hours you have failed to invest in good purposes. There is no balance. There are no overdrafts. Each day TIME opens a new account. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

What am I really saying? I’m telling you the clock is running and you must live in the present of today’s deposits. Invest your time so you get the utmost in health, happiness and success. Make the most of today. Treasure and use wisely each moment in both work and play.

To realize the value of one year, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of one month, ask a returned soldier how he felt during his last four weeks of deployment 
To realize the value of one hour, ask lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of one minute, ask the person who just missed his plane flight, train or bus.
To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment you have. Remember, TIME waits for no one!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Humble Pines










'Twas daybreak in the forest
The winds blew crisp and cold, 
And snow lay in a white-washed 'guise
On oak trees, staunch and old.

The sky was blue, the drifts knee-deep
As snowflakes fluttered down,
While high above the hemlock sighed
A faint melodious sound.

Across the vale the star of night
Broke through the frigid morn,
And scattered rays of hope and peace. . .
Today, the Child was born.

Then firethorn threw shimmering beads
Amid the sun-kissed laurel;
Bright holly bushes shook their limbs
With shades of sparkling coral.

The birds sang on this blessed day
With wonderous trills and sounds,
The humble pines took time to pray
And bowed their branches down.

Monday, November 25, 2013

TALKING TURKEY: What I'm Thankful for as a Writer

     Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It's a special day when we don't have to go into a meltdown mode chasing down the perfect gifts for everyone on our Christmas list. The real gift is simply being able to gather family and friends together to eat, talk, share stories, and enjoy all those tempting dishes—like to-die-for corn bread stuffing, Aunt Jane’s pecan and pumpkin pies with mounds of whipped cream, and the ever-famous turkey baked to a golden brown in the oven or a deep fryer. It’s also a time when I think about why I’m thankful as a writer. Here are my top five:
  •  I’m thankful to be able to be born in a country where I am able to create and write freely without fears of censorship or retribution. I’m thankful for all our service people—the military, rescue squads, firemen, police and many, many more whose occupations are to protect our freedoms and who are dedicated to keeping us safe. We are, indeed, land of the free because of the brave.
  •  I’m thankful for all the fans who purchase our novels and those who make each day just a bit brighter by dropping an email or note in praise of our work. It gives me and other authors a reason to push forward and pursue our dreams.
  • I’m thankful for my spouse, my children, neighbors, friends, family, fellow writers, beta readers, and reviewers who act as sounding boards and who understand the writer’s craziness and the driving need to escape to a favorite spot and put ideas on a blank white screen.
  • I'm thankful for the editors, publishers, artists, and marketing, production and support personnel who take our lumpy claylike creation of words and help us sculpt those words into a smooth, finished work of art called a novel.
  • I'm thankful for all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes around us—like bright sunny days, scarlet sunsets, serene snowfalls, gentle rain, the smell of pine-tinged air, the warble of a song sparrow, the chirping of a cricket, the taste of summer’s first strawberries—and all the wondrous gifts our Heavenly Creator gives us each day to help us to be inspired.  
Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A look from. . . UP ON THE ROOF

Recently released in digital and coming soon in print, Up on the Roof and Other Stories is a unique collection of nineteen humorous and serious stories exploring the lives and relationships of the young and old.
Here are some synopses of stories included in the book:

BALD REVELATIONS  
A first grade teacher believes her husband of twenty years is leaving her and their two teenage sons when he purchases ten pairs of new dress socks and starts reviewing their insurance policies. Despite her mother’s assurances, Maureen is further convinced he’s cheating when he starts singing Beach Boy songs and tries to persuade her to buy a sporty red convertible. 

COMPUTER JUNKIE   
 When Rita and Jane decide to start a small woodworking business, they never expect their husbands to get involved. But get involved they do. Mitch and Bill decide their wives need their expert computer advice and their meddling could spell disaster even before the business gets off the ground.

HOOKED ON SILENCE   
Two young professional couples decide to go to the lake to fish. Jerome believes that women are not necessarily equal in all masculine tasks, but Angela, his girlfriend, is about to prove him wrong.

STRAW PONIES  
Brita Larson saved the life of an Arapaho brave, Nitis, who now believes he's indebted to her and routinely brings gifts to her ranch.When she then helps rescue his sister, Onawa, from some evil white men selling guns to the renegades, Britta is certain she will never get rid of this gift-bearing Indian. More importantly, how will she explain him to Deputy Sheriff Wyatt McGee? 

Only $3.99 in digital now at: amazon.com

Saturday, October 26, 2013

FIVE THINGS NEW WRITERS SHOULD KNOW

§  You will waste a lot of paper. Wasting paper and purchasing printer cartridges are part of the trade. When you print your work and find it's beyond help or you need to start over, throw it away and delete it from your computer. Physically throwing it into the trash signifies a new start mentally. Don’t worry about killing trees. Like crops, trees for paper mills are planted, held in rotation until mature, and harvested.

§  Writing is a lonely, solitary occupation. Writing takes time. You will miss being out in the sunshine or watching your favorite television show. You may miss family gatherings with a deadline near. You will miss sleep. Make friends with other writers. They understand your crazy burning need to create.


§  Find a place to write where you feel comfortable and secure. Arm the location with a good collegiate dictionary, The Chicago Manuel of Style, and an unabridged Roget’s Thesaurus. Roget’s has more than ten times the amount of synonyms than any online site. Then, find something that signals routine and the need to sit down and write—like making your bed, drinking that second cup of coffee or tea, or taking your dog for his morning walk—or evening one if you write at night.

§  Never, never send out your first draft to anyone, anywhere. If possible, let your words sit for a while to cool like a hot custard pie. It’s easier to see missing data, mistakes, and grammar problems when you’ve distanced yourself from your work. Having trouble finding your mistakes? If you’re prone to using Times New Roman on your computer screen, print your work out in a different font like Courier, Arial, or Century Schoolbook. Have a friend help you. Intensive editing is part of the writing process.

§  Don’t believe people who say that writing doesn’t have to be as perfect as possible—because that’s what editors are for. Everyday, editors reject dozens of manuscripts. Do you think they’ll accept one with grammar and punctuation mistakes or basic sentence structure problems? Your writing is a reflection of who you are. It’s your first shot at making an impression and getting a toehold into the publishing world. Just like a job interview, you need to make it a good one.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tempers fly in KEY TO LOVE

        KEY TO LOVE is scheduled to be released in print on Wednesday, October 23rd. Here is one of my favorite interactions between my main characters, architect Elise Springer, and her old friend, Lucas Fisher.
                                                       ~ ~ ~   *** ~ ~ ~
  The first thought crossing Lucas’s mind was that a blue tornado had swooped down without warning.
       Elise Springer barreled through the office door, crossed the distance between them and slammed her fist on the metal desk so hard two pencils did simultaneous jumping jacks before hitting the concrete at her feet.
  “You liar!” she shouted. Vicious claws, still splendidly colored a brilliant red, reached out, clutching the front of his shirt and jerking him by the throat.
       "Having a bad morning?” Lucas asked quietly, thankful he never made it a habit to fasten the top button. “Maybe I should make a pot of coffee?”
         “You set me up, you detestable jerk!” Her hand still held fast even when his came up to cover it. “You never told me about the seventy-five thousand dollars Mike gave you." 
       He pried her fingers loose, and she stepped back, slicing the air with the edge of her palm. “I trusted you, you lowly worm. I went in there on your behalf!” Both hands flew to her temples, massaging her forehead. She stomped to the window and back again twice. “God, what a fool I am.”
     “It’s not what it appears, Liz.” Lucas sat down, leaned back in a chair beside the desk, and hoped Fritz had not lied and this was just one of her twenty-four hour bouts of raving insanity. “Maybe you ought to sit down, and I’ll explain.”
       “You can start spouting an explanation right now, pal, and I don’t need to sit to hear your gibberish!”
       If her eyes could throw darts, he’d be dead man for sure, Lucas decided. He mustered some courage. “If I had told you Mike gave me money from his personal funds to invest for him, you would have gone into the meeting with Pedmo and tried to second guess her, just to defend me. I couldn’t take the chance. You got the kid, right?”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Festival in Clearfield

I'm excited. KEY TO LOVE, my contemporary romance and mystery, is scheduled for print version on October 23. I’m hoping to have a few books for Clearfield’s Fall Festival on October 12th which is organized by the Clearfield Revitalization Corporation. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If you’re in the area, please stop to say hello and see all the wonderful arts, crafts and vendors—plus food booths.
                                              Here is a short blurb:

 When architect Elise Springer leaves San Francisco to check on her injured father in Pennsylvania, she is surprised to find Lucas Fisher, an old friend of the family, has returned to the Scranton area to set up an automobile restoration business. What she never expects is that in her quest to help Lucas get custody of his orphaned, four-year-old nephew, she will unravel evidence to prove the death of his brother wasn’t an accident. Elise will also discover that she is falling in love with both Fisher men, the little animal-cracker-eating one and his handsome, technology-challenged uncle. Will she be able to follow her heart on the east coast, manage a career on the west coast, and find the Key to Love that will open the gates to a lifetime of happiness?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

See You in September

"See you in September. See you when the summer's through." Can you name that song? Of course, See You in September, which was originally sung by the group, The Tempos, in 1959. It became much more popular when it was later released in 1966 by the group, The Happenings. Since then, it has been released by various other groups like the Pacemakers.


It's one of my favorite songs especially since Labor Day and September signal the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The clever landscape artists will arrive in Pennsylvania in four weeks and will paint our hillsides in colors of gold, scarlet and tangerine. Autumn brings cooler misty nights, foggy mornings, and warm sunny days. It’s sweat shirt weather. And it's the sound of crackling leaves and the bubbling laughter of children as they gather at the bus stop. It’s the smell of wood smoke in fireplaces and outdoor fire rings.

September also reminds us that we need to finish all those fair weather chores before winter creeps up on us. The mild weather lets us reassess what we hoped to accomplish and determine what we really need to get done.

For me, September is a new beginning and a chance to evaluate the writing projects I want to complete before the holidays come galloping into my life to distract me. 

I love September in Pennsylvania. So I'll see you in December. . .when the autumn’s through.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BANDIT'S '77 TRANS AM LIVES ON

In my new novel, KEY TO LOVE, the main character, Lucas Fisher, drives a '77 Trans Am, like the one in "Smokey and the Bandit.” He has returned to the Scranton, PA, area to set up a car restoration business and adopt his little four-year-old, orphaned nephew. He reconnects with architect Elise Springer who helps him in his quest to find his brother's murderer and to gain custody of the child. 

While I was working on the production of the novel, I met Conrad Segelbacher through the Bandit Trans Am Club on Facebook. He owns a mighty fine looking '77 Trans Am as you can see by the pictures. I want to thank him for his help. I asked him some questions about his very striking car.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a guy who fell immediately in love with the Bandit Trans Am, having been a car enthusiast since I was in diapers. I had an older brother who had a GTO and I was his tool go-getter and helper. 

How much research did you do to assure the car was restored as authentic as possible? 
When I shopped for my car I didn’t want any custom work, but rather a model the way it was intended the day it rolled off the assembly line. No changed-out rims or steering wheel, extra body flares, for example.

Where in the United States did you find your Trans Am? 
I shopped nationwide for two full years, waiting patiently, when it appeared 50 miles away. I raced there and put down a payment. It was love at first sight! This was a once in a lifetime purchase. She was mine!
                           
Did you do any restoration? Do you show it? 
Since I work so much, I couldn’t have a project car. The car needed to be turn key. I don’t go to shows, but if I did, I’d be afraid of all the fingerprints! I only show her off when I drive. I do have a chart I show people and can talk about her all day.

What advice would you give to those who are interested in restoring an older car? 
Stay determined and stay the course! Stay the way Pontiac intended the car to be. 

Anything else you might want to add? 
My dad had so much influence on me in the three weeks before he passed away. I was only thirteen years old, and it was my sole quest in life to get a ’77 Bandit car. He told me in his heavy German accent to save my pennies, and 30 years later, I got my baby!

What would you say to your dad if you could? 
Thank you for being my inspiration! Love and miss you. I know you’re in the passenger seat when I’m cruising. Hey, Dad, maybe I’ll let you drive one day. . .but then, maybe not. It may look strange on the highway! 

Author’s Note: Read about Lucas Fisher's '77 Trans Am in KEY TO LOVE, now available on Kindle for $2.99 . http://www.amazon.com/Key-to-Love-ebook/dp/B00DNO9S8K


Friday, July 26, 2013

REMEMBER BANDIT'S '77 TRANS AM?

KEY TO LOVE, a mystery and romance, currently only on amazon.com Kindle and coming to print in October, has the main character, Lucas Fisher, owning a car restoration business. Lucas drives a ’77 Trans Am, replica of “The Bandit” car in “Smokey and the Bandit.”

Conrad Segelbacher of New York State owns a terrific-looking ’77 (Bandit) Trans Am, and although we weren’t successful in getting a picture of his car on my book’s cover, it was delightful to make contact with him and the Bandit Trans Am Club on Facebook that has over 1,060 members: https://www.facebook.com/groups/32710064318/

Conrad was in love with the movie, “Smokey and the Bandit,” since he was thirteen years old. When he told his father he wanted a Bandit car, his father told him in a heavy German accent to “save your pennies.” Unfortunately, his dad died three weeks later and was unable to know that 33 years later, Conrad had saved enough. He searched two years all over the USA, and found the Bandit car. Even though it didn't arrive via a tractor trailer as in the movie, it was exciting for him to drive it home. And yes, every time he turns the key in the ignition of this gleaming jet black machine, he thinks about his parents. 

The photos here are those of Conrad's Trans Am. Notice the gleaming finish that reflects everything around it in the sunlight.

I would personally like to thank Conrad, George Holt,  and all the folks of the Bandit Trans Am Club. While I write on, I wish everyone in the club my best wishes as they keep the legend alive and ride on!
  

 

Monday, July 1, 2013

KEY TO LOVE - Humor, Mystery and Romance - Now on Kindle - In Print in October 2013

"Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness," so says Oliver Wendell Holmes. . . and Anton Springer, father of Elise Springer, in my newly released novel, KEY TO LOVE, available early on KDP Select in Kindle format on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Key-to-Love-ebook/dp/B00DNO9S8K

KEY TO LOVE is a mystery and romance with plenty of snappy, humorous dialogue. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll race against the clock with Elise as she tries to find the person who murdered Lucas’s brother, a state trooper.

The cast of characters include the heroine, Elise Springer, an architect; hero Lucas Fisher who owns a car restoration garage and drives a restored Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am; and Lucas’s little orphaned nephew, Todd, who’s addicted to animal crackers and The Fox and the Hound storybook. Secondary characters include Elise’s grumpy, but astute father, her wise-cracking brother, Fritz, and a no-nonsense director of Child and Youth Services, Twila Pedmo.

BOOK BLURB:

When architect Elise Springer's father is injured, she immediately leaves San Francisco to care for him. The last person she expects to encounter in her Pennsylvania hometown is her childhood friend, Lucas Fisher. 

Lucas is investigating his brother's mysterious death, and Elise can't resist lending a hand. Lucas longs for the close family ties he never had. He's back in Scranton to set up a classic car restoration business and build a future. The torch he carries for Elise burns brighter than ever, but before he can declare his love, he must obtain the legal rights to adopt his nephew--and prove his brother's death was no accident.

As they unearth clues to find the murderer and a missing stash of money, Elise faces a dilemma. Is her career on the West Coast the key to her happiness, or is it an animal-cracker-eating four-year-old and his handsome uncle instead?

KEY TO LOVE will be released in print format in October of this year.
Visit my author page for more information: www.judyanndavis.com


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer, Sunshine and June

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days. . . 
     --From: The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell

Like a swindler playing shell games, May’s unstable weather finally allowed summer to emerge from beneath its ever changing days and nights of warm to chilly and rainy to clear. The sun climbed higher, chasing the cold from the winds. For those who wait all year to enjoy summers in Pennsylvania, June’s arrival heralds a kaleidoscope of exquisite scents, sounds and scenes.

There is nothing more uplifting than the first smell of clover-scented grass, the delicate fragrance of wild roses, or the aroma of rain-soaked earth mingled with new green foliage. Old, gray weathered barns, tucked among the distant hills, have overflowing mows of sun-kissed, sweet-smelling hay.



If you listen closely, you can hear the rustling of the pines, the singing of a meadowlark or catbird, and the humming of busy bees. In the evening, when summer breezes drift though open windows, they carry the lowing of cattle in distant fields, or the cicadas and crickets conversing on the lawns and in the bushes. Tree frogs and bullfrogs chatter and croak, and far off, a loon or coyote calls in a lonesome voice.

Along the roadways, blackberry bushes bow down with frilly white blossoms that will bear black, sweet, ripe fruit in July. High above, billowy white clouds skip across a sky of robin’s egg blue. In the tall grass, wild strawberries elbow for room with buttercups, daisies, and blue chicory. Mornings bring hummingbirds to perform midair pirouettes among the flowers, and when the sun has gone to rest, bats soar over the treetops and fireflies twinkle as they play a game of light tag.

June is a month when nature’s at its best and the scents, sounds, and sights of summer make us glad we are alive. Oh, “what is so rare as a day in June?”





Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's May. . .the lusty month of May

"It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray
It's here, it's here, that shocking time of  year,
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear."
                Lusty Month of May - from Camelot



Amid the fine, lime-colored leaves on the trees and bushes, lusty May dances in to the tune of sparrows in the thickets and meadow larks singing in the maple trees. The days lengthen as the sun climbs higher, casting more light and warmth and leaving April showers behind. Buds swell. The earth softens. The smell of mud and moisture permeates the air.

Robins huddle on cold lawns and await a thawed earth and green grass. Blackbirds and grackles gather in noisy groups, their voices raw and scratchy like rusty door hinges in need of oil. High above, geese in odd-legged V-patterns honk as they wing their way northward while cardinals in a flash of red begin to joyously announce that spring is officially here to stay. 

May is the month of weeds, but May is the month of daffodils marching along a thawed pond and colorful tulips turning a dreary yard into a joyful one. May is purple wind flowers scattered in flowerbeds nodding in the spring breeze and fiddle heads poking up from the sleepy earth to become delicate woodland ferns. May is the sweet smell of lilies of the valley, and it’s the delightful glimpse of may apples unfurling their heads into tiny green umbrellas. 

This is the time when those with a bit of farming gene in their blood start thinking about spring gardens as they sit in their recliners in the evening and pour over stacks of seed catalogs. They are anxious and ready, and they know there is magic in the month of May. Soon it will be planting time and the excitement of growing vegetables and flowers is as exhilarating today as it was for their ancestors centuries and centuries ago. Seeds are united with soil, sun, air and water to create the miracle of life.

Yes, there’s something in the air. . .it’s May. It’s May. The lusty and magical month of May! 



 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

FACING OUR WRITING FEARS CONFIDENTLY

Writers like all people have fears and doubts. Maybe it's because of the creative process that's involved with writing, but maybe it’s because writers tend to be a little more passionate, a little more emotional, and a little more sensitive than others.

Most of our anxieties and worries begin with the “What if. . .?” What if I can’t write the next chapter? What if I can’t finish this novel? What if I get writer’s block? What if I’m not able to edit the manuscript correctly? What if I’m not creative? What if my critique partner or group hates it? What if the readers don’t like it? What if I can’t get it published?

Amid all these distracting worries, depression takes hold, often preventing us from doing our best—and our biggest fear actually becomes self-fulfilling and we do nothing.

How do we break the cycle?

ANALYZE -- First, ask yourself: Are my fears rational? How many of my past fears have come true? What was my biggest fear this time last week, last month, last year? What is the worst thing that can happen? The answers will help you put your fears in perspective. 

PRIORITIZE -- If you decide your fears are grounded, the worst thing you can do is worry. Worry is negative believing and leads to paralysis. Instead, devise a plan. Make it active and positive. Decide what steps need to be taken and the order in which you need to take them. Remember, the one sure cure for writer’s block is sitting yourself down in front of the computer and starting to type. Write anything. Just start. Put some sentences or thoughts swirling around in your head on paper. Or start typing: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" over and over again. I guarantee you’ll start writing something different and better after a few short rounds of that boring maneuver. 

VISUALIZE -- To turn your plan into reality spend a few minutes each day visualizing success. See yourself completing that project or manuscript. Imagine everyone’s pleased reaction. Imagine your pleased reaction. And think about the pride you’ll feel and rewards you’ll reap.

Remember, fear will never go away as long as we continue to grow. The only way to get rid of fear and to feel better about ourselves is to go out and do whatever we fear. After all, pushing through our fear is less frightening that living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.  


            Life is like a winding road--full of bumps, uphill climbs, and many curves.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Perfection in Our Work

Aristotle said, "Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

As the world spins and as I grow older, the more I’m convinced the American worker has lost pride and the ability to strive for excellence. Okay, I admit, at times I’m a perfectionist, a little over the top in being highly organized. And yes, I do have a checkbook that balances right to the penny. But the office where I write is a little messy, so that drops me from an A+ personality to an A- one, I guess.

The other evening my husband and I went to what I formerly considered a nice restaurant--and out of kindness, I will not reveal its name. The only way to describe the experience was less than stellar. It was not overcrowded. There were plenty of hired help to wait on tables, and it was early in the evening, prior to the rush hour.

So what was the problem? The glass of wine I ordered came in a dirty glass. The soup I ordered never came with the meal. In fact, it never came at all. My husband’s ordered a more expensive, more extensive seafood platter and was served the early bird special with less items on the plate. I forgot my black long-sleeved over shirt on the seat when I left, and low and behold, when my husband went back sometime later to check. . .it was still there. No one obviously checks the seat when they bus the tables which means if the seat is dirty, it will stay that way for the next customer. 

What happened in this restaurant is happening all over in America. Everyone is just trying to get it done, not caring whether it’s done right, done with pride, or with a care for excellence. Someone said not to sweat the small stuff. But isn’t it the accumulation of little things that make the total experience? Isn’t it the sum of all the little things we do every day with an eye for excellence and with a pleasurable attitude that leads to perfection in our work. . .and in our service to others? 

I believe writers have the same obligation to their audience as any other worker in any other occupation. But that’s a topic for next time.