Saturday, May 30, 2009
As I drove to town, I was amazed at the rolling hills, and narrow curving roads I had driven only a few nights before in utter darkness, completely unaware of my surroundings. Now seeing what I was missing was both breathtaking and fear provoking. To think of the limited winding road I was on, yet the astonishing beauty I'd missed. I believe that God had a purpose in it all. To see it after already being here a few days, rather then when I first arrived tired and worn from many hours on the road, is hard to put into words.
I parked my van and headed out on the tiny street of Hartville, with camera strapped over my shoulder. Anyone seeing me could only conclude I was a "tourist". How amusing I must have looked in such a place like, Hartville. After taking several interesting shots, I headed back to my van, all intentions on driving the remainder of the street and heading back to the ranch.
Up ahead, live music flowed from the local bar. There were several folks sitting, relaxing on chairs, enjoying the music, weather and their neighbors. It all seemed too intimate for an outsider like me. I slowly drove by, catching a glimpse when a woman waved at me. To my utter surprise there sitting at an outdoor table were the two manages of the Kindness Ranch, along with two guests. They motioned for me to stop, and I told them I'd turn around and be right back.
I continued up the narrow street, two dogs slowly moseyed across the street. A sharp bend in the road brought me to two very tiny churches, one on either side. It looked as thought they only had one early morning service and they'd be lucky if the building held fifty people. If I decide to attend, there'd be no quietly slipping in and out. I can't imagine it to be possible in such a small, confined place, and being such a small community, despite the fact that I'm only 4'9". I'd most likely stick out like a giant amongst...well, people like me. Not one for bringing attention to myself, and coming from a home church of thousands, I'll have to see where God takes me on that one.
Only a few short distances and I was already at the towns limits. After all, the population is only 76. I turned around and headed back to the bar, the oldest around so I'd learned. The neighboring town, Sunrise, once a thriving coal mine, now a ghost town, is now shut off to the rest of the world.
We sat and had a few drinks as we listened to a guy sing and make obnoxious jokes. Town folks gathered, catching up on the latest gossip as dogs wandered the streets freely. Everyone seeming to know everyone.
Later we retreated to the inside, and I watched as they played several rounds of pool. There was one wall in the back, lined with small squares of wood, each with symbols on them and a blue label with a Mr. and Mrs. so and so along the bottom. I had to wonder what it all meant. Was it some kind of monetary contribution for selecting a sign and having it placed on the wall with your name? I later found out that they were actual brands. Brands used and registered by the local ranchers. Now it all made sense.
Along the front wall, several old picture of the town way back when. Back when it was a thriving community. Very cool.
I talked to a coupled that have lived in Wyoming all their lives, and for twenty-seven of them, right there in Hartville. He was a true cowboy in every sense of the word. I was more then astonished to find at times they use motorbikes to round up their cattle. Somehow I just can't picture this older cowboy with a cream colored Stetson, authentic cowboy boots, western shirt and wranglers, riding a motorbike, racing around a heard of cattle. How times change, yet stayed the say. It was truly a mixture of the old west meets the new.
Friday, May 29, 2009
So far, it's all that I expected and more. I drove onto the Kindness Ranch in utter darkness, so to wake the next morning to what awaited me outside was amazing! The sunset last night was just as heavenly.
My first day I helped with the cats, walked the dogs, fed the pigs, and sheep and brushed the horses. This morning I started the day out taking the dogs for a long walk with one of the ranch managers. She wasn't here when I arrived, but during our dog walks were quickly getting to know one another.
I'm using their computer in the cat room with a cute gray and white cat only inches away, sitting on the table, gazing out the window. The rest seem to be relaxed, taking naps. It must be midmorning down time.
In the short time I've been here I'm learning much about animals, what they do here on the ranch, and the town of Hartville...which by the way is very historically interesting. I plan to make it into to town in the near future and take lots of pictures and find out what I can about this small little town with the population of only 76! Can you believe it! Obviously the animals outnumber the people, here.
I guess I'll cut this short seeing I'm not on my own computer with all the tools I usually have available.
More updates later.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I’m struggling to get over a cold, which on top of everything else going on, isn’t a good time . I’m catching up on my pen pal letters, instructions for my husband for when I’m gone, and getting everything in order. Tuesday, I’ll spend packing and studying the directions I pray I’ll have no trouble following.
Don’t tell anyone, but I used to get lost driving around the block…you think I’m kidding?
Well, if I have internet access while in Wyoming, I’ll update you on my trip. If not, check in after I get back, June 3rd. I hope to have some great pictures, amongst a head full of great memories.
Until then, ye haw!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This is a critical time in my writing career and I don’t want to blow it. When starting out as a writer, it is so important to put out the very best work possible. If you are one of the lucky ones to get published, you don’t want it to be because of luck. Luck will only get you so far. You want it to be because you wrote an amazing story. One that will capture your readers in all aspects a story can provide.
Your story must not just have a great story line, but MUST also be well written. It needs to flow easily, have great conflict, and keep the readers turning the pages. You want the reader to have a difficult time putting your book down once they’ve started. Capture them from the very first, to the very last page. To create a story that there is no good place to put it down is your ultimate goal.
Of course I have some favorite authors that when I see their books, I purchase it. There’s no need to read the back cover or first few pages. I already know I’ll love it because I’ve come to expect what will await me inside. But even some of my favorite authors have put out a “bad” story. But because I know how great they’re writing is, I have to check it off to time restraint. The pressure to get in a story with their publisher in a certain amount of time, or even just having a, “bad day”, so to speak. Hey, we all have them. But when you’ve produced so many great novels, you can get away with it. Not so when you’re starting out. You need to build your reader/fans, first.
So, be wary of your first several novels you put out there. Don’t be in such a rush to get published that you compromise your writing, and ultimately your writing career. When a reader picks up your book and if it doesn’t deliver a great story, along with great writing, the next time they see your name on that front cover, they’ll most likely pass it on bye.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Back in March I entered my very first writing contest with ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Though I had already been informed that I hadn’t won, I received my test scores/results the other day. I have to say it didn’t surprise me that I hadn’t won, though one can always dream, and that I do.
I was not disappointed in my test scores and comments by the three judges. I had no disillusion that I still have a long way to go as a writer. Though it seems that I’ve been at it a long time, I really haven’t been able to put as much time into as I’d like. After all I do have four kids, a husband, pets, a house to run, work part-time, my ministry, foster Collie’s, and several pen pals to keep up with. But I still plug away because I feel it is what God has called me to do, not to mention my love for putting pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keyboard.
I was both a little saddened and encouraged by their comments. I was given some harsh reality of what Id’ already known to be my weaknesses. But I was also thrilled by the encouraging words of what I did do right.
I was given several book suggestions to read in order to improve my writing and even the suggestion to take a grammar class…yes; I’ll admit that’s one of my greatest weaknesses. I’ve already ordered the books and plan on checking into my community college about a grammar 101, class. Back to the basics for me!
My lack of skills in grammar, punctuation, and spelling is why I hadn’t pursued writing for many years. Fortunately, I happened to read a book that gave me hope. I believe it was, On Writing, by Stephen King. It touched on how that’s only one aspect of writing, and hey, isn’t that what professional editors are for. Still, when submitting your work to a publisher, grammar errors will send your manuscript right to the rejection pile without so much as a second thought. In the submitting world, everything counts.
Do I regret entering the contest? No way! I’m only that more enthusiastic about honing my skills for next year’s submission. It was well worth the $35.00.
Thank you judges for your honesty, commitment and time.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Make sure to check back later for more of, The Bet.
Sam has been homeless for over a year. In her struggle to keep warm during the cold winter months, she finds the Laundromat the ideal haven. Never did she imagine she’d meet Nathan McCray, a seemingly “typical” rich guy.
After helping Nate launder his shirt, Sam soon finds herself caught up in a bet with Mr. Harvard. One that leads them to spending the night beside a dumpster. Just when she’d thought he was out of her life, he proposes yet another bet…to spend twenty-four days in his world!
In the end, Sam finds both her faith and her prince charming. And Nate…well, he finds something pretty special, too.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
You see, I'm going to Wyoming the end of May. May 27th to be exact and it has, BOOK written all over it...no pun intended. My girlfriend suggested that I take lots of notes while in Wyoming, in preparation for the book, while I'm in the moment. So far I've been a seat of the pants writer, not a planner/outliner. So for me to take notes, I might as well be writing.
Not having written anything in weeks, I had the itch that needed to be scratched. Time was running out and soon I'd be off to Wyoming, so I needed to get some things in place for this book so when I was there and became inspired, I could write. I sat down and skimmed a few magazines, deciding on my main characters. All you writers know what I'm talking about. I chose David Boreanaza, from the show, Bones and, Claire Danes. I already have the scene in place of course. Hartville, Wyoming.
Having gone over my characters profile, the excitement of this new book flourished. I started writing today, and have about 1500 words so far. I love where writing takes you. So many places not ever you knew existed for your heroine and hero.
I'll be staying at the Kindness Ranch in Hartville, Wyoming for a week! Alone!!!!!!!!! What an amazing experience this is going to be. So many dreams come true. So many blessings beyond anything I deserve. God is so good.
An account of my blessings:
1) Staying on a ranch!
2) Helping animals.
3) Being able to learn about taking care of horses and sheep, and other animals.
4) Going to Wyoming!
5) A perfect everything for a novel!
There's a publishing company out there, Summerside Press that publishes fictional stories based in real towns. I plan on submitting, once done, this one. Love Finds You in Hartville, Wyoming. I can't wait.
You may ask, why Wyoming. When I was younger...much younger, my grandfather gave me a book to read. Wyoming, by Zane Grey. For those of you who don't know who Zane Grey is, he’s authored many fictional westerns. I wasn't planning on liking it, seeing it was a western, but ended up loving it. Ever since, I wanted to go to Wyoming...now I will be.
A brochure showed up in the mail from the, Kindness Ranch, in Hartville, Wyoming. To me, it was a clear sign from God! I mean what could be more clearer. Ranch. Animals. Wyoming. It had, MUST GO, written all over it! I'll be leaving my three girls, husband, two dogs, rabbit, two rats, and a baby cockatiel, for a week. Hopefully when I get back, all will be sane and well. I told my husband I'll owe him big for this.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I was there. It was an amazing time. The men are so appreciative of those that service. If ever you felt even the tiniest bit of compassion for those that are incarcerated, I urge you to check into all the opportunities that are out there for the jail and prison ministry. You'll be rewarded over and over, again for it. I always walk away feeling more blessed then I have blessed.
Here's what was posted on Willow Creeks blog for Compassion and Justice.
Cook County Jail Easter Service
……”I was in prison and you visited me.” Matthew 25:36
Dedicated volunteers from Willow Creek Chicago and South Barrington provided Easter services at the Cook County Jail on April 16. “One hundred and sixty inmates attended, and twenty percent of them accepted or rededicated their lives to Christ,” said Gaius Cosman, who leads a team that visits the jail weekly.
Easter in Jail
Willow Creek Chicago’s entire choir came and led an exhilarating time of worship. Jose Figuerosa, who is finishing his Master’s degree in Urban Studies and Discipleship at Moody Bible Institute, shared how the Lord touched his life as a Cook County Jail inmate.
Brownies and cookies were distributed to the inmates and officers. The celebration ended with the men joining hands in prayer. “Normally,” said Gauis, “the inmates divide into small groups where they share prayer requests and study Scripture.” But in order to serve the large number of inmates who wanted to attend, they held three services. The men had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, and to receive a Bible in their first language.
Life Change from Serving
Gaius, the team leader, was looking for a place to volunteer when he saw an announcement in the Willow Creek program about the Cook County Jail ministry. Eleven years later, he continues to serve there faithfully. “Serving the inmates,” he said, “has been the single most important factor in my growth as a Christian.”
Another Willow Creek team member related his own personal experience saying, “These men are dealing with the after effects of drugs. When they first come in, they’re tough guys with downcast faces. But when these inmates connect with a volunteer, they look forward to seeing them weekly.” Many of the prisoners attend a 12-Step program because they know their lives must radically change to be successful in the outside world.
The Great Reunion in the Sky
The Cook County Jail ministry has been in existence for eleven years. Bill Daughaday, the founder, taught his team “to serve the inmates and look forward to the great reunion in the sky where so many of these men will come up to you and state how their lives were changed at Cook County Jail.” He encourages Christians “to get out of their comfort zones and volunteer.”
Men who would like to serve at the Cook County Jail, should contact Gauis Cosman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-545-8676.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Do yourself a favor, buy one of his books.
This is my review on Amazon:
AMAZING!, March 2, 2009
Kym McNabney (Illinois) - This is the third book I've read by Travis, and I'm thoroughly convinced he should be a number one best selling author. Each one I've read, Sky Blue, The Promise Remains, and now, The Watermark, are incredibly written, and inspirationally moving. His written words and story ideas blow me away.
Sky Blue, shocked me and moved me to tears, several time. That doesn't happen too often.
The Promise Remains still resides in my soul. I don't know if I'll ever leave. It's one of those books that will remain with you forever. It's that moving.
And now, The Watermark...Once again Travis had put an amazing story on paper that you almost forget you're reading a "story", you get so involved with the character and their lives. And that's not to mention the message of God that he intertwines throughout in a subtle, yet explosive way.
As I read the last page through tear filled eyes, I closed the book and wept. It was that moving.
I'll soon be reading, Three Roads Home, and have no doubt that once again I'll be blown away with this mans amazing writing.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
When I first received the sheet music, I was surprised to find that it was much harder then I thought it would be. I was also surprised how many notes I remembered, and how many I didn't. It was kind of like riding a bike. Though some things didn't come to me right away, most eventually did. And what didn't, I was able to relearn rather quickly...on the most part.
As I sat down to play with the middle school kids for the first and only rehearsal, I was shocked at how fast the piece was and quickly realized I should have practiced a whole lot more. Thank goodness for the girl next to me. I was able to follow her lead.
When it came time to actually play for everyone, I found I did much better then the first run through, though I still could have practiced quite a bit more. Oh well, maybe next time.
I was surprise to learn that though I was a bit nervous about getting up on stage and playing after all these years, I hadn't realized how much I missed doing so. It almost made we want to relive my childhood days...almost.
I think I now have the itch to play in a band, again. What a great idea and experience for parents, grandparents, and students alike.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Here's my review for another one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
DO YOU LOVE ROMANCE AND A GREAT STORY...THEN READ THIS BOOK!, January 9, 2009
This was an amazing book. One that made me laugh, as well as cry. Can I say I love Mac? Wow, what an awesome character. And really, all the characters were incredibly brought to life. Maureen is an amazing writer and story teller.
I am involved in the prison ministry, so to all that are, I recommend reading this. And to all that know of someone who is, and can't quite figure out why their in it, this is a must read. And to all of those that have had to deal with a, "not so perfect child", this is a must read for you, as much as it is for those that know of someone who has a, "not so perfect child".
As a Christian, it's a good reminder of those that have been introduced to God, and yet have not accepted Him. There is always hope and we as Christian's should always be open to helping guide those far from God, back.
I loved this books so much, that I plan to purchase several copies to share with those I felt would benefit from reading it. It has that much of an impact.
If you liked this book, you are sure to like others my Maureen. I loved, "The Oak Leaves", and, "On Sparrow Hill". Two other amazing stories she's written.
I sure hope she comes out with an addition to his book. I'd love to hear more about Mac and Hannah, and see what happens with Dilly and Tom.