Author Jo Huddleston

Sweet Southern Romance

Monday, May 30, 2011

Are You a "Rocky"?

Will those who saw the movie Rocky ever forget the rigorous training he endured to reach his dream of victory in the boxing ring? I’m not a boxing fan but I do admire Rocky’s tenacity. Here was a young man who had come from nothing, had nothing but a dream and the willpower to work toward that dream.

He was not afraid of the work his trainer convinced him he would have to do on a consistent basis. Remember his running up those wide concrete steps and then standing on the pinnacle, still pumping his legs, and punching the air with his upraised fists?

In that scene Rocky Balboa thought he was ready for anything, but as yet he hadn’t met with reality.  He raised fists full of hope, of determination and courage to go for his ambition and vision. As the movies Rocky II, III, etc. came along he never let his hope and dreams be dashed.

Rocky not only was full of hope that he would be a champion boxer, he had confidence and no doubt that he could become one! Isn’t that what we all would like to be able to do? Whether we’re a parent, a teacher, a skilled worker, an astronaut, or a writer, we need the stick-to-it that Rocky Balboa exhibited. Do we have that? Do we have what it takes to succeed in our field? If we have realistic goals, we can effectively work toward them. 

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.” –Helen Keller

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Enjoying the Beach

If you’ve read me very long, you know by now where my favorite place is—the seashore, preferably somewhere along the Florida panhandle on the Gulf coast. Just returned home from spending a few days there. Snapped a lot of pictures but I won’t bore you with too many.

May at the beach is enjoyable to me. The K-12 kids are not out of school yet; somewhere in America it’s college spring break but those kids go where there’s more action than where I go. Don’t get the wrong impression—I love children, we have two grown ones. But when I go to the beach it’s for relaxation and doing nothing if that’s what I choose to do. So May is a good time.

Sometimes in May the pool water is still cool because the temperature hasn’t yet warmed the water. But since we had several days of summer temps in May the water was comfortable enough that your teeth didn’t chatter if you took a dip. A few times our little family—nine of us—has taken a beach trip together. It’s a lot of fun as long as somebody doesn’t get a terrible (what other kind is there?) sunburn or eat too much fresh seafood. Can you really eat too much fresh seafood?

The tar balls from the BP oil spill were not evident nor were any cleanup crews working. But the numbers of people there did seem fewer than on former trips. I do think tourism will pick up during the summer, if we can still afford gasoline for the trip.

I look forward to being at the beach any time of the year. Planning the trip is exciting. Just thinking of going fills me with hope and expectation. Perhaps because my time there is not structured, there’s no stress, and I’m happy at the seashore.

“Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don't even remember leaving open.”  —Rose Wilder Lane, the first child of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder, writer of the "Little House" children's books. 

When has happiness shown up when you least expected it?

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Inspires You?

Winner of Tomorrow's Garden by Amanda Cabot is Kate Hinke. Thanks to all of you who left a comment. I give a book review and copy of book each month, about the middle of the month. If you didn't win this time, please try again.

What gives you your best inspiration? When you’re just “down” or having a blue day, can’t get the body to start moving, what helps you get going? If you’re a writer and you just can’t get any words to appear on the screen or paper, where do you go for a quick fix for the mental block against your creativity?

Lots of folks have pets that give them pick-me-ups; pets are the ultimate in unconditional love and attention. Others feel better equipped for the day when they listen to their choice of music. Still others take a break, fix their favorite coffee or tea and simply relax and that revs up their motor for whatever they need to accomplish.

I don’t have a cat like some do that sit with them when they’re writing or reading or whatever keeps them busy. I don’t have a dog anymore. Our 14 year old Cocker Spaniel died in 2008 and as much as I enjoyed her, I’ve chosen not to replace her—the pain of losing her is too great to go through that ever again. Maybe I should try a fish tank. Did that when the children were young, but guess who did  all the tank cleaning, feeding, and isolating  the babies the mama Molly fish had so she wouldn’t eat them? Me. So, don’t want to do that again. That pretty much eliminates a pet for my inspiration.

I do have a photo sitting on my desk close to my laptop, which I love to look at. I call it inspiration or it could easily take me down a yellow brick road and I’d forget what I was trying to do. The picture? I took it from a sixth floor balcony at the beach at sunrise. The dark turquoise of the water meets the horizon of the morning sky just as the sun begins to peak above the water. A narrow line of pink stretches from either side of the sun as the sky begins to lighten. The sea is calm, the water gently lapping onto the sand, receding, then quietly moving toward the sand again.

Even the air was tranquil at the early hour when I snapped the photo. Quietness surrounded me on the balcony. Nobody was walking on the sand, nobody playing volleyball, nobody splashing in the pool. Just peaceful. Looking at the photo I can get myself to a peaceful place, a place where nothing disturbs, a place where everything is okay. I’m okay and prepared for whatever.

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
--Ella Fitzgerald

What inspires you?

Till next time … keep on smiling.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where Do You Call Home?

Reminder: You have until noon Friday May 20 to comment on May 15 blog to be eligible to win Tomorrow's Garden by Amanda Cabot.

Where Do You Call Home?

Is home where you were born? Is home where you graduated from high school? Is home where you live right now? Or is home all of the above to you? Is home simply wherever the heart is?

Have you ever considered birds and their homes? It takes hours or maybe even days for little bird beaks to gather and carry all those twigs and scraps needed to build a sturdy nest. In the nest the mother bird tirelessly tends the eggs and brings forth life. She keeps the young birds there, nurturing them to a day when they can try their own wings.

After the birds’ nest serves its purpose for the owners, they all fly away, abandoning the birthplace of the offspring. In autumn each year, when trees lose their leaves, empty birds’ nests can be seen attached securely to bare branches. Ever wonder where birds call home?

Whenever we humans raise our young and finally see them go off on their own, do we do as the birds do? Do we then abandon our home? If so, where do our children call home?

No, we’re not birds. We don’t move to a new house with each new batch of offspring. It takes us a little longer to nurture our youngsters to the day when they soar away—on capable wings or not. But even with the brood raised and gone, is “empty nest” really a correct term? Correct maybe for a while, but not a permanent name tag.

We humans tend to gather ourselves together periodically. So that “empty nest” is not empty all the time. There are holidays, reunions, and birthdays that need someplace to happen. And there always seems to be room at “home.” And, of course, when the grown children do come back to visit, home is there with plenty of room and great meals.

Thank goodness we don’t live as the birds do. No, we’ve settled down, putting our stake in the ground for our bloodline that follows. Empty nest or full nest, home can be wherever we make it.

Till  next time ... keep on smiling.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Win This Book!

Leave a comment on this blog post by noon Friday, May 20 and be eligible to win the book I review below.

Tomorrow’s Garden by Amanda Cabot

Amanda Cabot is a popular speaker and an accomplished author under various pen names. The author of Paper Roses and Scattered Petals, she is also a charter member of Romance Writers of America, the cofounder of its New Jersey chapter, a member of the ACFW, and an avid traveler. She lives in Wyoming.

From the Book’s Back Cover:

Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas, is just what she needs—a change to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn’t count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood—or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness? Tomorrow’s Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.

From Jo:

Amanda Cabot's stories transport me to her well-developed settings and bring me into the hearts of her characters. A compelling story that shows how feelings can become misplaced when people cannot leave their past behind and reach for happiness.
Leave a comment below by noon Friday, May 20 to be eligible to win a copy of Tommorow's Garden.

Please be sure to leave your email address with your comment so that I can contact you should you be the winner. For better security from scammers you may leave your email address as (an example): jo(at)gmail(dot)com.

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Makes a Hero?

What makes a hero? Does one set out to become a hero? Can we be somebody’s hero without ever knowing we are? Today, when heroes often fall from their lofty pedestals, I’m led to think about those other than family I’ve admired.

My very first hero must have been Roy Rogers. He originated happy endings and riding off into a peaceful sunset to the tune of “Happy Trails.” Before his death I saw Roy Rogers on a TV talk show. Same smile and gentle manner, speaking candidly about his love for God, his wife, children, and animals. One of the good guys.

In Tuscumbia, Alabama, I walked to and from school along a sidewalk beside Helen Keller’s birthplace. Then she was already a mature lady, but in my mind’s eye I saw Helen Keller, the little girl, playing in her yard—blind and unable to speak. She rose above her disabilities, learned to write and speak, graduated with honors from Radcliffe, wrote many books, and was internationally famous for helping handicapped people. About her life, she said, “I believe that through all of these dark and silent years God had been using my life for a purpose I do not know. But one day I shall understand, and then I shall be satisfied.” Helen Keller was one of the good guys.

History books at school introduced me to another of my heroes—Amelia Earhart. When women were still denied many of their aspirations just because they were female, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air—as a passenger. Four years later she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and five years after that she attempted to fly around the world. Mystery still surrounds the familiar story of her last fight and its tragic ending. Some speculate that she was on a secret mission for the U.S. military. Whatever the case, she displayed enormous courage and vision. What could Amelia Earhart have accomplished as an aviatrix in this age of space travel? Another one of the good guys.

 Nowadays when images crumble and role models sometimes lack humility, I’m glad all my heroes wore white hats.

Do you have a hero? Please tell us who and why.

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chocolate for Mother's Day?

Did everyone have a good Mother’s Day yesterday? Did you get gifts you expected? I hope so.

However, if you got your favorite cologne eventually it will be used up and disappear. A box of chocolates will disappear even quicker. Flowers are beautiful and fill the room with aromas but their beauty soon fades. Gifts of clothes will last the longest but they also will have a life of a few years and be gone.

In my office nook I have a gift I’ve had for around thirty-five years and it looks as good as it did the Mother’s Day my tween daughter gave it to me. It’s a “Little Gallery” by Hallmark in a genuine walnut frame that sets on any flat surface. The oval picture mounted on the frame is of a small girl on tiptoe looking into a bird’s nest with a small bluebird perched on her hand. The verse underneath the picture is, “A Mother is the nicest friend you can have.”

I recall times in the teenage years that I’m sure the verse didn’t apply, but I kept the little frame sitting out anyway. And it still sits near my writing desk. I don’t need it as a reminder; we are fortunate that our two grown children live in our town and we talk by phone almost every day. The friendship with both of them remains a strong bond between them and me.

I hope you had the luxury of having your children, whatever their age, with you yesterday. Or maybe you had a phone call that connected you with them for a little while. Motherhood is not always easy or simple and Mother’s Day makes one day a year special for mothers. And remember, once a mother always a mother; the stages of the children and their need for you just change.

What are some gifts you've received that stayed around; were permanent? I'd love to hear about them.
Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Writing Journey, Part 3

If you haven't read the blog My Writing Journey, Parts 1 and 2 you might want to read them before this one; they're below.

I went in the room, sat across the table from a perky young lady and pushed my 3x5 card toward her without a word. She picked up my card, looked at it and said “I’m Karen Ball.” She asked me what I wrote, a question I couldn’t answer. I just wrote whatever came out of my head, but I didn’t say that to her. She was gracious to recognize that I was out of my depth and prodded me along by asking what I had brought for her to look at. I had been writing short prayers for women in circumstances they might find themselves and I’d brought five prayers with me.

I didn’t know that Karen Ball was a fiction editor and she probably could have told me so and to go sign up with a nonfiction editor. No; kind, sweet, and professional Karen Ball read each of my five prayers. She wanted to take my pages back to Tyndale House with her and I agreed. I did not know the significance of her doing so. I did know I hadn’t made any copies of them but they were in my computer, so not to worry.

Before too long Karen phoned me that Tyndale would like me to write more prayers. The result was Tyndale published two prayer books by me: Amen and Good Night, God and Amen and Good Morning, God. Later, another company published my devotional book His Awesome Majesty. As I began to learn the craft and used Sally’s market guide, I began submitting short stories and articles—and getting them published.

That Professionalism in Writing School conference was good for me and I attended several years until the director ended its existence. Oh, and by the way, that young lady who spilled her books in the hotel entrance was Bodie Thoene; she and her husband Brock were the keynote speakers for the conference. And that woman with the beautiful Texas drawl who sat beside me in the auditorium was Vickie Phelps and is now a close writer-friend; we’ve coauthored three e-books; our husbands also get along well.

I’ve finished my first novel and have agent representation by Lavonne J. Stevens, Vice President-Fiction at the Literary Management Group in Nashville. Now I wait while she finds a publisher for my story. That’s perhaps one of the hardest things about writing for publication: patience. My patience muscles have grown much stronger over the years.

This writing journey is never-ending. How could I not write? What writing ability I have comes from God and I must be the best steward of that gift that I can be.

Till next time ... keep on smiling.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Writing Journey, Part 2

If you haven't read my blog, My Writing Journey, Part 1 you might want to read it first; it's below.

I’d learned in my teen years when I was in an unfamiliar situation it would serve me well to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open. So from the outset of the conference that’s what I did. The attendees appeared to know what they were doing so I watched and followed their lead. But among these seasoned writers’ conference-goers I was so invisible I didn’t even realize I was invisible. I was Mia in Princess Diaries all over again.

I got in the line at the registration table and received my folder and name tag. I noticed that many folks were getting in another line before entering the auditorium, so I again followed. When my turn at the head of the line came I realized they were putting their names on sheets for 15-minute appointments, each sheet having a name at the top; the instructions indicated these sheets were for time with editors and agents. I signed up on an editor’s sheet and made a note of my allotted time and the room number.

As others filed into the auditorium so did I. Alone among groups, I found a seat with nobody on either side. I sat, ramrod straight, eyes and ears open. Someone from the left got my attention by asking if the seat beside me was taken. I shook my head. A woman with a beautiful Texas drawl introduced herself, forcing me to speak my first words at my first writers’ conference as I in turn introduced myself.

I scanned the conference program and marked the sessions I wanted to attend. I needed to attend them all—so much I didn’t know. I did remember to work around my 15-minute editor appointment. The conference director made her opening remarks and asked for those from certain states to raise their hands. Then she said we had someone from perhaps the farthest distance attending and called my name; she said I came from Alabama with a banjo on my knee. Most attendees chuckled. Talk about a memorable introduction. She pointed toward me and I raised my hand as all eyes turned my direction. I was no longer invisible to anyone but me.

In the workshop sessions I made copious notes but also decided I’d buy the tapes since it was impossible to get it all written down. I browsed the book room and it was like Christmas morning and finding delightful presents. I saw books on all aspects of the writing craft and I wanted to devour them. I bought Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide. Then when the editor’s appointment time came I made my way toward the designated room and waited my turn outside the door.

In my next blog: My Writing Journey, Part 3.
Till next time ... keep on smiling