Story Finds

Betty Castleberry on StoryFinds

>> Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hello again readers!


 I am very excited about today's post, and I think you will see why. I have turned my blog over to a very special guest, author Diane Moody. Diane has written several books, including The Teacup Novellas. If  you have not read them, I would highly recommend you do. She lives in Tennessee with her husband, pastor and author McMillian Moody. Diane has generously offered to share her advice on self-publishing. Feel free to leave a comment. Both Diane and I would appreciate it.

Blessings, Bets

Diane Moody



Sometimes it really is worth the wait...

 by Diane Moody

Once upon a time, I wrote a book about a pastor’s wife who runs away from home. I tried for years to find a publisher who would publish it, or an agent who would shop it for me. I spent thousands of dollars going to writers conferences. I learned so much about the craft of writing, about story arcs and how to ramp up the drama, and the importance of editing. And while I made some wonderful friends through those gatherings, in the end I still didn’t find an agent or publisher. Along the way I had two different editors tell me to cut out one whole character and his entire story line. Neither of them was offering a contract, by the way. It didn’t feel right to me, so I refused to yank dear Michael from the book.

Years passed. During that desert time, God nudged me to write a quirky little book about my ongoing struggles with having a daily prayer time with the Lord. Confessions of a Prayer Slacker sold before I even finished it. I’ll be forever grateful to that editor for allowing me to stick my big toe through the publishing world door, but the entire experience could best be described as a nightmare. Still, I learned so many lessons through that adventure that I honestly don’t regret it.

I kept writing, but I struggled with the voices in my head who kept telling me my writing wasn’t good enough, that nobody would ever care about my stupid stories, and how I’d save myself a lot of frustration if I’d just give up.


And then the strangest thing happened. A friend of mine heard about self-publishing through Amazon. At first, I scoffed and turned my nose up. Everyone knew self-publishing was a last resort for rejects of traditional publishing. But then I began to watch how many books my friend was selling, how many favorable reviews she was receiving, and how much money she was making! I was shocked to find out there was no cost involved. I figured I had nothing to lose, so why not give it a try?

My husband and I published The Runaway Pastor’s Wife in February of 2011. We were blown away—absolutely dumbfounded by sales. Since then we have published nine of my books, and three of my husband’s. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this kind of success as a writer. Fifteen years ago, I had no idea that the computer and its ever-changing technology would kick open doors that had previously been so carefully guarded by the “gatekeepers” of the traditional publishing industry. Back then, the precious, highly coveted space on the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores belonged primarily to elite authors with an established following. Newcomers, if they got published, had about a three-week window—if their books didn’t fly off the shelves, they were done.


Now that’s all changed. Instead of New York publishers, editors, and agents deciding which books will or won’t sell, the READERS get to make that call. All I can say is—it’s about time! And the icing on the cake? I get all the royalties. All of them. Sweet, eh?

It’s been an amazing journey. Truly, a new day has dawned! I love encouraging other writers to discover the bliss of self-publishing. I send them to Kindle Direct Publishing (www.kdp.com) to find out how easy it is to publish e-books. I tell them about Amazon’s CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) where they can publish in paperback. Of course, nothing takes the place of hard work. You still have to write a good story and find a good proofreader (learned that one the hard way), and learn the secrets of marketing. But if I can do it, so can you. After all, what have you got to lose?

Was it worth the wait? Oh yeah. And then some!




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>> Thursday, July 18, 2013




Happy Thursday, readers!

 It's all in the DNA


Last September, I went back to visit my family in my hometown of Robinson, Illinois.

Before I go any farther, you should probably know I love genealogy. There is something very satisfying about uncovering the mysteries of the folks who passed their DNA on to me. I like knowing where I got my freckles, although these days, it's hard to tell the big ones from the age spots.

You should also know I have two sisters. One shares my passion for genealogy and the other one is a very good sport. I'll call the former Sue and the latter Dee, to protect the guilty.

So, when I was in Robinson, my sisters and I decided to go on a genealogy exploration trip. Okay, Sue and I decided to go, and we conned Dee into it.  We either promised her lunch or a $5,000 shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, I can't remember which.

Some of our ancestors were pioneers in Wabash County, Illinois,
just a couple of counties to the south of Robinson. We devised a plan. We would go to Wabash county and find the old cemeteries, some now located on farms, where some of our ancestors are buried. Dee offered to drive her van and be our lookout should anyone question our motives, in case we happened to be snooping around on private property. I hate to say it, loves, but three women "of a certain age" looking a bit lost and confused probably didn't pose much of a threat.

This trip was going to be especially moving, because we found out there were cousins we had never met living in Wabash County. Well, let me tell you the sneaky little thrill I got when I found that out. Of course, we would have to look them up. This was going to be more exciting than blowing off my low carb diet for a whole weekend. Untapped relatives. Who knew?

The three of us spent some time walking graveyards and finding headstones of relatives gone before us. We took pictures, we laughed, and took time to reflect.


Couch Higgins Cemetery.

Did I fail to mention we also drove up and down the same country road several times looking for a family graveyard? Sue and I gave useless instructions to Dee, who, either being the dear she is or as kooky as Sue and I (and I vote for both), followed them. It's even possible there could have been a very minor incident or two involving a bump, or maybe a pothole or curb, or something. I can't recall exactly what it was, but that's a plus. We all agreed it must never leave the van. After stopping to speak to a friendly man at a country school and a helpful couple sitting on their front porch, we found most of the places we were looking for.

Prout Family Plot Marker

Our graveyard expedition over, we had one more stop to make - at the home of our long lost cousins. We just happened to run into someone at the town cemetery who knew them. They gave us a description and directions to our cousin's home. By the way, this was a very small town. We must have covered every street in town, twice, and still could not find the house. Dee again listened to Sue and I, who had her driving around aimlessly until finally, she said she thought it was hopeless and we should probably go home. We were on our way out of town when Sue almost shouted we had just passed the house. Dee obligingly flipped a U turn and we pulled into a drive where a young man stood outside speaking to someone.

We got out and provided a surname for the family we were looking for. He replied, "You found him." That sneaky little thrill returned when I told him we were cousins. He was polite, but I believe he was searching his memory for any recent news stories concerning a Wandering Grandmothers Scam. The gentleman he had been speaking to looked on, incredulous. 

Our cousin then directed us next door to where he said his father lived, who, actually, was the man we were looking for, anyway. We thanked him and headed that way. Before we had left the drive, our new found cousin was on his cell phone, warning his dad a trio of wacky women were coming to visit.

Dad came out to the porch right on cue. He looked us over, deciding we failed the test as axe murderers. At first, he was still a bit wary, but as we mentioned names of common great grandparents, he warmed up a little. Our visit was short, but interesting.

I've reflected a lot on my experiences from that day. If someone came to my door claiming to be a cousin, I would probably be a bit hesitant, too. Once we had established we were actually related, I would like to think I would invite them in with open arms.

Even if we weren't related, this scripture from Hebrews 13:2 comes to mind:
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." 



Definitely great advice, and better than any I have for you, but dears, don't get me wrong. Sue, Dee and I are no angels. We're just sisters who tend to do things that "must never leave the van." Anyway, you can't get three pairs of wings in one little bitty van, can you?

 

Blessings, Bets


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>> Friday, July 12, 2013




HELLO FRIENDS! 

 

I've got something I want to share with you today. As always, comments welcome. 




                       Be a Good Butcher, Baker, or Candlestick Maker

 

This morning, as I was pondering the meaning of life (because I am such a deep thinker), I discovered I am just not that great at anything. I'm talking awesome, worthy of applause great.

Oh sure, I've been told I am good at a few things, but I am talking about being outstanding at something, the  way Hank Aaron was at hitting home runs. I wouldn't want this to get out, but even the few things I can do are sometimes met with failure on my part.

When we have church dinners, it's generally assumed I will be bringing dessert. Folks seem to like my baked goods. So, for our last dinner, I made a Texas Sheet Cake, or I tried to. It did not cooperate. It decided to overflow in the pan and stay sticky and grossly underdone in the middle, even after baking it considerably longer than I usually do. I threw the whole thing out, and because it was chocolate, I wept.

My writing skills are sometimes met with approval, and sometimes not. I can spell, generally, although I think my spelling and grammar skills get rustier as I get older. I have long passed middle age, unless your average folks live to be 120. My creativity comes and goes, much like my energy these days.

I love to garden and like sharing my garden photos on Facebook, but I'll let you in on another little secret. There is a dead tomato plant in my garden. That's right. D.E.A.D.

Nursing was my career of choice, but I retired a few years ago. I like to think I might have impacted someone's life in a good way, but I was no heroine. I never delivered a baby or performed heroics in the emergency room.

Dears, you might think I am complaining, but you would be wrong. Actually, I think I have this whole thing figured out. It may not be in God's plan for me to be an expert at anything. Maybe I am called to just be a person who has a few passable skills. Maybe I am supposed to be the best me I can be. Maybe I can relate to others best that way.

Wouldn't it be sad if I had been called to be the unofficial church dessert maker, and didn't realize it? I would hope it wouldn't be because I was focused on trying to be Mother Teresa instead. So what if I have a few burned cookies along the way? I can always make another batch.

My advice for you is to be the best blue jeans patcher, pizza baker, weed whacker, floor mopper, computer
tech, or tire changer you can be. Very few of us will be Abe Lincolns. Mentally, I knew this when I was much younger, but it is only lately I am realizing the truth of it. My head may lie to me, but my heart won't. (And that's about the mushiest thing you'll ever see from me, so you might want to print that out.) The everyday you may just be who you are meant to be. You are a fantastic YOU.  

Blessings, Bets

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>> Thursday, June 27, 2013

Happy Thursday, readers!

Well, what do you know? I was going through my things and found this blog. I dusted it off and decided to write something.




This will be a departure from what I usually write, but I feel compelled to address a situation that has been in the media and on my heart the last few days. That situation, or person, is Paula Deen. Now, before some of you roll your eyes and say, "Not another Paula Deen article", please hear me out.

First, my disclaimer: I am a Paula Deen fan.  However, I do not condone, nor use, the word she admitted to using in her deposition. It wasn't taught to me when I was growing up, nor did I teach it to my daughter. I detest it. There. That' s done.

Now, on to other matters.  Just in case you've been stranded on a remote island for the last fifteen years or so, Paula Deen's story  is a genuine rags to riches fairy tale. She took all of two hundred dollars and with her southern charm and hard work, built a multimillion dollar empire. If you'd like more details, Google is your friend.

But this is more than just about Paula Deen. It is about forgiveness. Paula said it best herself on the Today Show. She quoted Jesus, saying, " He who is without sin, cast the first stone."

The people that know her best claim she is not a racist, have never heard her speak the word in question, and see only good she does to help those less fortunate than herself.

I have read her entire deposition. I won't say  I didn't read some colorful language, but I will say the entire matter seems to have gotten way out of hand. She was under oath and told the truth. That's more than many of us would have done, given the same circumstances.



Why, then, have the media sharks decided to make a plate lunch of Paula Deen? It seems she is being beaten up, dropped by sponsors, and slammed on social media by complete strangers ever day, repeatedly. Her fall, if you want to call it that, seems to have brought out the worst in us. Why would we want to kick another human being when they are down? What kind of society are we? Where is our compassion, and what are we becoming? Other celebrities have gotten away with much worse. Why are we so quick to condemn Paula?

I have been unfairly judged in the past, and I can almost feel Paula's frustration. There is something deep in everyone of us that feels the injustice when we know we are being portrayed as something we are not.






However, it's not all bad news. There is some support for The Lady. Facebook has a We Support Paula Deen page. It is half a million strong and growing. I look to this as a ray of hope for humanity. Why can't we forgive when someone is genuinely sorry? It's what Jesus himself asks us to do.


Blessings, Bets

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>> Monday, January 14, 2013

 Hello Friends!


I want to share my aunt, a marvelous lady who left this earth on January 6th at the age of 92. She was my mother's baby sister; the last living sibling in her family. Although she was petite, she didn't let her size stop her from living life large. She was full of energy and always on the go.

She was the aunt who always made sure my sisters and I had a great time when we went to visit her and my uncle. We went to the zoo, the Ice Capades, the amusement park, out to eat, shopping, and ate our fill of candy while we were there. In short, she spoiled us, and of course, we loved it.

Although you may look at these photos and think, "I don't know her", you really do. Just stop for a minute and recall that aunt who always made you feel special. The one who gave you an extra hug and said you were pretty. The one you couldn't wait to visit. Yes, that one.

My advice today to you is savor those moments if your special aunt is living. Call her whenever you can. Spend time with her, if possible. If she has passed on, cherish her memory, then make some new ones with your own nieces and nephews.

 RIP, Aunt Eileen. You will be missed.


                            
                           Aunt Eileen and her three sisters when they were kids. 



  

                                     Aunt Eileen sitting on the wheel of an old car.



                                     
                                         
                                              Aunt Eileen as a beautiful young lady


Aunt Eileen at her job as an executive secretary for Mead Johnson's. She worked there for 38 years.
                                                 Aunt Eileen and Uncle Bill








  Aunt Eileen line dancing. Typical of her - always having fun.


Aunt Eileen and my mother on vacation in Hawaii. My aunt loved to travel. We called her the Globe Trotter.



I hope you enjoyed seeing my pictures. 

Blessings, Bets.







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>> Friday, January 4, 2013



Hello Readers! Are you as excited about the new year as I am? I hope it brings peace and prosperity to you all. I have a conundrum to share with you today. Your opinions are encouraged and appreciated.

 Dear Bets,

Now that Christmas is over, I have to do something with a gift I don't want. It is perfume. It’s not the cheap stuff, but it’s not my taste. I really don’t wear perfume much at all. 

I know regifting these days is often done, but is it really okay to do? I’m not sure what to do with this present. I need your advice. 

 Don’t Want to Raise a Stink

Dear Don't Want to Raise a Stink,

Ah the old, “Why on Earth Did You Give Me This” dilemma, huh?

Yes, regifting is considered okay these days, at least in my circles. Just make sure you don’t complete your circle and  give it back to the original giver. This could actually happen if you keep things for two or three years before recycling them.

Sometimes even this doesn’t always have a bad ending. I once received a set of mixing bowls. Inside the biggest bowl was a tag that said, “To Meredith from Agnes”.  I changed the names here to protect the guilty, but the bowls had obviously been meant for someone else. That big bowl is my favorite mixing bowl and I thank Agnes, whoever she is, every time I use it.





I once read about someone who has a designated closet where she keeps things for regifting. She labels things with the year and who gave them to her so there are no embarrassing mix ups. Then she goes “shopping” in her closet when she needs a gift. While this sounds like a great idea, the idea of shopping in my own closet strikes me as just a little on the weird side. After all, you’ll be missing out on wearing those cute little boots you just got. Who needs to wear boots in the house? And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an Orange Julius stand in my house. I have to go to the mall to get an Orange Julius. You just have to decide whether you are willing to deprive yourself of these pleasures. Besides, who has a closet they can spare for that? I know I don’t. My seldom used things, like the vacuum, live in mine.

But back to your question, dear, if you are uncomfortable recycling the perfume, maybe you have a family member, friend, or co-worker who would like it and wouldn’t mind if you just gave it to them. Just be sure you swear them to secrecy. This should be fairly easy and probably won’t involve more than a bribe of homemade fudge, or maybe a fiver, if they are on a diet.


Since it’s perfume, you do have something else to consider. Perfume really should be used and enjoyed, because the scent does tend to change over time. Not that I’m a perfume expert, but this is what they tell me. Before you pass judgment, I’m not talking about the voices in my head. They think I smell just fine and have encouraged me not to wear any perfume.

Whatever you decide to do, do it without guilt. You aren’t going to use the perfume, so someone else who might enjoy it should.

Just follow your instincts. (Ha ha, in“stinks”. Wow, I’m a hoot.)

Blessings, Bets




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>> Sunday, December 30, 2012



HELLO FRIENDS!

 I have a conundrum that just came to my inbox. I will be answering it this week. (I wanted to throw that in so the author wouldn’t get discouraged. How did I do, author?) Until then, I want to share some end of the year thoughts with you.




ADIOS, 2012


Just when I think I’ve got stuff back on track, another train comes in the opposite direction and causes a head on.



 Don is recuperating from his second knee surgery in roughly two weeks. After his knee replacement, he developed a hematoma. That’s a big fancy word for pooled blood that shouldn’t be there. It’s a first cousin to a bruise. The surgeon had to operate again to drain the blood off, so I’ve been busy once again dusting off my nursing skills and trying to be agreeable. He is well on his way to recovery now, and hopefully our lives will be back to normal, whatever that is.

With the new year crouched and ready to pounce, I’ve decided to do something wacky and forego making any resolutions. If you’re like me, and please say you are, those resolutions never make it past the second week anyway. Seems it would be a lot less discouraging to just not make them in the first place.



 So, instead of wasting time and paper writing out things that have the shelf life of raw shrimp in the sunshine, I’ll be devoting this New Year’s Eve to preparing for a wild party. I’ll be singing my own off-key rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”, and whipping up some hot wings and Ranch dip.

Sitting on the couch with my favorite man in the world watching the ball drop on TV counts as a party, doesn’t it? Oh, that’s providing we can stay awake long enough. We’ve had some pretty early nights recently. Seems like healing from surgery and taking care of the one healing is very tiring.

This past year has taught me some things and that’s where the advice part of this blog comes in. Life is short. I mean really, really short. In 2012, I had a milestone birthday, my husband underwent three surgeries, and my beautiful sister-in-law had a near fatal stroke. That’s only a very short list, but it hits the most eye-opening events.

Because our time on this planet is so brief, don’t sit around and wait for something to happen. If you want to do something, providing you have the time and/or money, do it. Oh, probably a good idea to make sure it’s legal, too. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them, are praying for them, or just think about them sometimes. How many times have we all heard that? Probably a lot, but how many of us actually do it?



I said I wasn’t going to make any resolutions, but I might make just one teensy weensy one. My brave side says I should post it right here so I have all of you as witnesses. Here goes: I hereby resolve to take my own advice and tell the people I love I care about them. There. Surely I can handle one little resolution, can’t I? Can’t I?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 


Blessings, Bets

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