Dog Days of Summer

I used to think us Texans reserved the right to complain about the heat July through August. Unfortunately, it seems to have spread. More and more of us are rearranging our lives to spend as little time outdoors as possible, and get everything done that absolutely must occur outside before 9:00 a.m.

I’ve always thought of those extra-hot days as the dog days of summer. However, turns out I was wrong. Or at least a little off target.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I thought the dog days described the hottest days, which in Texas is the entire month of August. The use of “dog days,” I assumed, came from the fact that dogs lay about all sprawled and lazy when it’s hot.

Dogs DO sprawl on their back to let heat escape from their exposed belly, but that’s not where the name comes from. It’s astronomical (as in, astronomy, not ginormous). These hot summer days are named after the star Sirius, which is the brightest star in our sky (except for our Sun, of course). Sirius holds a place in the constellation Canis Major, which is Latin for “great dog.” When Sirius (the Dog Star) rises before the sun, that time of year is typically mid- to late-summer. Ancients watched for the appearance of Sirius in the dawning sky to know when the flooding of the Nile River would commence.

So the dog days of summer are tied to the Dog Star, not the behavior of our favorite pets.

Be that as it may, regardless of what we call this period of summer, it’s HOT. This is when my lawn turns brown and the grass gets crunchy. This is when people post pictures of baking cookies or dehydrating fruit inside their cars or frying eggs on their sidewalks. The asphalt in our roads melts, and the sticky sound of the tires on your car as they roll along the road is audible.

So what’s a person to do? Going outside invites a heat stroke. How can we pass our time comfortably ensconced indoors with our AC blowing and every ceiling fan in the house turned on rocket speed? Read a book, of course! And I have a great recommendation for you. It even has the word “summer” in the title, so you can experience the great outdoors vicariously while you read.

What book do I refer to? The Best Summer of Our Lives, written by Rachel Hauck. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:

“Twenty years ago, the summer of ’77 was supposed to be the best summer of Summer Wilde’s life. She and her best friends, Spring, Autumn, and Snow–the Four Seasons–had big plans.

But those plans never had a chance. After a teenage prank gone awry, the Seasons found themselves on a bus to Tumbleweed, “Nowhere,” Oklahoma, to spend eight weeks as camp counselors. All four of them arrived with hidden secrets and buried fears, and the events that unfolded in those two months forever altered their friendships, their lives, and their futures.

Now, thirtysomething Summer is at a crossroads. When her latest girl band leaves her in a motel outside Tulsa, she is forced to face the shadows of her past. Returning to the place where everything changed, she soon learns Tumbleweed is more than a town she never wanted to see again. It’s a place for healing, for reconciling the past with the present, and for finally listening to love’s voice.”

Ooh, there is so much nostalgia written into this story. And when you have chapter titles like “We Can Work It Out,” and “One More For the Road,” the memories of your own best summer with best friends open up and flood your mind.

Rachel had these things to say about writing in general.

PP: Which of your books was your favorite one to write?

RH: Wow, great question. I’ve been sitting here thinking of “which one,” and I can’t say I have a favorite. All of them were fun … until I started writing. Ha! Then reality set in and I had to do the work to find the best story. I guess I’ll say this: my favorite book is the one I’m thinking of next. The creative, inspirational stage is the best. But putting it down on paper is hard.

PP: What has been the most fun part of being a successful writer?

RH: In 2012, I wrote a “bucket list” for a blog I was a part of. In truth, it was more of an impossible list. One of my four things was to “hit the New York Times.” Well, there’s no way I could make that happen on my own. But getting the call from my publisher and hearing, “Rachel, you’re a New York Times bestselling author,” was pretty darn fun.

PP: What has been the biggest challenge about being a successful writer?

RH: As with all success or failures in life, I can’t let them define me. I keep focused on my family and friends, my relationship with the Lord and who He says I am. Writing, at the end of the day, is my job. I love having success, but I don’t let it define me. The year I hit the New York Times, I knew the next year might be slow, quiet, and possibly with no accolades. I determined to cheer on the author who was succeeding, getting the awards and the bestseller.

PP: When you have time to read for pleasure (not reading to keep up on trends in your genre … just for you), which author is your go-to?

RH: I don’t have a go-to author. Rather, I like stories. If the story appeals to me, I’ll read it even if I’ve never read the author before. Of course, over time there are some authors I know will tell a good story every time, but for me it’s about the story itself.

PP: If money was no object, and you had no chance of failure, what would you like to do (other than writing)?

RH: Ooo, I’d love to be one of the sideline reporters for college football.

PP: If you discovered you had one year to live, what three things would rise to the top of your to-do list?

RH: 1. Spend time before the Lord in prayer and worship. 2. Do what He tells me to do. 3. Spend time before the Lord in prayer and worship.

It’s gonna be hot for the next several weeks. Fix yourself a tall glass of iced tea, grab a copy of The Best Summer of Our Lives, and settle in. And enjoy. You can thank me later for the recommendation.

https://amzn.to/45frnLp

Everyone who comments or shares this will be entered into a drawing to win your own copy of Rachel’s book. Good luck!

And the winner is Lee Carver!

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” ~Lemony Snicket

If you’re like me, you probably have a stack of books piled in your house somewhere, waiting patiently for you to pick them up and read them. And, also like me, maybe you can’t resist buying yet another one that catches your eye.

That’s where audio books come in. You can listen to a book while you clean the house, sit at soccer practice, or drive to work. Plus, you get the added benefit of listening to the voice actor perform the story, just for you. You can have a book anywhere you can plug in your earbuds.

Which brings me to my fun announcement. Protected, book one in my San Antonio series, is now available through Audible. Performed by the inestimable Christy Lou, the story is full of various voices and accents as she brings the characters to life.

Check it out on Amazon. Sit back, plug in those headphones, and relax.

https://amzn.to/3PkpkkD

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Writing, as it turns out, it much harder than I expected. Placing words on the page isn’t so bad. Making sure they’re good … that’s where the difficulty begins.

Then, once the words are firmly entrenched on the page, after being critiqued, edited, deleted, rewritten, re-critiqued, and finally accepted, comes the getting-them-out-into-the-world part.

Hurdles abound.

An editor must bless your work of art. Hurdle number one.

Depending on where you submit your masterpiece, you may need an agent to clear the path before you. Hurdle number two.

You must convince the publishing company your story is worth their while to print. Hurdle number three.

And once your novel finally sees the light of day, you have to let people know it exists. Hurdle number four.

But, sometimes the stars align. Your future works out just the way God planned it. Sometimes magic happens.

I’m grateful the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers chose my book, A Father’s Gift, as the third-place winner in the novella category of their 2023 Selah contest this week. Being in the top seven finalists was an honor, alongside such names as Hallee Bridgeman and Lynn H. Blackburn, much less earning the third-place spot. Congratulations to them both for their second and first place awards.

Edwina Perkins and Edie Melson, directors of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

I encourage all writers out there to persevere. Your story is important, and someone in this world needs to hear your words. And when it finally happens, please share your joy and excitement with the rest of us. We will be just as happy as you are, I promise.

A Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open ~ Pooh

One question asked every time I speak to a group of readers about my books is this:

How do you get your ideas?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/z78x2sg

My first book idea came from me creating a mash-up of my favorite novels, pulling bits and pieces from each, then finding a new platform from which to launch the conglomeration. Thus, Protected was born, and I introduced Abby and Manny to the world. From there, subsequent books tell the stories of the other people included in book one. Book two, A Father’s Gift, continues the story of my main characters in Protected, and book three, Accepted, (coming out in September, 2023), brings Manny’s best friend, Jonathan, and his story front and center.

Where did their stories come from? In my case, I believe the ideas for stories come from God. How can I weave a tale that shows ordinary people who survive their everyday problems and challenges to their faith? How can I share encouragement with readers to continue turning back to God if it doesn’t seem like he listens to our prayers?

I pray and wait for the ideas to come.

Many times, those ideas come while I’m in the shower. Does the spray of water massage my brain? Does steam break up whatever blocks my creativity? The answer is a mystery, but one that has repeated itself so many times, I now sometimes jump in the shower when I’m stuck and wait to see if inspiration strikes.

https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/why-our-best-ideas-come-to-us-in-the-shower-799039/

When I listen to music, often a story creates itself in the background as I sing along. Back when I still taught (math, by the way), I had what I thought was a wonderful idea for a writing assignment in the English classes. I’d been listening to my new Josh Groban CD (that tells you how long ago this happened—nobody buys CDs anymore). He sang in a foreign language, probably Italian. I couldn’t understand the words, but a very vivid picture emerged in my imagination based on the emotion in his voice and in the swells and lulls of the music. My pretend story made me curious—would other people hear something different? I wanted my friend Becky to let her students write what they “saw” by listening to the song.

I’ve learned to pay attention to those whispers. I pause, reel in my thoughts, and see if there is something I could turn into a novel. If I feel like the idea has legs, I jot it in a note saved on my phone for later. Sometimes those ideas nudge me. They seem eager to come to life. One book at a time for me, though. I’m not a writer who can have two or three projects going at once.

My favorite method of getting new ideas is when they come in a dream. Rarely can I keep a grasp on the tenuous threads that float through my mind in the dead of night. Three times, I attempted to recall the bones of the story after I woke up the next morning. Three times, the entire project vanished like the mist burning off in the light of day. I now force myself to jump out of bed and write it down. Those often feel totally ridiculous when I read them the next day. Instead of a story I can build up, I find myself staring at a scribbled description of something resembling a Mad Hatter’s party. Crumple that paper up and toss it in the trash.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/discover/dreams-middle-east-civilisation-how-helped-define

But occasionally, the dream sequence is a kernel that puts down roots. I sit and ponder, and slowly, the idea blooms like a rose, each petal unfurling to reveal another trail in the story. That happened this week. I shared the idea with my Friday morning critique partners, and they agreed it would make a fun read. Cheryl remembered a contest she’d recently seen advertised and shared it with me. So now I have something to do with the story when I’ve polished the words, and they’re ready to go.

Creating that was fun. I’m so grateful I was in a place in my life in 2019 where I could retire from teaching and spend all my time writing. The pursuit is challenging and difficult, but ultimately rewarding. If you’ve ever considered writing, wait no longer. I’m happy to help you in any way I can. And if you are writing, share with the rest of us how you get your ideas.

And the winner is …

Ann Boyles, congratulations! You’ll receive the copy of Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy. Woohoo! Thank you for sharing your home remedies with me.

Isn’t There a Pill for That?

Have any of y’all reached a boiling point with doctors? No? Only me? There are tons of fabulous doctors out there, and I see some of them. But I’ve fired my share. (By fired, I mean muttered under my breath all the way to my car and refused to see them again.)

My biggest pet peeve with them is their tendency to turn straight to a prescription to eliminate a symptom I’ve described.

Hold your horses, Doc. Can we do some digging first to find out what causes the symptom?

My major problem is I’m a horrible pill taker.

First, I forget about them somewhere around the middle of day two, and consumption is spotty after that. Kind of hard for the pill to do its thing if it’s sitting in the little amber-colored bottle.

Second, if there is a side-effect, I’m going to experience it. Once I notice the effect, it’s all I can think about, which probably makes it worse. I’m a sympathy vomiter. The mere suggestion of throwing up makes it real.

https://tenor.com/bA9xE.gif

So I turn to the internet. I can visualize all my doctor friends shaking their heads as they listen to me describe my fascination with and reliance on alternative medicine solutions. I know. I get it. Why would I believe my neighbor’s great-aunt’s solution over theirs? Theirs, that took many expensive years of medical learning and training to come by.

It comes down to this. I’ve lived decades in this body, and I pay attention to its signals. And when my doctor brushes that off as he reaches for his prescription pad, I get annoyed. So I’m going to explore first, thank you very much. If none of my alternative methods work, then I’ll come listen to what they offer.

Full disclosure: My experiment with essential oils once turned a basic UTI into a full-on, raging bladder infection. Antibiotics to the rescue. I acknowledge I don’t always make the best choice.

But I do have success stories I want to share with you. Some are downright weird and utterly inexplicable, but effective. At least, they were for me.

For rashes and bug bites, I use lavender essential oil. Basically, if it stings or itches, it gets doused. My five-year-old grandson disturbed a wasp nest in our treehouse. His screams brought me running. Angry insects circled with menace, and his tears told me he’d already been stung. I grabbed him and ran to the house. Four angry welts raised on his leg. I rubbed lavender oil on them, and within minutes (almost before I could screw the lid on the bottle and put it back on the shelf), he hopped down, tears gone, and headed back outside. I’ve been stung by a wasp before. The sting has the impact of a hammer. The rapid improvement in how he felt stunned me.

I also use lavender for burns. Blisters from the oven, or pain from a sunburn — both get lavender. Relief comes almost immediately.

I have another essential oil miracle. I complained to my doctor about muscle weakness, insomnia, dry skin—the list went on and on. She tested my thyroid. Turns out, it was hyperactive. My T3/T4 numbers should have been in a reference range of 1.0 – 4.0. Mine registered at 0.01. (“Hyperactive” and low numbers seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when they explain it.) She referred me to a specialist. He wanted to do an iodine test to see how quickly my body processed the thyroid hormones. When I called to make the appointment for the test, the nurse explained his plan was to radiate my thyroid, basically killing off part of it. Problem was, if he killed off too much, the damage was permanent, leaving me with hypothyroidism which would require daily medication for the rest of my life. (Please refer back to the fifth paragraph.) Not only that, but I would be radioactive for the next two weeks. I’d have to eat off of different plates, wash my clothes separately, sleep in a different bed, not hold my grandbabies. No way, Jose. Off to the internet I went.

I found an essential oil recipe and rolled the mixture onto my throat three or four times a day. I planned to use the oils for six months, then let my doctor run the blood test again. However, I visited her for an unrelated issue three months later, and she asked me about the results from the specialist. I told her I was trying the oils first (hyperthyroidism wouldn’t kill me; I had time to explore). She cocked a skeptical eyebrow and challenged me to take the test right then and there. I shrugged. Okay. Let’s do it.

The next day she texted me, in all caps, with a bunch of exclamation points. “YOUR THYROID IS COMPLETELY NORMAL!!!”

Score another one for the alternative methods.

I ran across another one on TikTok. She said she oils her belly button at night before going to bed. According to her, rubbing oil in her navel will correct dry skin. (A handful of Indian women concur; I searched TikTok for verification that this was a thing.)

I have a container of whipped tallow, rendered from beef fat by a friend and scented with essential oils that I’ve been rubbing on my feet. I tried it in my belly button. My shins used to look like fish scales. Now, although my skin isn’t perfectly hydrated, it’s much better looking. I still see crepey wrinkles, but the scales are gone. And the insides of my leggings no longer look like my legs have dandruff when I take them off at night.

The weirdest cure came from my People’s Pharmacy book. Somewhere mid-menopause, I started experiencing charley horses in my calves in the middle of the night. The pain woke me, and I’d lurch from bed to stand and stretch the muscle. Sometimes it cramped so hard, I had to press my leg down with my hand on my knee to get relief. I dreaded falling asleep because I knew pain severe enough to yank me from slumber lurked right around the corner.

I told my doctor it must be hormone-related, because the only other time I’d experienced this problem was when I was pregnant. He told me hormones don’t cause cramps and prescribed a muscle relaxer.

I coached the swim team at my high school at the time and woke each morning at 4:00 a.m. No way was I taking a muscle relaxer every night. I’d never wake up. And did we not care to find out WHY my legs cramped?

Off to my favorite alternative medicine book I went—Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy. I tried several things listed before I found one that worked. The rejects?

Eat a teaspoonful of yellow mustard when the cramps hit. Yuck. No effect.

Sip an ounce of pickle juice. Double-yuck. No results.

Take magnesium. Ho-hum.

Drink tonic water. Nothing.

The one that worked, immediately, and for evermore—place an unwrapped bar of soap under the bottom bedsheet, but don’t use Dove or Dial. The small flat bars you get at a hotel work perfectly. I’m totally mystified about how or why this works, but I never had another cramp again. So, take that, stupid muscle relaxers.

What weird thing works for you? I love learning these home remedies, and I’m eager to know yours. Book five in my San Antonio series will have Lawrence training to become a doctor. Since we’ll be in the 1870s, he won’t have access to our modern solutions. I need your answers for my research. So hit me up! I’ll draw from all the names who reply and will send one lucky winner a copy of the People’s Pharmacy book. Hopefully, it will bring you answers like it has for me.

She ain’t from around here, is she?

Many of my Northern friends have commented on my Texas accent. I don’t think I have one, at least not much of one, but they disagree. I think the difference often comes down more to the word choices we make rather than the sound of our voices.

For example, in the South we use the word “y’all.” It’s a contraction of “you all.” But rather than that harsh New Jersey sound (picture Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny), it has a nice Southern drawl to it.

We also call all soft drinks “coke,” as in, “I’m gonna get a coke. You want one? OK, what kind, Dr. Pepper or root beer?”

This little guy? He’s a doodle bug.

We use the word “tump,” as in, “Don’t swing so high on the swing set. You’re gonna make it tump over.”

And we won’t get into the argument of how to pronounce pecan.

Most of the time, my non-Texan friends and I communicate well, despite our differences. We may hide a grin behind our hands from time to time, but we understand each other. However, in the past few weeks, three words I consider commonplace have stumped my critique partners.

That makes me curious. One partner lives in Illinois and the other in the United Kingdom in the Forest of Dean (but was originally from Australia). Do they not know the words I use simply because of geography?

So I’m doing a survey. Without looking these words up (’cause that’d be cheating), post your answers in the comment section below and tell me what you think they mean. Then tell me where your parents raised you. (Technically, that should say where you were reared, but nobody actually says that word and it sounds weird.) Ready?

  1. Percheron
  2. cup towel
  3. criminently

I can hear my grandmother’s voice on that last one, and it makes me smile. I’m eager to hear your definitions. If you have a word you think we won’t know down here, throw it in, too.

P.S. For those of you who have read and enjoyed Protected and A Father’s Gift, I have an update. I mailed the manuscript for book three, Accepted, to my publisher on Saturday. I hope the new book will be out by late summer/early fall. Squee!

Need a book to read? Oh, wait. The answer to that is ALWAYS yes.

I have one to suggest. My friend, Dreena Collins, recently published And Then She Fell. Not only is the book super interesting, it’s written exceptionally well. Here is the review I left on Goodreads.

And Then She Fell by Dreena Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew in the first few pages this book was going to be great. Dreena writes prose as if it is poetry. Such perfect turns of phrase, all through the book.

Example:

“You will see our new fences,” he said. “Very safe.”

The word ‘safe’ formed and hovered in the air. It stayed near him. Did not quite reach me.

Another:

We were still like concentric circles. You were at the heart of me. Focal. Vital.

You learn in chapter one the book is in the POV of a grieving mother who is trying to discover what really happened when her daughter died. Each chapter reveals another detail, and you think, “Aha! It was you!” But the next chapter turns that on its ear. When you finally realize the truth, your heart will break. I finished this book two weeks ago, and it still pops into my mind throughout the day.

I enjoyed this book so much, I want you all to read it too. In fact, if you’ll share this post with your friends (tag me!), I’ll put your name in a drawing to win my copy. I’m happy to pass it along and share the wealth. And if you don’t win, get your own copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Merry Christmas to all …

At this point on December 24, most of us have probably begun our family celebrations. When my grandparents were alive, we spent Christmas Eve at their house. We ate the dinner Mom prepared, with boiled custard and our choice of pie (pecan, for me!) for dessert, then opened gifts. The ride home through the frosty darkness was sweetened by the Christmas songs that played nonstop on the radio.

Now, Christmas Eve is a quiet time for me and my husband, John. Tomorrow morning, we will all converge at my mother’s house – my brothers, my two grown children and their spouses, and nine grandchildren, along with whomever happens to be with us at the time – for Christmas waffles and a lot of chaotic noise and joy.

Christmas 2022

But Christmas is about more than presents and feasting. It’s about the greatest gift ever given, and I pray you know the peace and fulfillment of Jesus in your life.

I also pray your new year will be happy. And to start you off early for 2023, I have a link to nineteen viral videos that will make you smile, laugh, and (probably) cry. Enjoy.

https://nicenews.com/culture/viral-videos-2022/

Merry Christmas.

2022 Christmas Round-Robin with PRIZES!

Merry Christmas! Welcome to Hallee Bridgeman’s annual Christmas Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt!

Here’s how it works: At each author’s blog post, you will find a question you can answer by checking out the free Amazon preview of their book or blurb. Provide the answer at this form. Note: You must answer the questions for every author in the round-robin to be considered to win the $200 first place, $150 second place or $75 third place Amazon gift cards. These prizes are USD values. If you are not a U.S. resident, you will get a gift card from the Amazon store for your country; however, it will be valued at these USD amounts.)

At the end of my post is a link to the next blog, which will provide a link to the next blog, etc., to the very end, creating a circle (a round-robin) visit through all the authors’ blogs.

I’m so happy to tell you about my book, Texas Heirloom Ornament. It is a sweet compilation with romantic stories of three generations of Texas women finding love at Christmas.

In Small Things Liberty by Jessica White

A parking spot. An almost kiss. An ornament.
1923—The only thing war widow Hattie Freemont wants for Christmas is liberty for all. As president of the Fort Worth Women’s Club, she’s determined to see them exercise their new right to vote and oust the current representative. But his assistant keeps showing up at the most inconvenient times, challenging her convictions even though she has the statistics to back them up. First, Mr. Fancy Car tries to steal her parking spot, then her heart. Will he choose love and fight for freedom alongside her? And can she trust in true love twice in a lifetime?
In Large Things Unity by Sara-Meg Seese
A tree. An electric kiss. A radio proposal.
1972—Single mom Tricia Little inherited Grandma Hattie’s knack for numbers, but not her knack for love. With money tight and Christmas around the corner, she’s determined to prove to her boss and her next-door neighbor she can take care of herself and her daughter on her own. Radio DJ Mr. Wright can’t help but admire the hard-working woman and her spunky kid on the other side of the fence. When he offers to help them light up their Christmas with a tree, she pushes back. Can they work together to make the holidays brighter? Can he convince Ms. Independent that he’s Mr. Right?
In All Things Charity by Paula Peckham
A bell. A whirlwind kiss. A storm.
2015—Alexis Baxter loves Christmas and her family traditions, like the handmade ornament passed down through five generations. But the final bell before the holiday break doesn’t release her from coaching duties. When the handsome basketball coach confesses he’s spending Christmas alone, she invites him to join her family for a fun-filled night. Joyful bells turn to warning sirens when his biggest regret walks into the party, casting a dark cloud over their budding romance. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth? And can love truly cover a multitude of sins?

Enjoy this story compilation where generations pass down not only the ornament, but also the famed Texas strength of the women in the family.

Let’s begin this scavenger hunt! Go to the book on Amazon at this link. Read the full blurb to find the answer to this question:

In Texas Heirloom Ornament, what is Alexis’s job?

When you have the answer, FILL OUT THIS FORM and head on to the next blog!

Thank you so much for visiting! The next author on the tour is Sarah Hamaker, who is telling us all about her Christmas book, Dangerous Christmas Memories. You can find it at this link:

https://sarahhamakerfiction.com/2022/12/03/2022-christmas-scavenger-hunt-round-robin-dangerous-christmas-memories/

Remember that the round-robin will end on December 11th at 11:59 PM EST!