Monday, March 19, 2018

National Poultry Day 

March 19th is National Poultry Day. Have you ever thought of having backyard chickens? Raising chickens is really not complicated, and many people find it interesting and rewarding. The requirements are pretty simple. You'll need a safe place for them to rest overnight, like a coop. And, if you have neighbors, you'll probably want a fenced area.

Begin with at least three birds, a rooster and two hens. Chickens are social animals and will never do well alone. The coop needs to be at least a three-foot cube at the bare minimum for three chickens, and larger would be better. In fact, build it as large as you can, because you'll likely expand your flock, especially if you want to hatch some.

There are about 150 breeds of chickens and around 50 commonly found ones. Choose the breed that fits your needs best. Consider the following:
Eggs - the number they lay per day, color, and size
Temperament - for example how adaptable are they to confinement and are they flyers or not. Also some are friendly with humans and others aren't.
Noise Level - this will be important if you have a low tolerance to noise or if you have close neighbors
Climate - some breeds do better in warm or hot climates, and others like it cooler 
Uses - Some breeds are better layers, others are better for meat, and some are good for both

If you google "chicken breeds" you can find lists of the different breeds and their characteristics. I have fond memories of raising chickens growing up. There's something especially satisfying about going out each day and gathering your own eggs. Happy National Poultry Day!


Friday, March 16, 2018

What Does It Mean to Be a Follower of Jesus?

Being a follower of Christ means so much more than saying you want Him to come into your life, being baptized, and attending church. It requires that you turn your life over to God and allow Him to change you. You have to become a new creature in Christ. I like how David Platt puts it in his book, What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me?

When we become followers of Jesus, we make a decided break with our old way of living and take a decisive turn to a new way of life. As Christ begins to live in us, everything begins to change about us. Our minds change. For the first time, we realize who God is, what Jesus has done, and how much we need him. Our desires change. The things of this earth that we once loved we now hate, and the things of God that we once hated we now love. Our wills change. We go wherever Jesus commands, and we sacrifice whatever it costs to spend our lives in uncompromising obedience to his Word. Our relationships change. We lay our lives down in love for one another in the church as together we spread the gospel to the world. Ultimately, our reason for living changes. Professions and position are no longer our concern. Safety is no longer our goal because self is no longer our god. We now want God’s glory more than we want our own lives. The more we glorify him, the more we enjoy him, the more we realize that this is what it biblically means to be a Christian.

Whatever we give up to follow Christ becomes insignificant beside what we gain. Again, Platt writes:

Yes, there is a cost that accompanies following Jesus Christ, but it is worth it. More aptly put, he is worth it. Jesus is worthy of far more than intellectual belief, and there is so much more to following him than monotonous spirituality. There is indescribable joy to be found, deep satisfaction to be felt, and an eternal purpose to be fulfilled in dying to ourselves and living for him.

What about you? How much have you seen your lifestyle change after becoming a Christian? How closely are you following Christ?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writing About the Irish

Most of my novels have an Irish or Irish-American secondary character, but only one so far has an Irish main character. I have a good amount of Irish heritage, have traveled to Ireland, and find the Irish intriguing. In general, I love their sense of humor and ability to poke fun at themselves. It's refreshing to see people who don't take themselves too seriously all the time.

Irish characters certainly play a part in my Appalachian Roots series, the first four books I published. In Cleared for Planting, Sarah's father is Irish and her mother is Cherokee. That means Luke, Sarah's grandson in Sown in Dark Soil, also has an Irish heritage. In Uprooted by War, Luke's early friend in Andersonville prison is an Irishman, and Luke's daughter Rachel is part Irish in Transplanted to Red Clay.

In When Winter Is Past, Stanton's bond servant is an Irishman, and some of the mountain people in Mountain Mishap have Irish roots. Glenna, Lucas's delightful, tell-it-like-it-is housekeeper in It All Started at the Masquerade, is Irish. The hero, Patrick Murphy, in With Summer's Songs is an Irishman. My traditional publisher said my abundance of Irish characters is one of the things that drew him. He's Irish, too.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Foundation of the Girl Scouts

March the twelfth is both National Girl Scouts Day and the anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia, by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912. The Girl Guides had been formed in Scotland in 1911, and when Juliette returned to the United States she formed a group here with advice from Robert Baden-Powell. In 1915, the name was changed to Girl Scouts, and Juliette Low became the first president.

She married William Low in 1886, but time and frequent separations took their toll. They agreed to a year's separation, where Juliette hoped to postpone, if not prevent, the divorce William pushed for. He'd already begun to drink heavily and have numerous affairs, but divorce was scandalous during this time period. Circumstances would have it that William died before the divorce was finalized. Juliette died in January 1929 at age 66 of breast cancer. She had willed her carriage house to the Girl Scouts, and it became their first headquarters.

This history of the Girl Scouts is the reason they hold their cookie sales fundraiser in March. The organization has grown over the years. As of 2006, there were 312 regional councils with 236,000 local troops in the United States. Today it is estimated there are nearly 2.6 million Girl Scouts in the country. Juliette Gordon Low would have been proud.


Friday, March 9, 2018

An Attitude Adjustment

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... (Colossians 3:17).

Our attitude affects everything in our lives. A good attitude will produce happiness, while a bad attitude brings misery. Along with praying for righteous thoughts, Godly words, and obedient actions, we should also pray for the right attitude. The Holy Spirit will help us with all of these, but we have to let Him and submit to His guidance.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:17).

A huge hunk of a Christian's good attitude comes from trusting God and knowing He has the absolute best plans for us. We just need to surrender and follow. With Christ in our lives, we can look forward to each new day with eagerness and joy.  As Warren Wiersbe said in Jesus in the Present Tense, "Each day is an appointment, not an accident; and when our desire is to glorify God, we see opportunities..." not obstacles. It is impossible to be unhappy with a thankful heart that's praising God.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Making God the priority in our lives is the beginning. We must take time to be holy. Devotion time doesn't mean hurrying through a handful of Bible verses; mumbling a routine, short prayer; and then eagerly getting to your plans for the day. As Wiersbe says, "God's Word is our food and we must chew it carefully, not gulp it down" like bitter medicine. How is your attitude? Does it need some adjustment? Pray and ask God to help you change it to one that pleases Him most.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Book Reviews

If an editor or publisher were to ask me what I see as my weakest area as an author, I would have to say getting readers to review my books. I know reviews are important because I use them every time I go to buy a book. Prospective buyers often won't purchase a book that has only a handful of reviews or low ratings. I have tons of readers and a quickly growing fan base, but my readers are reluctant to take the time to leave reviews.

I've noticed that I'm not the only one with this problem. I've consistently seen some of the top names in Christian books (the genre I read almost always read) have the same problem. Perhaps most people feel they're too busy to take the time to help someone else. I just wish others would realize the number of reviews really doesn't reflect the number of readers or sales.

I tried giving readers ebooks in exchange for a review, but that didn't work out for me. The majority of those didn't leave a review, either, and I had to keep reminding and badgering most of the ones who finally did. My books have recently had a huge surge in sales, but out of the 200+ ebooks recently sold, I've only had one review. If any of you have any good ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Irish-American Month

With St. Patrick's Day coming on March 17th, it's no surprise that March is National Irish-American Month. The Irish have made up a large percentage of immigrants coming to America over our history. In ten years from 1820 to 1830, it's estimated that 4.5 million came, and by 1860, nearly one-third of all immigrants to the United States were Irish. 

I've always loved the Irish sense of humor and their ability to laugh at themselves. When I began traveling abroad, Ireland was one of the first places I visited, and I could definitely live there. I was amused when a lady asked me where I was from, maybe Australia. When I told her I was from the States, she replied, "Oh, but you have a much nicer accent than most Americans." She liked my Southern drawl. Perhaps she heard a bit of an Irish lilt there.

For our anniversary last year, my husband and I gave each other a DNA test to learn the countries our ancestors came from. I was 34.6 percent Irish, Scottish, and Welsh and 48.2 percent English. Jim was 21.6 percent Irish, Scottish, and Welsh and 73.7 percent English. It's no wonder I've included a lot of Irish or Irish-Americans in my novels. They're a part of me.