Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Win A GIFT FOR SANTA on Goodreads

A Gift for Santa is coming out December 5th, but if you enter right now on Goodreads, you might win an advance review copy. It would be a fun Christmas gift for the Alaska-lover on your list.

Sorry, the giveaway is limited to US mailing addresses, but if you are in another country and would like an e-book advance review copy, leave a comment on this post, and I'll choose up to three winners in a random drawing after October 31st. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Gift for Santa by Beth  Carpenter

A Gift for Santa

by Beth Carpenter

Giveaway ends October 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Vegetable by Any Other Color

When it comes to food, I'm fond of classics. Don't get me wrong; I love to try new things, but sometimes I get annoyed when a restaurant or recipe messes up a perfect food just to be different. It's not as though I eat so many deviled eggs, for example, that I need blue cheese and jalepenos added for variety. 

That may be why I'm always a little skeptical of oddly colored vegetables. While Indian corn makes a beautiful decoration, blue corn chips just don't seem right. I'm only a recent convert to white sweet corn. It tastes delicious, but it's not yellow. And now I've discovered black cherry tomatoes.

I planted them more or less by accident. I wanted another cherry tomato plant, but the only ones available where I was shopping were black cherries. Well, it turns out a black cherry tomato is the sweetest tomato I've ever tasted. Much sweeter than regular cherry tomatoes. In fact, they're almost too sweet, but very good. They're also prolific, healthy, and easy to grow. They have almost everything I could want in a tomato. But they're not red.

How do you feel about it? Do you like blue corn? Purple cabbage? White peaches? Or do you feel, as I do, that corn is yellow, cabbage is green, peaches are, well, peach-colored, and tomatoes should be red? 

Monday, October 2, 2017

And Then What?

Yesterday was an ordinary day. Went to church, did some chores. When the wind died down in the evening, my husband suggested a walk up on the mesa, our usual spot.

We started along the path, enjoying the sunshine. I looked around, marveling as usual, over the incredible clarity of light here at the high altitudes of Arizona. And as usual, I got caught up in the scenery and almost tripped over a rock, so I resolved to watch the trail instead.

And then we heard it: pounding footsteps. We looked up to see an Australian shepherd emerge from behind a tree. A few seconds later, his people followed, running up the trail toward us. And they were leading DONKEYS.

That’s what we story people call an inciting incident. It’s when your characters are suddenly jolted out of the ordinary by some extraordinary event. Sometimes it’s huge: an earthquake, an inheritance. Sometimes it’s so small it hardly gets noticed, like a for sale sign going up on the house across the street. But the story starts when something odd happens.

Now, if I were to make this into a novel, I'd start asking myself what happened next. The donkey sighting would lead to something else that upsets the main character's routine, and that that would lead to something bigger, creating more conflict, and eventually those conflicts would change the main character’s life in a meaningful way. 

Of course for me, it was just an interesting image to be stored away in my memory and maybe used in a story someday. But at the very least, seeing the donkeys jolted me out of my rut and made me smile.

What’s the most surprising thing you happened upon this week? Could it be the start of a story?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Remembering my Dad

Today would have been my Dad's birthday. I miss him.

Growing up, I was a daddy's girl. My dad was a farmer, and he used to let me ride in his pickup with him. There was a light in the cab behind the seat, and he told me it was a nose light, that it would turn on if I pressed my nose to it. And sure enough, every time I did, the light came on. I was pretty sure he was teasing me, but I could never prove it. He brought a lot of fun and magic into my life.

My dad told me stories and paid attention to me. His attitude taught me that I am important and worthy, and that I shouldn't settle for someone who doesn't respect me. Unlike some women, I was never particularly drawn to "bad boys" who didn't treat women well.  At the same time, he made it clear that to deserve respect, I needed to be respectful of others, and to be responsible for my actions. A good reputation was earned.

Dad was a devoted reader, and he remembered what he read. He had a working knowledge of more different subjects than anyone I've ever known. Although he was born on a farm without electricity, or maybe because of it, he embraced technology. He was a pilot, a photographer, and one of the first people I knew of to get a home computer. His knowledge of shortwave radio came in handy in his volunteer work in Civil Air Patrol and as a storm chaser. He was also president of the local school board for years and years. And he accomplished all these activities in spite of his natural shyness. He was reserved around strangers, and so only those in his inner circle knew him well. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.

My father was never particularly demonstitive. We didn't say "I love you" all that often. But I never doubted for a minute that I was loved. I wish every little girl could have a daddy to love and support her the way mine loved me. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Harvest Days

We've relocated from Alaska to Arizona for the fall, just in time to enjoy some of the fruits of the garden we planted before we left. As always, there are some surprises, especially since whatever it was I used to write the names of the plants on the labels washed off, so not everything ended up exactly where I thought it would be.

First of all, we have tomatoes. One of the tomato plants I set out in May was called black cherry. I had my doubts about black tomatoes, but I admit they are the sweetest tomatoes I've ever eaten. If you're not a tomato lover, you might try them sometime. They're almost fruit-like. We have others too, some lovely celebrities, and what I think are Romas but lost the label. 

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." -Lewis Grizzard

We're also enjoying the summer squash, both zuchini and yellow straightneck. I love that squash, green chili, and cheese casserole, and zuchini stir-fried with onions and celery.

And we have more to look forward to. There are three pumpkins. You can't tell by the picture, but they're all bigger than a basketball already. And for an experiment, I planted bird-house gourds. There are at least a dozen on the vine, so in a year or so when they're dry, I can look forward to making some pretty birdhouses. Gourds seem to grow better than anything else here, except maybe rosemary. It's a shame gourds aren't edible.

And we have fruit trees: peaches, pears, and apples. This is our first year to get peaches, and I kept waiting for them to change color. Turns out they're white peaches. Like the black tomatoes, I had my doubts about white peaches, but they're not bad. All the fruit seem to be rather small, but tasty. I'm probably supposed to have thinned the trees or something. I'll look into it for next year. 

So that's what I'm harvesting. Did you grow a garden this year? If not, are you enjoying the tomatoes and corn in the stores right now? What are you eating?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Flash Fiction - Hero

100-Word Flash Fiction

She mutters something about an iron. I tell her nobody minds a few wrinkles.  “We need to go, ma’am.” 

“Keep your britches on,” she snaps. A minute later here she comes, carrying this gi-normous coon cat, a flask, and a golf club. “I’m ready.”

Naturally, I get both arms tenderized wrassling ‘em into the boat. Before I can untie, this big ole snout rises out of the water. Old lady whacks it right between the eyes with her nine iron.

She smoothes her dress. “We goin’ or what?” 

I row, keeping a wary eye out. Who knew Texas had gators?  

Over on Janet Reid's blog, she often has flash fiction contests. She gives five words (the ones in bold) that must be used in the story of no more than 100 words. It's amazing how many different stories can be conjured using those five words, especially since the words can be inside another word or split in half. Anyway, this was my story from last week, so I thought I'd share. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hello, September

It's September. How did that happen? It seems like two or three weeks ago, it was the beginning of summer. Fuzzy little goslings were following their mothers across the lake. The Canadian violets were blooming. 

 Now, instead of violets, we have mushrooms. School buses are making the rounds. Those baby geese are as big as their parents now, and it won't be long before they're flying south for the winter. The Mayday tree that blooms so beautifully in May is covered with bird cherries, which I'm sure the waxwings will appreciate this winter. 

Don't get me wrong; I love autumn, too. Crisp days and apple pies, colorful leaves, mums, and pumpkins. But today the sun is out, and it's time for one more trip to the farmer's market. One more walk around the lake. One last taste of summer.

Which do you enjoy more, summer or fall?