Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sources of Inspiration

One of the things I love about being a writer is unexpected sources of inspiration. This photo is me in front of "All Lathered Up", a store in historic Salado, Texas. They sell fabulous homemade soaps, bath salts, and scrubs. Every time I go, I come home loaded with enough soap to clean a town. Scents like Goats 'n Oats, Angel Tears, Strawberries & Champagne...the fragrance in the store makes me want to buy one of everything.

I first visited All Lathered Up when the ladies' group at church spent the day shopping Salado in June 2005. Back then, the business was housed in a quaint cottage in a series of small buildings. The sales floor, half the size of the store now, reminded me of a quaint nook filled with scents. I bought two things then, but remembered the store as one of my favorite Salado experiences.

In early January 2006, I decided to write a book proposal for a cozy mystery. I love arts and crafts and homespun businesses, so whittled down some choices for my heroine. Then I remembered the warmth of All Lathered Up, and I had Tennessee River soaps.

Why Tennessee and not Texas (besides the fact that Texas can be "overdone" as a setting)? In July 2005, my husband took us to where the Sowell family settled along the Tennessee River towns of Crump and Savannah, Tennessee, close to historic Shiloh. The trip brought him back to his unfamiliar roots, and let me see a culture I'd only read about. So Andromeda Clark came to have a soap shop in Greenburg, Tennessee, on the banks of the Tennessee River. She's trying to make her way and not let her background keep her from fulfilling her potential. Which brings me around to the soap again.

As I writer, I love it when experiences paint themselves into my stories. A quirky Tennessee town, a delightfully fragrant business, a woman who wants to stay far enough from her hillbilly roots yet remain unpretentious, and here comes a book series, rolling out of my head. Now the trick is to follow Andromeda's story to its end. I have another character who's ready for her chance. But one project at a time. And until then, I keep my radar on for inspiration!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Those three words, spoken by one of three people (mostly Randy, though). Thousands of hopefuls are whittled down to just over 100 on American Idol. Then 24. Then 12. I missed the ladies' competition tonight because we were out, and Jericho holds priority in our home over AI. Ah, well...

Did you see the tears, the dashed hopes, the bewildered looks of the ones who didn't make it? I understand the tears. I'm fiercely competitive and hate to lose, even against myself. I'm no stranger to disappointment.

The sheer number of auditions truly boggles the mind. Do tens of thousands of people really want to be a star? You know, there's the ones who get their few minutes of fame in ridiculous costumes. Or the non-singer. "Yeah, I'm terrible, but that's why I should be on American Idol!" (Huh?)

So often we hang our dreams and expectations on what won't really satisfy us. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a TV star. That's what my mom wrote in my school days book that contained pictures and tidbits over the years.

What many AI hopefuls wanted is to belong, to know they're special. We dream of being a part of something big, something important. Whatever dream we cherish, we think, "Oh, if I could only make it to Hollywood, my life would be so much better!" We want to belong, to be accepted. We want to shine.

One of the things I'm learning is oh so simple, yet oh so hard to get: I've already made it to Hollywood. SomeOne hangs on my every word. To Him, I'm a superstar. Flawed, human, but worthy of loving. He's got bigger plans for me than any record label. He thinks I shine. Doesn't make sense, does it? But that's grace. That's real love. That's bigger than any idol. My disappointments in this life--and there've been many, should I choose to go back and think about each one--pale in comparison. My God is able to do exceedingly abundantly, above and beyond, more than I can ask or think. This bears me up through disappointments until the pain wears off and I go on.

Now that I'm done with that thought, I still have to say: