Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Traditions

Handmade Ornament
This holiday season has found me melancholy and wistful.  It has brought out the Grinch-like tendencies and bah-hum-bug attitude that I never thought I’d experience during this time of year.  Some of it is due to the dreary, rainy weather that’s overstayed its welcome; snow and sunshine are more preferable at Christmas, in my opinion.  Impatient people and traffic don’t help much, as never-ending road construction in my neck of the woods can double travel time if you don’t plan ahead. 
However, I think this gloomy cloud can mostly be attributed to nostalgia.  This past year has been one of change for my family and for the first time, we won’t all be together for Christmas (my younger daughter and son-in-law live in Colorado now and can’t make it home).  Yearning and remembering seem to fill too much of my time and, while the thoughts are happy ones, they bring about a bit of sadness simply because time passes too quickly.
Just like most families, when my daughters were younger, we initiated Christmas traditions that followed us every year.  We engaged in all of the holiday activities that made the time busy but happy.  Christmas cookies were baked, holiday movies watched, recitals and pageants performed.  We even cut our own Christmas tree every year.  It was tradition to do so until my oldest was diagnosed with asthma and having a tree in the house triggered allergies, which then initiated asthma attacks.  Artificial trees have been part of our lives since. 
Volunteering for classroom parties is something I miss at this time of the year; receiving the ornaments my children made and the gifts they purchased for me at their holiday gift shops at school are things I cherish.  So are the memories.
Of course, the traditions continue.  I still mail Christmas cards, even though most have abandoned this form of holiday greeting in favor of quick emails.  Holiday music fills our house for most of December; my husband and I still jump in the car and drive through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights (however, now our dog accompanies us instead of our kids).  I cook too much and always have; I love decorating for the season and creating a beautiful table for Christmas dinner.  Those things haven’t changed. 
Hand carved by Polly Page
When I travel, I like to purchase Christmas ornaments as souvenirs.  When it comes time to decorate the tree, it’s wonderful to remember the special places I’ve been.  Some of my favorite decorations include the ones my kids made and a hand-carved nativity set made by my Aunt Polly.  All are displayed proudly.  Traditions and memories that will help get through “a first”.    
I’m trying to take Irving Berlin’s lyrics “Count your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” to heart, and once the skies clear and I’ve actually finished all I need to do (grocery shopping is always last), my outlook will be better.  FaceTime and Skype will make the time a little easier and I do realize that all I’m facing is life, as everyone does.  It isn’t unique to me; it’s just part of growth and change.  Some just handle it a little better than others.
I do hope all of you have a wonderful holiday.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday and Christmas Lists...Shop Amazon and Local Businesses

Thanks to those who purchased a copy of my book, Daniel's Esperanza, on Cyber Monday. Amazon started a sale that day for the paperback and it is still running. The Kindle version is available, too, with a free app to those who don't own the device. You can find the direct link for my book on Amazon by clicking Daniel's Esperanza on Amazon. If you don't like clicking links, just do a Google search of my name on the Amazon site. My book can also be found on numerous other online retail shops.

My deepest gratitude to all who have bought the book and read it, thus far. Thanks also to those who have given me positive feedback. It is very encouraging to hear from readers. Too often, a writer spends years on a book only to hear crickets chirping once it is published. It's a lot of work, we love to hear from people who have read the book, especially if it is liked. Reviews help, too, along with giving shout-outs on social media and to your friends. Believe or not, all of this helps with potential sales.

Please remember to shop locally and frequent small businesses in your hometowns. However, please don't get caught up in the craze of boycotting Amazon. Some of us can only be found online, which includes Amazon. We're hard-working business people, too, trying to sell our work.  While I won't get into specifics as to the war between Amazon and booksellers (along with traditional publishers), if you boycott Amazon, it hurts us. Perhaps, I'll reserve all that drama for a future post.
Finally, I have to say the following. Self-published = self-produced = independently done. Independents can include authors, local businesses and bookstores, plus musicians, singers, actors, movie makers, dance companies, theatre companies (community theatre, too), museums, visual artists, photographers, etc.  If you buy the tickets, goods, CDs, paintings, photography, go to the shows and concerts, and give the business all in the name of supporting the indie (or local, or start-up, or unknown), why not buy the indie book?  If you go to an indie movie or promote an indie musician, do the same for an indie author. Don’t judge a book by its publisher. Art in any form is subjective…it shouldn’t matter how it comes to be.  

Happy Holidays to all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hang the Moon, Molly Byrd

I'd like to share a short story I finished in 2006 called Hang the Moon, Molly Byrd.  I tweaked it a little, shortened it a bit and now it is a flash fiction piece telling a basic story of two people.  It's written simply to relay the simplicity of the characters.

I have shared over a dozen original short stories on this blog and all can be found in a listing to the right of the posts.  I'll continue to share more. Thank you for reading my work and I hope you enjoy this story.  As usual, copyright (©Veronica Randolph Batterson) applies.

Hang the Moon, Molly Byrd

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
(©Veronica Randolph Batterson)

They say she talks to angels.  She says they answer her.  Most say she’s just crazy, but he thinks she “hung the moon” and he told her once.
He was proud when he did it and euphoric.  It made him feel good and he wondered if people who got high on drugs had the same experience.  Not the drugs he had to take but the ones people used to change their moods.  He possessed no sense anyway, but telling her how he felt made him dopey and silly.  He couldn’t focus on anything and he knew he wore a ridiculous smile on his face for the rest of the day.  Others thought him simple but it was what she thought about him that mattered.  And she told him.
“I think you make the sun rise, Harold Brown,” she said.
It was to the point and direct, but she smiled when she said it.  And Molly Byrd never said anything she didn’t mean.  He couldn’t remember his immediate reaction but it must have been good.  He knew it because she asked if she could push his wheelchair.  He had said yes and he never let anyone do that for him.
They became inseparable then.  Wherever Molly Byrd went, Harold Brown was nearby, observing from his chair and admiring with all his being.      
On clear nights, when the stars and moon hung brightly, Molly Byrd wandered the streets, face affixed toward the heavens, oblivious to her surroundings. Harold Brown watched out for her. It was during this time that Molly Byrd would have her celestial discussions, with the angels relaying their messages to her.  So she said and he believed her. 
One particular night, a shooting star sent Molly running.  It took everything Harold could muster to keep up with her.  He found her standing on a rock by a lake, her face upturned and her body still.  Her silhouette reminded him of a statue, proud and strong.  The sight made his heart catch in his chest.  He wondered what messages were being exchanged as he watched.
When Molly Byrd finally slumped from exhaustion, the stellar conversation over, he thought she might fall right off the rock.  He got as close as his chair would allow, which wasn’t near enough to grab her as she slid.  She collapsed on the dew-covered grass; her face hung limp upon her shoulders.
When she finally gazed up at him, her eyes were drooping and confusion marked her face.  She looked right through him.
“Harold Brown, what are you doing here?” she asked.
The question hurt him.  Didn’t she remember they went everywhere together?  He looked up at the sky as if he’d find the answer there.  She lit up his life just as those stars illuminated the darkness.  Molly Byrd was his guiding light.
Things changed after that night.  Molly became more distracted than usual, often venturing off without Harold and forgetting him altogether.  He tried not to be disappointed but despondency began to stifle him.  He no longer wished to face the day each morning.  Eating took effort and he lost weight and forgot to take his medications.  Harold Brown hadn’t the energy or will for life.  Others noticed.
They gave him words of encouragement, helped him dress and took him on outings.  His new friends fed him and read to him, nursing him to better health.  The will to live grew stronger; he began to care again. 
When he was able, Harold ventured out alone, as he had before sadness took control of him.  It had been weeks since he’d seen Molly.  He remembered it clearly, as if only hours before.  He forced thoughts of her from his mind as he watched children playing tag in the park, the parents mindful of their whereabouts.
“Where’ve you been, Harold Brown?” came the question from behind him.
He felt a grin begin to form and it spread so wide that he thought it might split his face in half.  Everything appeared brighter, as if a light bulb had suddenly been turned on in a darkened room.  He wheeled himself around to face her.
“Where I’ve always been, Molly Byrd,” he replied.
She stood before him, looking the same as always.  A red balloon reached for the sky beside her, its freedom hindered by the string she held in her hand.  He suddenly felt like the balloon, bridled and controlled by Molly Byrd.  It confused him.  She tied the string to the arm of his chair.
“I thought you might like this,” she said.
Harold watched the balloon dance in the wind, fighting against constraint.  His voice cracked as he asked the questions he needed to ask.
“Why did you leave me, Molly Byrd?”
“The angels said to,” she responded.
“Will you leave again?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged.
It wasn’t what he wanted to hear but Harold Brown was glad he asked.  And Molly was just being honest.  She never said anything she didn’t mean.  When the night sky was clear and it looked like the flickering stars were ropes of light hanging the moon in the darkness, he knew where she would be.  She described those words to him and he saw it.  And he believed her.
Harold untied the string and let the balloon soar above him.  They watched the red orb grow smaller as it floated higher, finally out of sight.
“Goodbye, Molly Byrd,” he said.
Then Harold Brown turned his chair and wheeled himself away.  He felt himself floating higher, just like the red balloon, but in control.  Away from Molly Byrd.

 ©Veronica Randolph Batterson

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Sales and Fine Art America Purchases

I made a sale today on Fine Art America and my latest book, Daniel's Esperanza, is receiving some nice attention from those who have read it.  A few have said it should be made into a movie...I'll happily share that bit of info here, as it would be wonderful to see that dream become reality.  Now if financing such a big project weren't so difficult...I'm open to any suggestions.

Since the holidays are approaching (I look at things this way once we get past Halloween), I thought I'd share some new photos that have been added to my Fine Art America site.  Prints make wonderful gifts and Fine Art America does a fabulous job in producing them.  All orders are 100% guaranteed and returnable.

So for the art lovers out there, please take a look at my artist website (Veronica Batterson Fine Art America).  And for the book lovers, I have three published books for sale. All can be found on Amazon and through various other online retailers.  And if you make a purchase, let me know. Sharing the news and reviews are always appreciated, too.

A few new images added recently (these photos are found in higher resolution directly on the FAA site).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oswego Literary Festival and Q&A from Goodreads

Thanks to those who came out on this cold Saturday (yes, there were snow flurries this morning in Chicagoland) for a visit during the Oswego Literary Festival. I met some very nice folks and to those who bought copies of my books...thank you! I appreciate it very much and hope you enjoy the stories. It's always a treat participating in these events.

I'd like to share some Questions and Answers from Goodreads.  They shed a little light on what it is to be a writer (at least from my perspective).

1) How do you get inspired to write?

Keeping a blog helps, although I'm not as active as some bloggers. My personal goal is at least one post per month...so far, so good. The blog is an eclectic mix of stuff...short stories, sad attempts at poetry, musings, thoughts and things I've done. I have no theme and that helps in keeping my interest in the blog itself. As far as getting inspired to write the next book, it's a process of research, creating a loose and flexible outline, then it has to feel right before I can start writing it. That might sound crazy but without that feeling of "it's time", it will usually start out poorly and I won't be able to finish it. 

2) Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

Three years ago, I visited a wild horse sanctuary in northern New Mexico. I'd tossed around the idea of including a story about saving the wild mustang in a book for quite some time. But after seeing first hand the need to inform the public of the plight of these beautiful creatures, the issue became more than just a story. It became the basis of the book. The setting is a wild horse sanctuary. While the book is a work of fiction, I hope it helps readers to think about the plight of these animals and to perhaps act on their behalf. I also hope everyone enjoys the story. It does offer a few other story lines, too. Child abuse, ranch life, New Mexico, Native American (Navajo), horse stealing, gambling...my new book takes on a lot of issues and has much to offer.

3) How do you deal with writer's block?

Read a lot, keep a blog or journal, outline story ideas but don't force things. I think that's why I've never participated in NaNoWriMo. It feels as if I'm forcing something that's not there or ready, although the writing challenge certainly works for some people. Eventually your muse will find you.

4) What is the best thing about being a writer?

Writing is therapeutic for me at times. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment and if you write fiction, which I do, you can go anywhere your mind takes you. I'm always thinking of ideas or scenarios...there's a sense of freedom in being able to create stories, characters and settings and webbing them all together to tell a tale. It's even better when those who read the stories enjoy them. Then you feel as if the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears have been worth it. 

5) What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Be open to listening to advice and take it if it works for you. But always write for yourself. Follow your own muse. Grow a "thick skin" and let the rejection (which is an unfortunate part of the business) roll right off of you. Keep going, never get discouraged and, most importantly, believe in yourself.

6) What are you currently working on?

I'm tackling historical fiction (with perhaps a little paranormal twist) next. Research for it took me to southern Illinois this summer...the outline is coming along and I hope to begin soon. A sequel to my latest, DANIEL'S ESPERANZA, is waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ridge Cemetery on Williamsburg Hill - A Haunted Photo Capture?

Ridge Cemetery - what looks to be a face over the middle tombstone
Since my third book is published, it’s time to think of the next one.  I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing historical fiction, a genre that I love to read, and I think I’ve found the basis of the story.  Research for it began with a trip in August.
My husband and I drove to south central Illinois to an area of the state that technically no longer exists.  Well, one area does, which is a reminder of what used to be, I suppose. 
The town of Williamsburg, Illinois was a thriving community, which began in 1839.  Its prosperity was due mostly to the stagecoach line that ran through the village.  The demise of Williamsburg came in 1880 when the railroad constructed its line to the east of the village.  Stagecoach travel died and the residents of the town moved to be closer to the railroad.  Williamsburg became a ghost town and there is nothing left of it. 
Ridge Cemetery Cropped Photo - Face over Tombstone
However, the village included an area known as Williamsburg Hill, which rises over 800 feet.  Somewhat of an anomaly, its location is in the middle of flat cornfields.  It’s easy to see once you get there but mapping it was a little difficult for us.  The GPS in the car had us driving through cornfields; thankfully my iPhone led us directly to it. 
On top of Williamsburg Hill is Ridge Cemetery and if you believe the folklore written about the area, it is haunted.  I did not wish to go to Ridge Cemetery (reading about it “gave me the creeps”), but when you’re the passenger in a vehicle driven by a determined human being, well, sometimes you end up where you didn’t intend to be.
Ridge Cemetery - Williamsburg Hill
And that is how we ventured onto the grounds of one of the “Top 10 Creepiest Cemeteries in Illinois” (per Mysteriousheartland.com).  The road leading to the cemetery has a sign warning all visitors that the grounds close at night and trespassers would be prosecuted.  Fortunately, it was mid-afternoon.
The path to Ridge Cemetery was dark due to the overgrowth of trees on either side of it.  This caused my anxiety level to go into overdrive, as shadows played across the road and I had no idea what we were about to meet.  Then once we reached the cemetery at the end of the road, the area brightened to a serene and peaceful looking resting place on the other side of an unlocked gate. 
As we were the only people there, I didn’t even want to get out of the car.  It felt as if we were trespassing or intruding on something intensely private.  But when my fearless co-passenger issued a hearty, “We’re here, might as well get out,” I could do nothing but follow his lead.
I grabbed my camera and started taking photos of the area outside of the gate, constantly looking over my shoulder as if something might appear and spook me.  The intent was to never, in any way, go onto the grounds.  However, hearing a “Let’s go in,” meant either following the leader or standing by the car by myself.  The answer was clear and I was sticking close to the spouse.
Ridge Cemetery - Williamsburg Hill, IL
Quite honestly, the grounds were very beautiful and I felt comfortable for part of the time.  Even though the cemetery dates back to the nineteenth century, families in nearby communities still bury loved ones there.  Fresh flowers graced some of the tombstones.
I began taking photos in a rapid sequence with my digital SLR camera, never concentrating too much in one area.  I moved around a bit, got a lot of photos and then the part came when I didn’t feel comfortable.  It was accompanied by a terrible smell that would linger then dissipate.  This happened several times and I was ready to leave.  The fear factor had returned.
When I looked through the photos later, I was very surprised.  While several images have some strange shadows, there was one sequence of photos that seem very clear.  I’ve included one of them here in this blog post, cropped and at normal size.   Other than annotating with a copyright, the photos are not fixed in any way.  In other words, I did not add that large, floating face above the middle headstone. 
I’m not sure if I captured something, but it looks as if I did.  At any rate, the experience might cause Ridge Cemetery to find a place in my story somehow.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oswego Literary Festival

I know my last few blog posts have been about my book, Daniel's Esperanza, but given the amount of time I waited to get it published and how difficult the post publishing requirements are...it is what it is, I suppose.  This is another of those posts, but it's a short one.

Many lovely things do come about once you publish a book. One is the opportunity to attend festivals and meet a lot of nice people.  I've been invited to participate in the Oswego Literary Festival in Oswego, Illinois on October 4, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.  I'll be signing and selling copies of my books, as will a host of other authors. Come out and meet me if you're in the area that day.

A reminder to those on Goodreads: my Goodreads Giveaway for Daniel's Esperanza will be ending on September 15. I'm offering twenty autographed copies, so check it out if you're in to entering those giveaways.

Finally, many thanks to those who have given generous reviews to Daniel on Amazon.  This is sometimes the heart of a book...it helps generate interest and potential sales (positive word of mouth helps, too), allowing it to survive and sometimes stand out in a sea of endless stories.  It is appreciated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Now for Kindle Users and in Paperback

My book, Daniel's Esperanza, is now available for Kindle users on Amazon for only $6.99. Of course, if you prefer the paperback version, it's for sale, too. I always appreciate those who take the time to make a purchase and actually read my work.  Icing on the cake includes feedback and reviews. 

Independent authors have to hustle and work very hard to get anyone to notice their work. If you enjoy one of their books, please be kind and take the time to tell them so. Better yet, leave a positive review on Amazon, Goodreads or anywhere else you find the book promoted and sold. These things help sales and give much needed attention to some deserving individuals.

Thanks, again. The link to my book on Amazon is Daniel's Esperanza. Also, my Goodreads Giveaway goes until September 15. If you're a Goodreads member, you know how to sign up for their giveaways. Autographed copies are up for grabs there.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway for DANIEL'S ESPERANZA and Excerpt

I'm hosting a book giveaway for my new novel, Daniel's Esperanza, on the Goodreads site.  Twenty autographed copies will be given away...all you have to do is be a Goodreads member and sign up for a chance to receive one of them.  I have nothing to do with who will get the copies.  Goodreads does this randomly, but if you're interested, check it out under Giveaways.

Daniel's Esperanza is now available in paperback on Amazon.  The Kindle version will be available within the next few days.  The direct Amazon link is Daniel's Esperanza and excerpts are available there, which Amazon provides by allowing you to read inside.

I hope you enjoy the story and please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads and wherever the book is listed.  I'd appreciate it very much.  Thanks for taking a look.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finally...There is a Cover

I've been waiting a long time for this.  There is a beautiful cover to share of my third book.  Daniel's Esperanza is literary fiction written for the adult reader...I specify this because my two previous books were middle grade/young adult works.  I'm told that the book will be available very soon (within days) for purchase in paperback and for Kindle, and I'll provide an excerpt shortly.  Sharing the cover for now.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Old Wauhatchie

For this blog entry, I'd like to share a flash fiction piece I wrote recently.  "Old Wauhatchie" might resonate a little with my friends in Tennessee and Georgia...Chief Wauhatchie of the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears, a time when the tribe was forced to give up its land due to the Indian Removal Act of the 1830s. There is a road in existence today called Old Wauhatchie, just around Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.  This short story is part history, part dream sequence, part paranormal and I took some liberties, but it is fiction.  The history itself was not changed, just mentioned.

As always, copyright applies, ©Veronica Randolph Batterson, and thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog.

Old Wauhatchie

By Veronica Randolph Batterson
The mist rose from the river, its ghostlike veil spreading slowly and sensually through the brush of trees and along the path where she waited.  It separated like arms, wrapping around her ankles, swirling, and gently enfolding her in an embrace she couldn’t feel.  She watched as it continued and spread, caressing the earth like a familiar lover, confident and comforting.
Twilight was quickly turning to dusk; the colors from the departing sun created shadows that danced and angled before her eyes.  The swelling mist played tricks, bringing the dark forms to life.  The silhouette of a man jumped from a rock, only to be replaced by the contours of a bear running into the woods.  An arrow shot from a bow near a tree, its momentum turning it into a bird with wings that spread and hovered over her until it glided out of sight. 
She knew he was nearby and felt his presence throughout her body.  Her senses were sharp; the slight snap of a twig brought her head up.  She waited.  Then the scent reached her nostrils, a woodsy blend of cedar and oakmoss, hints of evergreen and honeysuckle with a puff of tobacco.  It lingered under her nose, intoxicating and light, keeping her still in anticipation. 
Then drumbeats, faint and steady, filled the air and echoed through the trees, hinting at greatness to come.  Or danger, but she wasn’t afraid.   She knew she was being summoned, as it was her time, and he would be there waiting.
Listen to the river,” the wind breathed.
Through the mist, lifelike forms appeared.  They walked toward her, hundreds it seemed, women carrying babies on their backs and children dragging behind.  Their faces etched with sorrow, in their arms they carried all they owned.  Men intermingled, solemn and stoic, walking tall yet anger simmering at being driven from the only land they’d ever known.  Their land. 
And she saw Wauhatchie, Chief of the Cherokees, chief of these displaced souls, limping to follow.  Stooped and aging, his face belied his youthful greatness; he was simply a man forced from his home now, like all his people.
This tribe of spirits walked past her and through her.  She felt the rush of air, a whisper of breath touching her skin as they passed.  Sadness and despair washed over her and the sense of loss was so great that she wanted to cry out at the injustice.  This trail of tears left her cold and empty.
The drumbeats stopped and there was quietness all around her.  She heard a pebble skim across the water.  She turned toward the sound and saw someone emerge from the thicket of trees.  He was there.
He was as she remembered, as he was when he left.  His dark hair, touched with gray, looked damp from the mist.  The smiling green eyes still smiled.  For the first time, she wondered how she appeared to him.  It didn’t matter, she thought, as he took her hand in his own.
She met him years before, on Old Wauhatchie, where winter brought an icy chill and summer bore scorching heat and singing cicadas.   She lost him there, too, when the river rose and took him away.  Then he joined the others, specters with tales and stories of their lives, sharing with those who could feel them.  And he waited for her.
The drumbeats sounded again as darkness enveloped them.  Her vision adjusted, allowing her to see everything as she would in daylight.  The river reclaimed the mist, the wispiness retreating to the murky waters in wait for the next arrival.  He looked at her and kissed her hand.  They had a story to tell.
Listen to the river.” 

 ©Veronica Randolph Batterson


Thursday, July 10, 2014

July Orders on Fine Art America Come With a $100 Gift Certificate for Wine

I'm doing a quick blog post right now to let you know about Fine Art America's July promotion.  Any and all orders (it doesn't matter the amount you spend) will come with a $100 gift certificate for wine from NakedWines.com.  Of course, I'm including the link to my FAA page just in case anyone wishes to include some of my work in their orders and there are a lot of options from which to choose: canvas, acrylic, metal, poster/art (all framed or unframed and in any size) prints and greeting cards. Also, cell phone covers are available, too, in the artists' images.  There is an abundance of talent on this site, all with beautiful work to sell. I highly recommend any and all to check it out.

The link to my personal site is http://veronica-batterson.artistwebsites.com. I've included a few photos you'll see, but visit the site for greater resolution of these images and many more. Thanks for reading and for taking a look.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Man's Best Friend Could Do Without All the Fireworks

July 3rd marks the sixth birthday for my best canine friend.  If you believe Merriam-Webster, she has finally hit middle age.  Maybe that's why the fear of sudden and loud noises seems greater this year than in the past.  In addition to crawling under any piece of furniture that will support her golden retriever's frame (something she has always done), a new sign of stress for her seems to be excessive panting and drooling during these times.  Other noises will cause panic, too, such as thunder and loud trucks, and when we had our roof replaced, she spent the entire time in her crate (a place she feels safe). It's the July 4th celebrations, however, that do the most damage.

Our sweet dog has always been afraid of the fireworks associated with the July 4th holiday...going into sheer panic and running aimlessly and wildly throughout the house.  We call it bouncing off the walls and sometimes it literally takes a wall to stop her.  She's terrified and I'm terrified of her ever getting out of the house during these times.  Too often our pets get lost this way because they take off when hearing these sounds and there are no walls to stop them. 

I'm certainly no Fourth of July Scrooge, as I love to see fireworks to celebrate the holiday.  It is symbolic, after all.  However, I could do without some of the pre and post celebratory bangs.  When you hear loud booms from dusk throughout the night, everyday, for about two weeks prior to the big event, well, that's a bit much.  Add a week or two of winding down and our pets could use a prescription for Xanax.  We might need it, too, simply for dealing with them.  Of course, the normal concerns arise, such as fireworks legality (depending on where you live), fire, safety (kids can get hurt, after all). Yet, the celebrations continue for weeks.  Maybe I'm just getting old.  According to Merriam-Webster, I've been there awhile.

So, have a safe July 4th holiday, everyone.  Take care of your pets, keep them as calm as possible.  I have a feeling my girl will be secured in her crate for the evening.  If she could understand me, I'd tell her we were all just celebrating her birthday.  If she could talk, she'd just say a new can of tennis balls would suffice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

And A Hummingbird Hovered...Starved Rock State Park

Decompress.  Restore.  Relax.  Recover.  Anyone who has been part of the wedding planning process for a daughter understands how fully these words are felt once the special day is over.   When months, oftentimes years, are spent preparing for the nuptials, it’s sometimes difficult to remember how living (or even breathing), sans wedding discussions, ever was. 
This past weekend, my younger daughter walked down the aisle.  It was beautiful and ran smoothly, but it took a lot of work to make it so.  Now I’m feeling that sense of “what to do with myself” quandary, which followed the foggy numbness post-ceremony.  A glass of wine or two helped clear that haze and made relaxing a little easier at the reception, but Monday rolled around and I felt lost.
I can’t say enough positive things about the location of the wedding, which helped us keep cool heads and our sanity.  Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois made the bride and groom’s weekend one of memories they’ll always cherish.  Situated on over 2600 acres, the park is known for its many canyons and hiking trails, along with fishing and boating opportunities and overnight accommodations in cabins and the lodge.  It’s also a premiere wedding venue, hosting most ceremonies outdoors with the capability of moving everything inside due to inclement weather conditions.  And we just missed the rain.
With a 5 p.m. outdoor ceremony, small droplets started dotting the sidewalk at approximately 4:20 (just as I exited the lodge).  As the weather had been perfect for the past two days until that point, my first thought was, “Are you kidding me?”  Braced and ready for what was to come, I went back to my hotel room and grabbed two shawls I’d thought to bring (to throw over someone if necessary in an attempt to salvage dresses and hair) and my husband brought our only umbrella from the car.  Groomsmen were buying umbrellas from the gift shop.  Ultimately, none of it was necessary.
Throughout the ceremony and photographs afterward, the rain stayed at bay, and everyone enjoyed the lovely setting Starved Rock has to offer.  But one of the most special moments of that time, in my opinion, wasn’t planned.  As the bride and groom said their vows, a hummingbird appeared above the wedding party, hovering for several seconds, dipping, darting and hovering a little more.  Then it was gone as suddenly as it appeared.  I’m one to believe things like this have some sort of meaning and given the Native American history of the park, I readily accept the symbolism of a hummingbird’s appearance at such a time.
In general Native Americans viewed hummingbirds positively, but it depended on the tribe as to the legends and symbols they represented.  Hummingbirds are often associated with beauty, harmony and integrity, but they’re also seen as healers or spirits helping those in need…or the spirit of a departed loved one (something even more special given the timing).  Some think seeing a hummingbird is a sign of good luck, but it has special meaning for different people and cultures…symbols of joy, life and a savor of life, tirelessness, eternity and everlasting life.   For myself, I’ll take any of these.  It was a very special moment I’ll always remember.
As for the rest of the evening…reception, dinner and dancing occurred without a hitch indoors, which is a good thing as the skies opened and it poured the rest of the night.  The timing was perfect and everyone had a wonderful time.  I couldn’t be more pleased with Starved Rock State Park…thank you, Margie and Tiffany.
Now, let the recovery continue (perhaps a vacation will help, then seeing book three reach publication).  Onward.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Prints on Fine Art America...While We Wait On The Book

Those who have been reading this blog know I've met a few road blocks along the path to publishing my latest book.  I should add that detours, speed bumps, brick walls and more red lights than green would give it more emphasis.  For the most part, the manuscript was complete over a year and a half ago.  Eighteen whole months.  Ten of those months, one literary agent considered it.  Yes, in the digital age (it was sent to her electronically) it took her ten months to decide to reject it.  This was something I knew would happen, so really the only thing that upset me was the length of time I wasted waiting on her response.  At that point, I decided on publishing it myself (as I'd done with my previous two books), but to go a different route.   A cover artist was already working on a design for me, with a tentative launch date of June 1, when another literary agent asked to read a full.  So once again a delay.  After all of this, it looks as if I'll actually be doing this solo again, with a tentative publication date of July 1.  No promises, however...life has been busy, particularly with the wedding plans of my youngest daughter.  Fingers are crossed.  

While we wait on the book, I'd like to share some more photos I've added to my Fine Art America site.  To see the prints in greater detail/resolution, please visit my page by clicking the Fine Art America link.  As always, thanks for the visit, and if something catches your fancy and you make a purchase, my sincerest gratitude to you.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Simply An Incubator

My two daughters are young women now and when I look at where they are in their lives, I wonder how I was any part of their talents and accomplishments.  Of course, I’ve owned many titles over their lifetimes: nurturer, caregiver, homework enforcer, cab driver, lunch maker, bad guy who made rules and curfews and the volunteer-for-any-job-in-elementary-school-just-because role.  But I look for things they might have inherited from me, something genetic that could have contributed to what they do now.  And I struggle to find it.
My younger child has been offered a special opportunity to work toward her Master’s degree this fall.   Tuition free.  Her undergrad scholarships covered all of her tuition during those years.  She was a member of seven honor societies, graduated summa cum laude and her resumé reads as if she’s been in the work force for decades.  How is she my child? 
She is a visual artist, as well.  Her artistic abilities amaze me and while I love all of her work, my favorites will always be her cartoons.  She can create on paper, bringing to life all of these wonderful characters.  It’s certainly not anything I can do.
My older daughter is a musician.  She began playing the violin in first grade and took lessons until she graduated from high school.   The violin was chosen for two reasons:  1) we didn’t own a piano at the time and, 2) we had a neighbor who rented string instruments to schools for their orchestra programs.  We rented a tiny violin for our daughter and she took off, never looking back. 
Lessons via The Suzuki Method started and lasted for a few years.  By the way, if you don’t think it’s possible for young children to perform music by the classical composers such as Bach, Handel and Mozart, then find a Suzuki School recital and go to it.  You’ll be amazed.
Traditional lessons followed, as did concerts, youth orchestras, ensemble groups and fiddle instruction.  One of my fondest memories is when she played the role of “The Fiddler” in Fiddler on the Roof during her high school years.  She didn’t play from the orchestra pit; she was up on the rooftop on stage, dressed like a man (including beard).  And I loved it.  Today, she continues to play gigs around the Chicago area and I continue to marvel at her musical abilities, as she didn’t inherit them from me.
So I wonder.  I was a good student, but I had to study, and I was far from brilliant.  I started out as an art major in college and abandoned that career path due to an unfortunate experience.  Looking back, it was probably a sound decision, as I see the talent my youngest possesses…talent that eluded me.  As for the musical inability...I took classical guitar lessons for a while, regretting much later that I didn’t continue.  I felt it important that my daughter play an instrument, thus the music lessons.  But I have no talent for it. 
Perhaps I’ve been pursuing dreams through my kids…some people do it.  Although, my daughters have never been forced to do these things.  They continued along their paths because they chose to do so and they felt good about what they were doing.  And I continue along my own, wondering how in the world either one of them are a part of me.  The incubator idea is strong during these times. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

She Heard Her Heart

The cover design for my third book, Daniel's Esperanza, is underway and the launch date is tentatively set for June 1, 2014.  This whole process has been long and convoluted, so nothing is definite.  It wouldn't surprise me if there were some more hitches along the way before it's published.  I hope not.

For now, I'd like to share a flash fiction piece I just finished.  "She Heard Her Heart" is short, short, short.  Perhaps it resonates with someone, somewhere.  Thank you to all who read my blog and copyright applies, as usual.  (©Veronica Randolph Batterson)

She Heard Her Heart

By Veronica Randolph Batterson

She heard her heart.  The steady, rhythmic beat reached her ears and the sound reverberated around the room.  Its resonance was clear but distant; a channel tuned to a remote place reserved only for hearing, the airwaves charged with static and hollow noise.  Its otherworldliness a guarantee her lifeline worked, yet a small fluctuation could signal worry.  She listened closely.
Listening brought memories.  She recalled the feeling when hearing the first heartbeats of her children.  Relief, disbelief and wonderment fueled thoughts of an uncertain but promising future.  The ultrasounds provided proof life grew inside her.  The unfamiliar pulse meant joy and promise.
She remembered her grandmother’s life as it ended.  When the heart had grown old and tired, plagued with disease and slowing until it could no longer function.  The last beat was made as she was transported to intensive care, the final heart surgery a failure.  Would that be her fate?
Yet the heart was even more.  At times her own had soared.  And broke and cried.  It had loved and anguished and worried.  Her heart had been full and empty and angry.  It had mourned and been hopeful.  This pulsing promise of life, symbolic of what made life bearable and worth living; what allowed a soul to survive and become strong, when all else appeared hopeless.   
The core of existence continued to beat.  She marveled at how unassuming the sound was.  And welcome.  The center of life was steady and reliable; it was blue-collar, the engine and the manual laborer.   It was taken for granted unless something went wrong.  Then our own mortality grabbed us by the collar, forcing a hard look at what might be, what will be eventually.
She closed her eyes and remembered.  The instincts that were ignored and not followed; the love that could have been but wasn’t; the overlooked kindness and the compassion lacking to make a difference.  Times she hadn’t followed her heart and listened. 
The steadiness continued.  It filled her mind with things she must do and accomplish.   She didn’t bargain, bribe or ask for more time as her heartbeat filled her ears.  She just knew how it needed to be.   And she had to listen.

©Veronica Randolph Batterson

Friday, March 14, 2014

More Fine Art America Photographs While We Wait

I'm using this post to share some more of my photographs from the Fine Art America site.  My next book, Daniel's Esperanza, is close...very close...to being published.  It's been a long wait and I see myself dedicating a post at some point in the future to this whole process.  I'll be posting excerpts soon.  However, I shall be happy to share these photos from a hobby I enjoy.  These images, and many more, can be found in greater resolution at veronica-batterson.artistwebsites.com.  I don't specialize, but take photos of things that interest me.  Nature, landscapes, travel, side trips, dogs (particularly golden retrievers)...there's a bit of everything.  Browse and if you decide to make a purchase...many thanks!  As always, I appreciate all who read this stuff.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living with Cato

Just before Lily entered my life, I wasn’t sure I wanted another dog.  We had recently lost our previous pet to illness and it took a lot out of me.  I was drained emotionally.  Something about bringing another dog into our home so soon after a loss seemed wrong, too.  And disloyal.  I felt as if we were betraying our beloved dog’s memory and it just hurt too much.
But my husband was insistent.  A Sunday afternoon drive in the country was in order.  He knew of a place that had some golden retriever puppies for sale and he was determined to change my mind.  I grabbed some old towels as an afterthought, but forgot the small dog crate in the basement.  Then we hit the road.
I should say that our last dog was a golden retriever, too, and our family loves the breed.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t willing to adopt a rescue or look at other breeds.  We just know the golden well.  It is an obvious choice for us at this point in our lives.
Lily was born on a farm.  When my husband and I drove up the long drive to the farmhouse, I knew we were going home with a puppy.  I had no more doubts.  All it took was to see a large litter of pups lounging and playing under a huge tree to change my mind.  And she stood out from the rest.  All were friendly and exuberant, but Lily was fearless and curious, too.  We knew she was the one.
On the drive home, she sat on my lap on top of the towels I’d brought.  I realize this isn’t the smartest way to travel with a pet (she should have been secured in the dog crate that we forgot), but my husband was driving and I held her closely.  I’m glad I remembered the towels, however.  She piddled on me a couple of times during her first car ride.  The towels saved my jeans and the car seat.
The first year with Lily was an adventure.  It had been a long time since a puppy lived with our family and she kept me moving.  Puppy classes were important to us for the conditioning, so we enrolled her (and us) to refresh us on the beginning basics.  She was easy to train but a terror on a leash.  Housebreaking?  No problem.  I think she had one accident in the house, otherwise, she knew right away to go outdoors.  But walking with her on a leash?  I liken it to walking the Tasmanian Devil, that Looney Toons character.  Pulling, jerking, stopping, dragging.  She was all over the place.  It made no sense to her.   Being outdoors meant adventure and freedom to that farm dog.    And she didn’t want it any other way.  Commands didn’t faze her when on a leash, and she knows and obeys commands very well, otherwise.  Even the instructor was at a loss, murmuring, “I’ve never seen such a thing.”  I knew then walking with her might never be a pleasant thing.
Home life was an experience, too.  Lily has earned many nicknames over the years, but one that perfectly describes her personality is “Stealth”.  Or “Cato” (Kato Fong from the Pink Panther movies), as my husband affectionately calls her.  The manservant and martial arts expert hired to keep Inspector Clouseau on his toes had nothing on our hound.  She’s the master stalker and while her toys are often the target, we are always her prey.  The little girl is always lurking, ready to pounce.   Think she’s sleeping in the other room?   Just turn around and she’s at your feet staring you down, standing very still, with narrowed eyes and that stalking face.  We rarely hear her coming, that’s how quiet she is.  What she chooses to do next depends on her mood, but it’s always playfulness.  Another personality trait. 
The hound feigns hearing loss when it’s to her advantage.  She absolutely hates being brushed, which usually means I have to wrestle with her to do a little grooming.  So if she’s resting in another room and hears the word “brush”, then she remains very still, pretending to sleep.  But if a piece of food hits the kitchen floor, Stealth is suddenly there from two rooms away in search of an unexpected treat.  The word “groomer” is in her unspoken vocabulary.  She attempts to hide when hearing it.  She’d be the ragamuffin of goldens if we allowed it and just as happy.  But anyone who has a golden knows the importance of brushing because of the breed’s tendency to shed.  A lot.  So she’s out of luck with that one.  And I continue to wrestle.
Lily’s “business”…where to start?  I think she views it as a necessary inconvenience.  She would much rather explore, chase tennis balls, sniff the air, look at the birds, bark and roll in the grass or snow.  So she waits until she can’t put it off any longer; until she’s checked out every single shrub and chased every leaf that’s blown in her path.  Then it’s as if she’s thinking, “Okay, gotta take care of this.”  I’m sure she would sigh if she could.  And most dogs chase their tails.  I’m not sure why, but I know what’s about to happen when Lily chases her own.  Because she pushes the “business taking” to the limit, her tail chasing is an indication.  It’s usually a few chases and she stops, ears up and alert, eyes wide and staring at us, as if to say, “THIS HAS TO HAPPEN NOW!”  We get the message and out she goes.  It’s funny how our dogs communicate with us.
I do believe we have the only dog that suffers “business attacks” as a result of car rides.  That old story comes to mind of getting a cranky baby to sleep by taking it for a ride around the block.  You have a dog that needs to do its business?  Take it on a car ride.  That’s our hound.  And she’s turned into a difficult traveling companion because of the incessant stopping we have to make for her.  We usually visit family in Iowa on Thanksgiving and take Lily with us.  We’ve stopped more for our dog along I-88 over the years than we’ve ever stopped for ourselves.
As with all dogs, her barks have meaning.  I’ve learned what’s going on with all I hear.  Ceaseless barking, while looking out the window, usually means she sees something…squirrel, rabbit, neighbor.  Barks will end once target is out of sight, but I’ve had to shoo off a squirrel or two that dared the dog through the window, driving Lily (and me) crazy.  Announcement barks are reserved for the doorbell ringing, the UPS delivery truck, the mail carrier and any variety of noisy vehicles (trash and recycling trucks, snow plows, etc).   The one lone “RUFF” bark means she’s saying to one of us, “Now, wait a minute.  Look at me."  Then there’s the single “Whoop”.  This happens when she’s lounging in a semi-sleep state, snoring happily.  A loud noise induces one of these when it brings her back to consciousness.  I’ll just say I’ve been startled senseless when she does it. 
There’s so much I could share about this wonderful creature.  She loves the camera, probably because I’ve trained her by taking endless photos from the moment we brought her home.  She’s confident she can catch anything that wanders in her yard (squirrels, birds, rabbits, ducks) even though she never has.  Her beautiful instincts came into play last spring when she bugged a poor nesting duck under some shrubs by our house.  Tracking, flushing and chasing continued every time Lily went outside until we had to build a temporary fence around the shrubs so she’d leave the duck alone.  The two coexisted until it was time for the new mama duck and her babies to vacate. 
She loves snow, still thinks she can sit on my lap (even though she weighs about eighty pounds), sometimes uses her toys as pacifiers and has an internal clock for when it’s time to eat.  I’ve never forgotten to feed Lily because she won’t let me forget.  She has me trained well.
Age is catching up to our sweet girl, as it does with all of us.  She’s much whiter in the face but just as beautiful.  Her agility isn’t what it used to be and due to a leg injury she suffered a few years ago because she was so physically active, her retrieving days are over.  She plays with tennis balls now, instead of chasing them.  I’m her retriever as she’s happy to hide her favorite toy for me to find.  But most importantly, she makes me happy.  She’s loving and nurturing; a companion to have around and she makes me laugh everyday.    
As for those walks we never thought would happen as a puppy…I’m happy to say she did learn how to walk on a leash.  She does have an aversion for small dogs, however, as a couple of times she was bitten (once on her ear and once on her belly) as these dogs became aggressive with her while we walked.  Why is it that most folks think “small” can’t hurt “large”?  Now if some pet owners could learn dog etiquette, those walks with my sweet hound would be much nicer (but that might be another blog post).