Montana Promises: More Western Than Romance

Montana Promises (1)Montana Promises is the first in the “Montana Series” by Velda Brotherton and was recently republished. Tressie Majors is left alone in a soddie on the vast great plains after the death of her mother in childbirth. She has no idea where her father might be. Struck by gold fever he abandoned his family and set out for the gold fields of Montana Territory. She wants only to find him and let him know how much she hates him for leaving her and her mother alone and vulnerable. As she buries her mother and the child, she sees a horse and rider approaching in the distance. Perhaps this is her way out.

by Velda Brotherton

This book originally was my very first publication. Intended to be a western, I was told by a western editor that it needed to be turned into a romance because of the female protagonist. So that’s what I did, and it came out from Topaz in 1994. The publication happened so quickly I walked around in a daze for months. In fact, it was chosen at the last minute when another author failed to meet her deadline and a space opened up. The manuscript was lying on my editors desk, she’d read it once as a romance. The original cover was computer generated. It featured Steve Sandalis, the Topaz Man. I would later meet him at a Romantic Times Conference. He was a bit shy and very charming. Attending that first conference was a culture shock, but I recovered nicely.

My editor told me later that I’d kept my hero and heroine apart for too much of the book, and I wasn’t to do it again. We laughed about that later, but I was more careful with the books that followed. I was accustomed to writing westerns, and turning one into a romance challenged me. I still feel my books are more western than romances.

Two more Montana books follow this one. The next, Montana Dreams, features Ben Poole, who visited with Rose in chapter fifteen of this book. His adventures are tied up with the railroads that are beginning to criss-cross the west.

We are told, as authors, to write what we know. I disagree with that. I say, write about what we want to know. And that’s what I did when I wrote this trilogy that takes place in the Big Sky country of Montana. All my life I’d wanted to go to Montana. My Dad would go hunting in Wyoming and Montana once every year and I’d beg him to let me go along. But in those days, girls didn’t do such manly things.

Once I began this series, I visited Montana every day in my research, and later the actual writing. I dug deeply into Montana’s culture, the flora and fauna of the countryside, and traveled from one small town to another.
new Velda One day after a couple of the books were published, I was pleased to receive a phone call from a lady in California who said she was raised in Montana and when she read my books she felt as if she’d gone home. I couldn’t have received better praise.

Several years later, I was able to visit Montana and Wyoming, and when we went to the preserved ghost town of Virginia City, felt as if I were going home myself. I knew this place, where Reed and Tressie spent so much time.

To check out my books, go to Amazon or my website.

Velda Brotherton has a long career in historical writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of history and the west is responsible for the publication of 15 books and novels since 1994. But she’s not about ready to stop there. When the mid-list crisis hit big city publishers, she turned first to writing regional nonfiction, then began to look at the growing popularity of E Books as a source for the books that continued to flow from her busy mind. Those voices simply won’t shut up, and so she finds them a hSad Songs cover 4ome.

A need to continue to write and submit her work, soon led to publishers in the growing field of E books. Within a matter of months, she placed a western historical romance, Stone Heart’s Woman, with The Wild Rose Press, an award winning E Book publisher; then a mainstream paranormal, Wolf Song, was accepted by SynergE Books. A much grittier book set in the Ozarks, A Savage Grace, about a demon gone rogue and a woman who tames him, is under consideration by another E Book publisher. Recently Wilda’s Outlaw: The Victorians was published in both E book and print by The Wild Rose Press. She is now producing audio books through ACX from her Kindle published books. Montana Promises came out in audio May 8, 2013, read by Jeff Justus. She also uploaded a novella, The Legend of the Rose to Kindle that same month.

Velda signed two more contracts in May, 2013, one with Wild Rose Press for Once There Were Sad Songs, a women’s fiction, another with Oak Tree Press for a mystery, The Purloined Skull.

An Interview with the Women of Pendleton Petticoats

Our interview today is with three characters from Shanna Hatfield’s new historical series. Set in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon, the Pendleton Petticoats series highlights brave, determined women. During the early 1900s, Pendleton was a modern, progressive town, despite its Wild West reputation. In addition to 18 bordellos and 32 saloons, Pendleton offered residents such cultured experiences as an opera house, a French restaurant, and a tearoom. It was the second city in Oregon to have paved streets and boasted a telephone office as well as wonders like indoor plumbing to those who could afford the services.  The women in Pendleton Petticoats are from diverse backgrounds but find unity in following their hearts and chasing their dreams.

Pendleton PetticoatsAundy, Caterina and Ilsa join us today to talk about life in Pendleton.

Welcome to you three lovely ladies. Tell us a little about how you each came to be in Pendleton.

Aundy: I came to Pendleton as a mail-order bride for a kind-hearted farmer named Erik Erikson. We wed as soon as I stepped off the train, but had a wagon wreck on the way home. Erik died three days later, leaving me, a city girl, his farm and everything he owned.

Caterina: Growing up in New York, I never expected to live so far out west. When a mafia boss decided I would marry him, my family helped me escape and I got off the train here. Aundy was the second person I met and we’ve been friends ever since.

Ilsa: (Giggles) You forgot to mention the first person you met was your very good-looking deputy sheriff husband, Kade. You literally ran into him when you turned a corner and smacked into his chest.

Caterina: (Glaring at Ilsa) So I did. Thank you for sharing that with everyone. Let’s talk about why you came to town.

Ilsa: Because Aundy, she’s my sister, and Garrett, that’s Aundy’s husband, rescued me from our horrid aunt in Chicago who was holding me prisoner and brought me here.

What does a typical day entail for each of you?

Aundy: Garrett and I live on the place I inherited from Erik. Our day starts early in the morning with chores. I still don’t like gathering the eggs because our rooster is a nasty little fellow, but I enjoy everything else on the farm. My favorite thing is riding my horse Bell with Garrett, or sitting on the hill above the pasture watching our sheep. Thanks to our Chinese cook, I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the house.

Caterina: Kade and I live just outside of town with his behemoth dog, Ike. We ride into town together in the morning. He goes to work at the sheriff’s office and I go to my restaurant where I create Italian food that reminds me of my family.

Aundy: She’s an amazing cook. You really should drop by sometime for dinner. Her ravioli is divine.

Ilsa: And you have to try one of pastries. In fact, if I don’t stop eating there so often, I’m going to have to let the seams out of my dresses.

Caterina: You could always learn how to cook…

Ilsa: (Shakes her head) I’d rather sew.

Aundy: (Smiles sweetly and bats her eyelashes at Ilsa) We all know she eats at the restaurant so she can ogle Caterina’s handsome brother.

Ilsa: I don’t ogle Tony! (Huffs indignantly) Returning to the question, I have a dress shop just down the street from Caterina’s restaurant. I design and create clothing, primarily for women. I used to sew for the most elite in Chicago’s social circles, but I’m excited to bring high fashion to the women of Pendleton and Umatilla County.

What’s one thing people might not know about your town?

Caterina: It’s growing faster than we can imagine. In the two years I’ve been here, there has been a boom in new businesses and enterprises, like Ilsa’s boutique and my restaurant.

Aundy: There’s also a boom in less savory businesses like those in The Underground.

What’s the Underground?

Caterina and Ilsa both look at Aundy.

Aundy: There are tunnels running beneath a section of town that connects several businesses and provides a place for unsavory characters to quench their thirsts, play cards, and engage the services of… um… (Aundy leans close and whispers) women of ill repute.

Ilsa: And you should never, ever stand on top of the grates set in the boardwalk because some of the men in the tunnels will try to peek up a lady’s skirt.

That’s certainly scandalous. Have any of you ever been in the Underground?

 Caterina: Gracious, no!

Ilsa: I should say not! It’s no fit place for a lady.

Aundy: Oh, goodness, look at the time. We really should be going. Thank you so much for inviting us here today. We’re so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to connect with your readers.

 Thank you for joining us. Any parting words for our readers?

Ilsa: If you enjoy historical fiction, clean romances, or a good western, I hope you’ll consider reading our stories in Aundy, Caterina and Ilsa.

***

 Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, Shanna Hatfield 2eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, she is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

Find Shanna’s books at: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords 

Follow Shanna online: ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Email Shanna at shanna@shannahatfield.com

Cholama Moon Book Giveaway!

Congratulations to fellow Women Writing the West member, Anne Schroeder, who has just had her debut novel, Cholama Moon, published by Wild Oaks Press. Following is an excerpt from that novel. Please leave a comment with your contact info, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a copy of the book!

Synopsis: Homesteaders struggle to establish ranches in Central California in the 1870s, amid earthquakes, drought, banditos, remoteness and human failing. Young Virginia Nugent’s privileged life ends with the death of her mother and her father’s guilt-ridden descent into addiction. She is conflicted in her love of the ranch and her desire to escape until an old cowhand’s loyalty and a Southerner friend of her late mother offer hope that she can change her destiny.

Chapter One

By Anne Schroeder

CF - Cholama MoonThe herd stallion stood with its neck arched like a golden statue while rays of sunlight danced across his back. Nearby, his mares milled nervously, their ears jutted forward at the rumble of the earth beneath them. A piebald mare let out a scream and bolted, eyes wild. In the gathering madness a cloud of dust wafted up from a crack in the adobe earth. The mare reared, flaying her hooves in terror as the Great Tulare basin buckled and rolled toward them. Giant oaks crested with the undulation and returned to their places, their deep roots intact. Pine trees toppled, their shallow roots no match for the disturbance. Hawks screamed and took flight. Dust emerged from a dozen gashes in the earth and filled the air while the shaking continued. When it was over, the mare sank to her knees.

In the charged stillness, Sancho Roos felt the earth relax.

Minutes later, an aftershock split a crumbling bank and a thin ribbon of water escaped and flattened out across the sand. Sancho’s gelding fought his control. He reined it hard left, in a tight circle until the land settled and fear calmed. When it seemed that the earth was in no danger of splitting beneath his horse’s hooves, Sancho turned his attention to the strange valley they had just entered.

Four young vaqueros worked the mustang herd, calling out to the horses in soft voices that held no fear. The boys were good choices—native Californios more used to the earth’s quaking than their gringo bosses. Sancho spit a stream of chew onto the ground and spurred forward. Time enough for palavering later. They’d be recounting this day for some time.

A shout from one of the vaqueros—the mares had bolted. Some were running at full speed, saliva foaming from their mouths. The rest followed. “Hold ‘em back. Arrimate! Pull up! Pull ‘em up,” Sancho shouted. Their hooves plowed the trail into fine dust that settled in his eyes. Sancho coughed and spat another stream of spittle, wiping his mustache with the back of his hand at a dead run while he held his rein in the other. Suddenly a whiskey colored mare took off up the rise. From the corner of his eye a roan raced past. The herd stallion. It screamed a warning and charged after the mare, biting her hard enough that the mare squealed. As quickly as it began, the stampede ended.

“Hold ‘em up, amigos. Bunch ‘em at the creek. Keep your eyes peeled for trouble. Been a hell of a day so far.”

Stirred by the April breeze, the glistening silver leaves of the cottonwood played across the stallion, darkening its coat to a blood red. The next aftershock passed with only his disdainful snort while the vaqueros pushed the mares. Trampling the narrow bank, the stallion kept watch as the mares lowered their heads and began to drink from the Big Cholame Creek.

“Yeeeeeeyeiiii!” A lean vaquero raced past. His silver conchos jangled as he crashed into the water suspended from the side of his horse, his lithe body held up only by a boot wedged against his left tapedero, his fancy covered stirrup, and the pressure of his knees. His right hand grasped the horse’s mane. His left hand, dangling inches from the ground, disappeared in a spray of water.
In the flick of a quirt the boy cleared the opposite bank. In the space of a blink the boy sat astride again, drinking from his cupped palm. The boy’s scarf, the color of a yellow billed magpie, fluttered in the breeze as he glanced around with a grin for anybody who was watching. Satisfied, he tipped his flat-brimmed hat and let out another whoop before he rode off, followed by his cheering amigos.

Sancho’s disgust brought the taste of bile to his tongue. A fool stunt on the heels of the earthquake—but what else could he expect. The boss had taken on four strutting bantams not old enough to shave, with their worldly fortune in their silver tack, tooled leather britches and buckskin jackets.

“Confoundit!” His growl was lost in the noise of the vaqueros’ laughter. A moment later he softened. Crazy, maybe, but they knew their horses. Already they were saying the earthquake was a good omen. Maybe they were right—a day for celebration.

Anne at Cuesta ParkAnne Schroeder made a recent move with her husband of 45-years and two dogs from her beloved Central California in search of new adventures. She now lives in Southern Oregon where she writes and hikes.

She is President-Elect of Women Writing the West and contest chair for the LAURA Short Fiction Contest. She has had dozens of published short stories and essays about the West published, and two memoirs, Ordinary Aphrodite and Branches on the Conejo. Cholama Moon is her first published novel. The second book of the series, Maria Ines, will be released later this year.

Don’t forget to comment for a chance at the Book Giveaway and leave your contact info!

Cover Reveal

Many of you have been waiting way too long for the third book in my “Dream” series. Well, you don’t have to wait much longer! Dare to Dream is scheduled for release May 6.

Dare Cover FinalSynopsis: Montana cowgirl Nettie Brady Moser has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the journey toward her dream of being a professional rodeo rider. In the 1920s she struggled against her family’s expectations and social prejudice against rodeo cowgirls. During the Great Depression, marrying Jake Moser and then raising their son took priority over rodeos. And then she was devastated by the death of her friend and mentor in a rodeo accident.

In the spring of 1941, Nettie, now age 36, is regaining her heart and spirit, and she is determined to ride again at an event in Cheyenne, Wyoming. To her dismay, the male-dominated Rodeo Association of America enforces its rule barring women from riding rough stock and denies her the chance to ride. Her fury at the discrimination can’t change things for women—yet.

Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, who rode rough stock in Montana in the 1920s, this sweeping rodeo saga parallels the evolution of women’s rodeo from the golden years of the 1920s, producing many world champion riders, and shows its decline, beginning in the 1930s and ending with World War II in 1941.

Advance reader comments: Finding our place and following our hearts is the moving theme of Dare to Dream, a finely-tuned finish to Heidi Thomas’s trilogy inspired by the life of her grandmother, an early rodeo-rider. With crisp dialogue and singular scenes we’re not only invited into the middle of a western experience of rough stock, riders and generations of ranch tradition, but we’re deftly taken into a family drama. This family story takes place beginning in 1941 but it could be happening to families anywhere – and is. Nettie, Jake and Neil struggle to find their place and discover what we all must: life is filled with sorrow and joy: faith, family and friends see us through and give meaning to it all. Nettie,  or as Jake calls her, “Little Gal” will stay in your heart and make you want to re-read the first books just to keep her close. A very satisfying read.—Jane Kirkpatrick, a New York Times Bestselling author and WILLA Literary Award winner of A Flickering Light

~~~~~

 “Heidi Thomas’s latest novel, Dare to Dream, rings of truth. Here is the real West, ranching in the 1940s, women and rodeoing, the heart-rending affect of World War Two on the Montana homefront, and great characters who bring it all alive. I loved it.”—Irene Bennett Brown, author of Women of Paragon Springs series and the Celia Landrey mystery series

~~~~~

 Nettie Moser is a strong woman who defies fear, bad luck, and male opposition to pursue her dream of being a champion steer rider. Set in the uncertain war-world of the early 1940s, Dare to Dream is a highly readable tale of a resourceful woman who faces life with courage and a daring heart.—Susan Wittig Albert, bestselling author of A Wilder Rose and the China Bayles mystery series

And more news!

CowgirlDreams Front CoverCowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream will be re-released by my new publisher, Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press, at the same time, with a new look! You can pre-order Dare to Dream from my website, and you can still order original copies of Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream at a discounted price.Dream Cover Final

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 6:39 am  Comments (11)  
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Meet the Author of A Night on Moon Hill

NightonMoonHillFinal-Version-194x300Tanya Parker Mills is the author of A Night on Moon Hill, a 2012 Whitney Finalist. I was privileged to meet her at a writers conference recently, bought her book, and was immediately caught up in the story. It kept me riveted until the end.

 Synopsis: Swimming is Daphne’s one refuge—until the night she finds a body in her pool.

University professor and renowned author Daphne Lessing has never felt at ease in society. But a disturbing occurrence in her once calm and controlled existence suddenly unearths events from her past and thrusts an unusual child into her life.

Ten-year-old Eric has Asperger’s syndrome and is obsessed with fishing and angels. Soon, Daphne finds herself attached to him—and faced with a choice: Does she leave him and return to her solitary, ordered life, trusting others to do right by him, or does she allow this bright child to draw her into the world she has tried to shun? And what about the man that came into Daphne’s life with Eric? Will she be able to shut him out as well?

Welcome, Tanya. Tell us where the idea for this story came from.

I noticed on a walk around my neighborhood in Southern California several years ago that more than a few gates to backyard pools appeared to be unlocked and it got me thinking how easy it would be for someone to sneak in for a free swim during the day while the owners were at work. At first, it was going to be a short story with the trespassing swimmer making a shocking discovery, but then I saw that I could weave it into a larger tale involving Asperger’s syndrome—something I wanted to throw more light on because of my son’s diagnosis at age six. Eric was really inspired by my son.

When did you know you were a writer?

I didn’t really feel I was a writer until I finished my first draft of my first novel, THE RECKONING. Up to that point, I’d piddled around with poetry, lyric writing, and magazine and news articles, but once I’d created a whole story, complete with character arcs and subplots, a whole new world opened up to me in terms of expectations for myself.

What or who are your influences for your writing?

My first influence for my writing came from my father, an author himself. He only ever self-published, but he showed me that it could be done and he believed in me. As far as authors I look up to most, I would have to say Barbara Kingsolver for voice (what she did in The Poisonwood Bible with all those different voices was amazing) and Charles Frazier for description. I’ve always been attracted most to literary fiction and particularly when it’s historical. That’s what I’m eventually aspiring to.

You have published another book, The Reckoning, winner of the 2009 Indie Book Award for Multicultural Fiction and the 2010 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Award for Mainstream/Literary Fiction. Tell us a little about how that book came to be.

I had long had an idea for a coming-of-age type novel set in Baghdad, Iraq based on my own childhood, but I could never seem to find my way into it. Then I attended my father’s writing group with him one weekend and, challenged by him, I decided to try my hand at their writing prompt that day: Write something that includes two true things, one false thing, and throw in a crazy relative. Believe it or not, what I came up with was pretty much the beginning of THE RECKONING (minus the crazy relative), and when his group responded so well to what I had written, I knew I was on my way. This was only three months before the U.S. invaded Iraq, so I wrote that first draft quickly, determined to get the story done about the time of the invasion and use the facts of our attack in the end of the story. By this point, it was no longer a coming-of-age story, but rather a tale of how a grown American woman comes to terms with events from her childhood as the U.S. prepares to bomb Baghdad.

What kinds of books do you like to read?

I read all kinds of books. Right now I’m in the middle of a middle grade novel, “Savvy,” but I’ve also recently finished an historical look at the building of the St. George Temple. I love to read biographies and histories (I recently read a history about the Arabists in the C.I.A., which quoted my father), but mostly I turn to literary fiction and historical fiction. One genre that has never appealed to me is romance, though I’ve come across one or two recently that defied the stereotype and I found worthwhile. Another genre I don’t care for is Horror. I used to indulge in WWII spy novels for what I called my “junk reading,” but I don’t have time for much of it anymore. I do like the action, adventure, and suspense.

What do you find challenging in writing? (And/or) what was the hardest part in writing your books?

My biggest challenge in writing continues to be forcing myself to get going on it on a daily basis. Second to that is doubting myself and whether I truly want to get on what I call the “publishing treadmill” where you then have to produce at least one book a year. I’m a very slow writer (perhaps another reason I admire Barbara Kingsolver) and don’t like to hurry the process.

What has been the most surprising thing you learned from creating your books?Mills_019Business

I’ve been most surprised to find a higher power, if you will—a muse, or divine intervention, even—guiding me and leading me toward the story’s end. Something will occur to me, I’ll put it in the story, and the next thing I know, it has shed a whole new light on some other aspect of the story or led me down an entirely unexpected path. I experienced that a lot in my last book.

Are you working on a new project now?

Yes, I’m doing a final revision on a middle grade fantasy—the first in a series, I hope. I’m nervous because it’s quite different from my other two books, and I’ll probably end up publishing it under a pseudonym. Still, even though it’s fantasy, it’s grounded in reality and it fits with THE RECKONING and A NIGHT ON MOON HILL because it’s fiction that bridges cultures. Given my childhood and background overseas, that’s always a priority for me.

Old School Tech for Today’s Writers

typewriter-clip-artBy Dawn Copeman

editor of the Writing World e-zine

 I’m probably going to show my age here, but do you remember when all you needed to be a freelance writer was a typewriter or a word processor, envelopes and, if you were high-tech, an e-mail account?

I only ask because apparently, according to what you can see on the internet and in writer’s magazines, you couldn’t possibly be a writer today with such basic equipment.  To succeed in today’s competitive world, to be a better writer faster, you need specialist writing software, writing apps for your smart phone and tablet, and subscriptions to members-only guaranteed jobs sites and calls for submission sites.

But I ask myself, is any of this really necessary?

Some new writers seem to think so.  A young woman approached me recently and said she’d love to get into writing but couldn’t afford all the specialist writing software and apps she’d seen advertised.  I told her you don’t need all that to be a writer.

The basics haven’t changed.  Just because technology exists doesn’t mean it is the only or best way of doing something.

Tiffany Jansen’s article below shows us that you don’t actually need tech to be a writer, and that quite often, old school is not only cheaper but also more reliable too.

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting going back to the days of posting query letters with SASEs and IRCs.  Email queries are one of the small wonders of a modern writer’s life that I, for one, will forever be grateful for.

Similarly, I love being able to research writer’s guidelines online, rather than send off for them.  I also find it much easier to get a feel for potential new markets by visiting a website and reading articles online rather than buying several copies of the print magazine.

But surely, there are still so many aspects of a writer’s life that could be done just as well, if not better, the ‘old-fashioned’ and, dare I say it, cheaper way?

For example, do we really need to use our phones to make notes, to plan our writing?  Instead, might I suggest a cool iphoneold-school alternative called The Notepad?  The Notepad is a flexible, highly portable writing aid. It comes in a variety of sizes suitable for most pockets and bags.  Ordered minds can opt for a lined variety to keep their thoughts and musings in order, whereas for more creative, mind-mapping types, a plain paper option is available.

The Notepad can be used with a choice of input devices – the pen or the pencil.

The pen is for those who like to keep a definite note of their thoughts, whereas the pencil is better suited to those who prefer to self-correct as they write, as it is compatible with the word remover known as the eraser.

Likewise, do we really need apps to teach us how to write like Hemmingway?  Or writing software to teach us how to structure stories, create narrative arcs and create memorable characters?

You could try the cheaper, old-tech way of doing it.

Want to learn from the great writers at your convenience? Want a master class in plot writing and word crafting?  You need a “book.”

With a book you can study how any writer of your choice formed sentences, created characters and wove plots.  A book is a portable device that enables you to learn from the great writers whenever and wherever you want. Simply read the words of the writer of your choice and think about how they did what they did.  This amazing knowledge transfer system can be used anywhere and is now even available on tablets and smart phones.

Finally, if you really want to improve your writing skills, forget the super-duper Writer 3000 software and try this old-fashioned and inexpensive tip: practice.  Write regularly. Write by hand or on your computer.  Any blank surface will do.  Actually, the less distractions the better, as you then have no option but to write.

My young wannabe writer friend didn’t sound too convinced by all this old-tech, but I told her she had nothing to lose by trying it.

Personally, I’m glad we have the internet and the advantages it brings – grammar guides and exercises, calls for submissions, access to experts and research via easy to use search engines, etc.

But I’m also glad I started writing when things were less high-tech and so was my bank balance.

This article is reprinted from Writing-World.com. Dawn Copeman is editor.

The Magic of Creating

?????????????????“Why do you write?” Most authors hear that question or its near relatives—“With the market so impossible, why on earth do you keep at it?”—over and over and probably ask ourselves that every time we spend a day marketing. I’ve heard a dozen answers, none much more satisfactory than “Just because,” and I don’t suppose my answer is much better, but I can’t resist trying. So here goes.

I see a woman in the distance, her hair flowing in the breeze, standing where I am, in the meadow above the sea. Dreamy, floating on air. When I get home and take pen in hand (not really, but computers sound so mechanical), I enter into her sense of unreality, which I share, and discover she’s from Minnesota. At this point, she emerges from me, Chicago born, with an enduring sense of incredulity at having landed on the Santa Barbara coast.

But once I name her, she acquires her own destiny and I drop away. I don’t know how this happens. I recognize some elements of her story as transformations of my own experience much as we recognize dreams as arising from our hopes and fears. Such transformations are the magic of the unconscious, not to be interfered with. She is Myra and her world is about to collapse. This became HOME FIRES, the novel that was released in December, 2013.

Let her go, and she will take me places my conscious mind never dreamed of or even wanted to go. I saw one heroine heading for adultery, and my conscious mind rebelled. I stopped writing until I gave in and gave her her head. In HOME FIRES, the surprise was of a different, and more amazing, sort. Myra, torn apart by her husband’s infidelity, mortified at her own willful blindness to it, retreats to her art studio. Here she is.

 ~~~~~~

 Myra turned on the light, finally, and stared at the print run, which was, in fact, complete, and she was in no mood to mat either prints or watercolors of sea lions playing in the surf, tide pool creatures, clouds of silver-winged plover—scenes from a life that had vanished. Instead, she taped fresh paper to her drawing board, and soon an oversized hen with disheveled feathers and long scrawny neck appeared from the point of her pen.

“Matilda. That’s surely your name.” She smiled, as she cast the day’s shame and humiliation onto the paper. If Matilda wasn’t art, so what? She brought laugher. “You need company.” She laid the chicken aside and took a fresh sheet. A porcupine. Eyes narrowed, he was calculating the distance to a heron who stood nearby, his long beak in the air. Alphonse. That was the heron. And the porcupine? Rufus. That would do nicely.

Feeling blood flow through vessels that had been numb since morning, Myra drew out still another sheet. Quills flew, striking not only Alphonse but a gull who had the misfortune to fly by. The gull tilted and crashed, giving out a long drawn-out screech. Eustasia, Myra named her, as the gull’s squawking brought Matilda’s head, at the end of her long neck, into the picture, and Alphonse flapped his wings, knocking Rufus over as he took off.

“You’re the clumsiest heron I’ve ever seen,” Matilda remarked.

“Bad knees,” Alphonse answered.

So there they were. An overgrown chicken with too much neck, a porcupine with lousy aim, a gull bristling with quills, and a heron with bad knees. “I think you’re going to be great company,” she told them, taping them in a row above her desk. She sat back and looked at them, her body released from the day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The adventures of The Rabbleville Varmints, as they come to be called, become an on-going strip throughout the novel. Here is my artist-friend Helen Gregory Nopson’s depiction of them.HomeFires critters

No reader will be more surprised than I was at the sudden emergence of much needed humor in this story. I assure you Myra is the cartoonist, not me. It was as though beneath the level of creativity that created Myra, another emerged.

Why write, you ask? Because it’s magic.

Judy was born, raised, educated and married in Chicago, and raised her family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She went back ????????????????to school as an adult and began to write, winning two writing awards from the university—one for a novel and another for an essay.
Following a divorce, she began teaching academic writing at the University of Michigan and continued at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was active in developing career paths for non-tenured faculty. Though she continued to write fiction during those years, she published largely professional articles and, finally, a textbook (Engaging Inquiry: Research and Writing in the Disciplines) with colleague, Mark Schlenz.
Judy has now moved to Washington State to write fiction full time and has two other novels published: Nowhere Else to Go and The Inheritors.

A Guide to Manhood

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABoys want men in their lives as models of what to become, as guides along sometimes shaky paths, and as companions just for sharing. Boys need men in their lives to grow into capable, confident, nurturing men for a strong and secure society. Without realizing it, fifteen-year-old Paul Hansen found what he wanted and needed to climb from youth to manhood. In Turnaround Summer, he gives us an inside peek—with humor, sensitivity, and wisdom—of the magical results from men mentoring boys. Turnaround Summer calls all men to ensure a bright future for our world by becoming that guide to manhood our boys need.

Welcome, Paul. Turnaround Summer is a memoir, a coming-of-age story about you as a teen. What made you decide to write a book about your experiences?

It was words from my faith, where God spoke to me to tell my story of how others helped me on my journey to manhood.  Though there were others in my life, this particular time was hard for me at home, and I needed a sort of wakeup call, that I could overcome the obstacles.

Tell us a little about your father, your relationship with him, and what prompted him to send you to Canada that summer in 1961.

My father was close to me all the years of growing up. He was a successful businessman and divided his time between trying to maintain a home relationship, a marriage and raising three children. The marriage ended in tragedy and reflected in his career; at the time of going to Canada, he was recalling the people and the place where he experienced breakthrough in his own battles, and that life is an adventure in so many forms. He wanted me to focus on unknown horizons, the ruggedness of the wilderness and the people that navigated it, and why they were successful.

My Dad visited there for guided hunting and fishing (with Paul’s mentor Ted Helset) over a number of years. He developed his skills in that venue, from people who did it for a living and a way of life. There reason for being up there was to overcome the hardship, learn from nature, and adapt to its complexity and beauty. It was a rugged life only for the hearty with a sense of survival. Though my Dad came from the depression era, and knew about survival in that arena, he loved the woods and wanted me to share in that, with people that lived it daily.

Paul on boat

What was the most important thing you learned that summer?

That summer, I learned that in the middle of your journey you are offered the opportunity to walk down another trail in a totally unfamiliar environment, experience that, savor the difference and add it to your list of experiences. To respect all walks of life, their loves and desires, hardships and triumphs, and their offer to share with you. Life as we see it is not necessarily the only vantage point. There are so many other opportunities to view the horizon from another perspective.

What is the message you want readers to take away from Turnaround Summer?

The message is that we have so much in our lives of value, share it with the next generation or two or three. They are the inheritors of this world, they need to know that their story will someday be of value if they seize the opportunities we can offer. They are so receptive if we reach into their hearts, and listen to their curiosities.  They only lean into the things that internalize them for lack of another outlet. Challenge them to go beyond the television, the computer, and actually live life outside the box.

Are you working on another book?

Starting a novel with a bit of emotional and romantic background based on things currently materializing in my life.  It has an aspect of relationship, adventure, crisis and tragedy. All of which we experience at one time or another in our lives if we choose to live beyond what we perceive as  “the edge”  This is definitely a work in progress as the rest of the story has not completed itself in my life as yet… But will very soon!

Paul Hansen worked for thirty years as a building contractor in western Washington. Now retired, he enjoys time with his three children, grandchildren, and extended family in the area, gardening, traveling throughout North America, but Paul makes sure he still has time to fish! Paul’s wife Linda of 44 years passed away last April. He says, “I am marrying a beautiful woman from our church, she was widowed 7 months before I was, and mentored me through the grief process. She was a friend of Linda’s, and we actually helped with her husband’s service.  We have been together since last July, and have found commonality in our lives. She is a water color artist, loves music, plays the piano as I do, and I make her laugh a lot with the rest of my stories.”

Linda's 19-lb Silver

Linda’s 19-lb Silver

Turnaround Summer is available on Amazon.com 

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Fine February

Heidi sits in sun 2_20_14I used to hate February. It was the longest month of the year. When I was a kid in Montana, February often meant sky-high snowdrifts. When I lived in Northwest Washington, February was gray, cold, windy and rainy. Oh, and did I mention dark? Also, did I mention I have S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

Last February, our first in Arizona, was on the cold side, with a couple of snow storms, but over all sunny. This year, oh my gosh–into the 70s last week, 62 today. That’s considered “summer” during two weeks in August in WA! No more S.A.D.!

Today, I got a bit chilled sitting at my computer, so I went outside to warm up! If it hadn’t been for a slight breeze, I might have been comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt!

My apologies to my family and friends in the frigid North. But I’m loving this!

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 6:02 am  Comments (1)  
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Painful, Beautiful Individuality

by Kathryn Craft, author of The Art of Falling

ArtOfFallingSmallI was fifteen, and I had a legal problem. I stood facing an official representative of the Department of Motor Vehicles, whose role was to fill out my learner’s permit application.

“Last name.”

“Graham.”

“First name.”

“K-a-t-h-r-y-n.”

“Middle name.”

“I don’t have one.”

The woman peered at me over her half-glasses and spoke with the tired expression of one who has heard it all. “No one likes their middle name, but you have to tell me. It’s the law.”

Apparently it hadn’t been illegal for my parents to fail to give me one. How did they know they wouldn’t get their desired boy until child five? They’d run out of girl names they liked.

I shrugged. “Sorry.”

She started to write in the space. I read upside down, hoping not to see the word “Sorry.” She wrote: NONE. This made me feel like a ZERO.

I had a good long heart-to-heart on this matter with my best friend, Ellen, the next day. We were on the upper deck of our neighborhood swimming pool, making fudgies. We’d opened a pack of brownies from the vending machine and rendered plucked-off sections pliable by rolling them between our hands. I was fashioning the body for a little fudgie pig while Ellen and I tried to think up a middle name for me.

I needed something that would make me fit in with all the other three-named people in the country, but at the same time distinctive enough to stand out. When I’d told my mother what had happened she’d been unconcerned; she figured her daughters could use their maiden name in the middle once we get married.

I did not think I should count on that.

It was as if this portion of my identity remained elusive. If I could rename myself by the time I got my real license, it could be official. So I sought Ellen’s advice. But she said, “I don’t know, Kath, you’re the only person I’ve ever met who didn’t get a middle name. It’s kind of exotic.”

“What do you think of Margaret? Kathryn Margaret. I like it better than Ann Margaret, don’t you?”

Ellen thought it over as she lined up her fudge art on the deck railing. I expected Ellen would like the name, because she liked me, and was not the type to lash out with the God’s-honest-truth like members of my family. “Too Catholic. Makes you sound like a nun.”

“Oh.” I realized the huge mistake I could make by renaming myself. If I made a bad decision, I’d have no one to blame but me.

“My dad’s middle name is Weist.”

“Kathryn Weist Graham.” Ellen Patricia tried it on. She didn’t like her own middle name, and never used it. She wouldn’t need one for long—she was beautiful and tan and classy and already had a boyfriend who was nuts about her. “I like that one.”

“But it’s a family name,” I said. “It seems like it should be bestowed, not claimed.” I pressed a little tail to my pig’s behind. “I guess I could just use Nonnie.”

“Nonnie? Where’d that come from?”

“The lady put it on my permit form yesterday: N-O-N-E. You could pronounce that Nonnie, right?”

We laughed. I added my pig fudgie with its drooping tail to Ellen’s svelt snake on the deck railing. The forecasted storm would wash them away, but concerns about fitting in and distinguishing oneself would be themes I’d revisit again in my life.

My artistic aptitude would not end up expressing itself in the realm of edible sculpture—the very next year I discovered dance, then later, writing. But in my choreography and in my debut novel, The Art of Falling, I would continue to explore what defines our individual contribution as an artist—how to be enough like others to fit into the market, and how to be individual enough to be distinctive.

My protagonist, Penelope Sparrow, struggles with this theme in regard to body image. When the strong and resilient body she blames for ruining her dance career saves her life after what should have been a deadly fall, giving her an extraordinary chance to reinvent herself, can she fight her obsessive need to fit in and embrace her individuality boldly enough to leave a distinctive mark on the Philadelphia dance world? Join her, and see!

Kathryn Graham Williams Craft ended up with plenty of names, thank you, but that’s a whole different story. She isCraft_small_photo the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, which was released on January 28 and has already gone back for a second printing, and While the Leaves Stood Still (due Spring 2015). Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves on the board of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads Craftwriting workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 6:54 am  Comments (13)  
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