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Monday, September 23, 2013


ORACON. Ozarks Romance Writers Conference.

What a great time! This was my first writer's conference. As a matter of fact, I joined Ozarks Romance Authors and Sleuth's Ink mystery writers about a year ago. It was one of the better decisions I have made in my career.

It doesn't matter what your passion: knitting, quilting, drawing, or painting, join a group.
Just because the people in your family believe you are strange and obsessed with your hobby or career doesn't mean you are.  There is nothing more enlightening and invigorating than a room full of people who share your dream.

Tattered Wings would never been published without the two groups I mentioned.  They are nurturing, supportive and smart.

We started our weekend at Barnes and Nobel with a group of talented writers signing their works. They were the speakers for the conference the next day. Everyone came to see them. I had the pleasure of meeting David L. Harrison, who has written 89 children's books and is the Poet Laureate  of Drury College.  He came to meet the authors, as did dozens of others from the community and people who were merely browsing through the book store.

The evening ended with a tremendous dinner at the Flame in downtown Springfield and a chance to visit one on one.

It was an electric evening. Everyone had their guard down and told stories about their experiences. Laughter filled the room. My only regret is that I couldn't see it from a higher vantage point or talk to more people.

Saturday morning ORACON started. It was held at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference center.
We heard about traditional publishing, Indie publishing, backward plotting, and cover ideas, just to name a few. We had a query letter gong show which turned out to be funny and quite the learning experience.

I was thrilled when seasoned  and successful writers dropped by and bought my books, The Adventures of Diggitty Dog and Tattered Wings.  Another plus to the day was getting to know V. J.Goodin Schultz who sat next to me. I am currently reading V.J.'s anthology The Death of Big Foot and Other Tails. I recommend it.

Honestly, I have a list of books on my Kindle and on the edge of my desk by most of the members of the two groups I mentioned. I am reading them one by one and each day I am more impressed by the amazing gift for writing these folks have.

A special congratulations to Allison Merritt, Lisa Medley, SD Keeling, and Sara K Jordan for the awards they won at the conference. 

I am probably forgetting someone. Let me finish by saying I am proud to be among you and proud of you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kind, Right, and Necessary

 I decided to follow the Buddhist Boot Camp philosophy and not speak unless what I have to say is true, kind, and necessary. Well, I haven't uttered a word in three days!  Do you realize how much we say is unkind and unnecessary?

Well, I can tell you, probably 99.9 %. 

The problem with life is we are too judgmental. Someone says, "That guy needs a dentist." Well, do they know that guy can fix anything?  He lives in his own happy little world and has never been in a position that afforded him the means to have his teeth repaired. Should we shun him or mention his nasty teeth to everyone we meet?

"Well, this here guy came up long side me and scared the bee geezus outta me," the lady said.  We aren't asking her to lunch at the tearoom, are we?  Yet she has three college educated children she put through school while scrubbing floors at the hospital. Everyone adores her. We are so shallow.

The same goes for tattoos, fat bellies, and bald guy comb overs.

It all boils down to this. We don't know why people talk, walk, or look like they do. So don't judge.
We are all here to be the best authentic person we can be. Instead of looking down at people, smile.
say,hi, what could it hurt?

There is a story about collective consciousness I have always remembered. Jane Goodall  had lived with the gorillas for almost twenty years when she saw a young one do something no other gorilla had ever done. I wish I could remember what it was. Let's just say he ate a banana upside down.
She noted it. Five days later, every monkey in the group was doing this and then reports came in from around the world. All gorillas and monkeys were now doing the same thing.

Maybe we could do the same thing.
Maybe our positive thoughts and silent blessing to people will become a worldwide movement.

I can only hope that for one day you will try to not say anything that is not kind, true, or necessary.
It is a huge eye-opener.

Try not to think it either, because thoughts become your reality, only pick the good ones.
If I am preaching I am sorry, not my intent. Mostly I am trying to remind myself that we are here to create. Create books, good dinners, happy kids, wonderful days, memories, and clean floors... if that is all we know.

What will you create today?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Susan Keene, hunter.

I was writing a post for facebook and realized it would make a good blog.
Last year I was riding around the farm in my golf cart. (that is how we city farmers do it)
The orchard was in good shape, the sheep fence was secure and the lane gave me a clear view of the cows and their new offspring. The only detour I needed to make was to actually go into the steer pasture and check on them because I couldn't see down the hill.
There they were,all either standing in the pond or lounging in the shade except for one. He was dancing a pawing and jumping like he was in a samba contest.
I drove my cart closer and there was the biggest snapping turtle I had ever seen. How big you ask? Well, if you like turtle soup, he would have fed all of the county.  Several things came to mind when I saw them. My dad said if a snapping turtle gets a hold of you, it will not let go until it thunders. Since the sky was bright blue, I sat and studied the situation. The steer could not get away from the creature because in spite of its size, it was quick.
The chances of controlling the steer were better than the chances of controlling the turtle.
By this time Blenna (my farm partner) was on the scene, but being braver than I am, she was on foot.
 She shooed the steer back and I shot the turtle with the handgun I carry. Well, I shot him nine times. Apparently I did not hit a vital organ although I did slow him down. He wasn't chasing anyone. After about ten minutes of him laying still, we turned him over on his back and covered him with heavy rocks to keep other critters from discovering him. What we didn't need was a few more predators in the pasture.
The next day, my daughter came to visit. She brought some of her friends. Their favorite pastime is walking around the farm and exploring. We related the story about the snapping turtle and guess what?
When they came back to the house for lunch, they said the grave was empty. "Couldn't be, " I said.
So off we went to show her where we put the thing. Well, indeed, it was gone. We followed the trail and that monster had dug out of the whole, turned over boulders it took both of us to lift and made it at least fifty yards down the creek bed before it died.
I am not a big proponent of killing things. We have a do no harm policy here. But when the safety of one of the animals or one of us is threatened, I will pull the trigger.
Did you know a snapping turtle will dig through your pond and destroy it so it will no longer hold water. They are nocturnal and love to lay in wait for prey. Never pick a snapping turtle up by the tail. they are usually too heavy and if they get angry, they can reach up and get you.
And never try to find out if it is true that they won't let go until it thunders.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion with a little insight added.

Okay, one paragraph of self promotion and then my blog.
I have attached the first Chapter of Tattered Wings at the end of this blog. Of course, I am hoping  it will grab your attention and keep you from sleeping  until you buy the book and read the ending.

Yesterday I had lunch with three talented ladies. They are writers, publishers, musicians and all around interesting people.
We talked about writing and characters and the publishing business.
It is so good to know that other people have characters roaming around in their heads. These phantom folks who eventually live in the pages of a novel completely written in our minds.
The hard part is sitting down at your desk on a beautiful spring morning and putting it all down on paper. That is why it takes me so long to write a book. (I am trying to change my ways.)

Tattered Wings was penned on the ten year plan, not because it was so difficult to write, but because I could always find something to do that distracted me from the business of getting it down on paper.

Finally I did it. I made myself get up and go straight to the kitchen for coffee and then off to the office to write. I now know the key is to get it down on paper.  The book can always be changed, characters tweaked and locals investigated.

Once you are at a point where THE END is inevitable, bombs burst in air, the sun shines brighter and you feel ten pounds lighter.

The Adventures of Diggitty the Dog  was quite another story. I wrote Diggitty on a legal pad in forty-five minutes in the dark with only a nightlight to guide my words.  It had been on my mind for a long time to write a series of children's books based on my real life dog Diggitty and things that actually happen here on the farm. I am trying to write Diggitty Dog and the Dairy Cow, but I know I will have to wait until it is ready to be written. Mahaaaaaaaaa.....Strange things happen to me when I am writing.

So if you write, sew, draw or cook and it is a labor of love, get with it. Make a schedule, don't let anything distract you. When it is all said and done, people usually regret what they didn't take time to do.  Enjoy the first chapter of Tattered Wings, and a special thanks to Patti Tierney,  Susie Knust, and Sharon Kizziah- Holmes for a great afternoon and insight into how the artistic mind works.

Look for Unlikely Hero by Tierney James (Patti), Twentieth Century in Rural America, The Shockley Family Stories, by Susie Knust, and  Sharon Kizziah-Holmes new Romantic Short Stories, you won't be disappointed.

Tattered Wings, Chapter One.
Ian Michaels only had one foot in the back door when Maggie stepped into his office.
“Ian, I’m glad you're here. There's a girl in the waiting room. She says she must see you.”
“Who is she?”
“She's the sister of the Johnston kid who supposedly killed all of those people.”
“Why does she want to see me?”
“She didn't say. When I drove up this morning she was sitting on the steps. I told her it would be best to have an appointment, but she wouldn't leave.”
“Strange.” Ian shed his overcoat.
The phone rang and Maggie reached over the desk to answer it. “Ian Michael's office, may I help you?” There was a pause before she spoke again. “Yes, I'll tell him. One moment please.” She pushed the mute button and looked up at her boss. “It’s the district attorney's office. Tom Waters wants to speak to you.”
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders. His practice was almost exclusively divorce oriented with a few corporate accounts and wills for old friends and neighbors. None of his clients warranted a call from the district attorney. Taking the phone from his secretary, he pushed the button to activate the sound. “This is Ian Michaels. How can I help you, Tom?”
“I'm calling about the Johnston boy.”
“Why me?”
“In his initial interview he told me you were his attorney.”
“This is the first I've heard about it. I don't handle criminal cases.”
“I didn't think so, but the kid had your business card. He gave it to me himself.”
“If it weren't for him having my card, I'd say I was a random pick. I don't want any part of it, truthfully, I haven't followed the case. Isn't he just a kid, fifteen or sixteen?”
“He's sixteen.”
“What do his parents say?”
“They’re not in the picture. Because he’s a minor, we tried to get them down here. I finally sent a patrol car for his father and we hauled him to the station. He sat in on the interview. All he did was say over and over he had done all he could. I think he's relieved the kid's in jail.”
“My suggestion is that you get him a public defender. Isn't that standard in a case like this?”
“I would think you would want to see him if only to find out where he got your card. So, his parents haven't contacted you?”
“No, but his sister is camped out in my waiting room. She told my secretary she couldn't leave without seeing me.”
“Well, let me know what you decide to do,” Tom continued. “He's a strange little bastard.”
“I want no part of this. I don't intend to see him or his sister. Get him a public defender.”
Ian set the phone in its cradle and turned toward Maggie. “Tell the girl we’re too busy to see her today.”
Maggie stood rooted to her spot. “Don't you have the slightest curiosity about her?”
“Not really.”
“She's awfully upset.”
The phone rang again. Maggie turned on her heel and walked toward the door leading to the waiting room and her desk. “I'll answer that from out here.”
Ian pushed away from his desk turning his chair toward the window. The panoramic view of Forest Park below always made him feel better. He was beginning to relax his way into the day when his secretary came back into the room.
“Yes, Maggie?” He had a feeling about what was coming next.
“Ian, please see the girl. She isn't going to leave and what we're going to end up with is a nasty scene if we’ve got to have her removed. It's only a couple of minutes out of our day. Your first appointment isn't due for over an hour.”
Turning to face his secretary he heaved a heavy sigh and stood. Taking his time, he stretched each muscle in his neck and back until some of the tightness was gone. Maybe he was overreacting.
What could it hurt if he saw her?
He was suddenly tired as he followed Maggie to where the girl was waiting.
A slow sweep of the outer office showed nothing had changed. Everything was as he wanted it- but for the girl. She sat tucked into a massive chair at the far side of the room, near the exit.
There she was, crumpled like a rag doll. Her clothes were neat and clean. She wore skinny jeans and a crop top and looked like a thousand other teenage girls he had passed on the street.
Maggie was at her desk, busy with the computer. Ian looked at her and back to the girl. “So you're still here?” he said.
The girl didn't answer him. All he got was a slight nod of her elfish head.
“Bring Miss Johnston into my office,” Ian said in a voice that cut the unnerving quiet in the room.
Maggie jumped to her feet. “Yes sir.” Ian could feel her hot stare on his back. He was out of the room before her words reached him.
He looked up as his secretary and the girl walked into the room. He saw Maggie give the child a smile.
How could someone so small and insignificant looking, so young, be the cause of so much uneasiness in a grown man?
“You’ve been waiting a long time, Miss Johnston,” he said in his most businesslike voice.
“How’s it you think I can help you?”
“I’ve come about my brother.” She wiped her hands on her jeans, and then massaged her temples.
“What about him?”
She glanced over to Maggie and then back to him before she spoke.  At five feet six inches Maggie's tall lean slender body looked huge next to the child.  The kid sat ramrod straight with a poise well beyond her age, quite different from the waif he had encountered in the waiting room. Ian watched as Maggie nodded at the girl and gave her another smile.
“My brother wants you to come to the jail and talk to him.” 
“Why me?” Huge tears began rolling down the teenager's cheek, staining her already tired and worried looking face. He hated to see a woman cry.
“I don't know. I'm only doing what he asked me to do.”
“Don't cry,” he said, acknowledging her tears. “Maggie, would you get our guest a tissue?”
It wasn’t in his nature to make the girl suffer, but he didn't want to encourage her, either.  He overcame the urge to relax and lean back in his chair. “Let me explain my position. I'm not the kind of lawyer your brother needs. He seeks an attorney who handles crime. I don't do that. You'll have to explain that to him.”
“Mr. Michaels. You don't know Kenny. He'll haunt you, make your life miserable, until he gets his way.”
Ian slammed his hand on the desk with much more force than he intended. “Do not threaten me, young lady.”
“I'm not threatening you. I just want you to understand.” Her hands trembled as her voice quivered in a bizarre unison. She hesitated before she continued. “Kenny is – well – different. He’s got no one to help him- only me – and I don't want to. Our parents are divorced, our mother doesn't live here. Our step-mother won't lift a finger to help. She wants it known he's not hers and she's not responsible for what he did. My dad, well, he does what needs to be done to keep peace in the family. I think he’s seen Kenny once because the cops came and got him.” She was talking so fast, Ian couldn’t stop her until she paused.
“I understand he's your brother, but your family's best course of action is to contact the public defender's office. They'll appoint someone to represent Kenny.” He stood to indicate the interview was over.
The girl looked at Ian but remained seated. “Kenny doesn't want a public defender. He wants you.” He could see she had no intention of leaving now. He saw fear in her eyes.  After taking a deep breath, Ian glanced toward Maggie. She’d been watching the entire exchange as if it was a tennis match. He wondered why she seemed to be rooting for the girl.
Ian was still standing. Tension hung like stale air in the room. A man beaten at his own game, he looked down at the tiny girl as if for the first time. He let his body fall back into the familiar seat behind him.
“What's your name?”
“How old are you?”
“All right Amber, I'll speak to your brother. I'm only going to find out what’s going on, and how I became a part of it. I’m not consenting to defend him.”
Amber all but melted in her chair. The expression in her eyes was what he imagined he would see in the eyes of a convict getting a stay of execution ten seconds before the switch was thrown. “I'll drop by the jail tomorrow.”
“Oh, Mr. Michaels, thank you, thank you, and thank you.” For a minute Ian thought the teen was going to come over the desk and hug him. Instead she backed out of the room, tripping over things as she went. She mumbled to herself as she left the office.
Maggie and Ian sat in silence.  Ian turned his chair toward the window.
Why was the girl so afraid?
“Maggie,” he said.
“Yes, Ian?”
“Can you get me the papers with the accounts of all the murder and mayhem the boy's supposed to be a part of? And call your buddy over at the court house. Find out what they're saying. Not the official stuff, I want to know what they really think.” He glanced at his watch. “How does the rest of the day look?”
“Mark Robertson will be here at eleven and we’ve got Mrs. Schneider and her will at two. At four- thirty David Marshall’s coming by to sign his custody papers and go over the terms of visitation.
All in all we have a light day.”
“Thanks.” He remained staring out the window.
“Was there anything else?” He was lost in thought and had forgotten she was still sitting there. “You can go. Let me know when Mark gets here.”
Ian heard the door close softly behind her as she went back to her office. He stood and ran his hand from his collar to his waist to straighten his tie and leaned on the window sill. He could see Amber running down the street and he shook his head.
“Mark Robertson's here.”
“Send him in.”
He was never fond of Mondays.