Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Write Again

 Today is Halloween and that used to mean candy and costumes and taking the children trick-or-treating.  But I live at the end of a dark country road where trick-or-treaters have never come, unless you count the raccoons and the bear who has been here all week, exchanging the apples on my tree for steaming piles of apple peal laden bear scat.
 Now, my children are not children and what they do at Halloween is up to them, and what I do is watch for midnight and the starting gun for NaNoWriMo!  I get to indulge in the thing I love with a strange obsessive passion.  Storytelling with abandon and speed writing with no editing or doubts until I reach at least 50, 000 words.  I know, technically I can write any time, and often I do, but most of the year there is the lack of a deadline so there is the flexibility which lets me procrastinate and yep, I do.  And when I do write I take less risks and go back frequently and re-read and change and edit.
 November is National Novel Writing Month but actually in needs to admit that it has gone International and world wide.  All around the world, as people Reach November they begin the sleep deprived, insane rush to cram writing a novel into 30 days where regular life insists on continuing in spite of the commitment.  Me, I give up a lot of my extra indulgences, I read a lot less, stay off facebook and my forums most of the time, and as a reward, I bake more and keep the coffee pot filled, and emptied and filled again.
 If you are interested in signing up go to and join the fun and conversation and tell he world the story that only you have in you.  I have signed up and tried at least 6 times, and I don't always finish, and I never finish with a finished novel, but three times the magic has worked to give me enough that I could put it away until I recover and then open the file again, pick up the threads, add and subtract and eventually end up with a novel I believe in enough to throw our into the world as my small contribution to the beauty of this big blue planet we are lucky enough to share.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bookworm blog by Lubna in India Reviewed my Book

Self picture taken when I first finished a NaNoWriMo Novel

 Once again I discover the truth that there are beautiful and good people everywhere in the world.  One of the kindest I have come to believe is a blogger named Lubna from India.  She supports Indie writers and the idea that all school children should have books to read.  When an indie author contacts her and she agrees to read a copy of their book, she doesn't promise a good review, but she does promise two things
 1. her honest opinion with some positives about the book, and
 2. to pass the book on to a school.

 Three times I have sent her the books I began on NaNoWriMo in their November is Novel Writing Month program and three times she has amazed me with beautifully written reviews.
 The most recent was one I saw yesterday, which includes a short interview with me.  It is about my book about the Oregon Trail, and being schooled in India, that was not a topic she had studied much.  I wondered how it had read to her, and was relieved that she still followed the story easily.  Of course I was writing for middle school students so the writing is not complex but some of the ideas are.

 What I loved was the fact that I have two girls in my book, and the girl from 1850 is terrified of "Indians" and lives in fear of ending up massacred o the trip.  The girl from 2002is part "Native American." Th book reviewer from India called the term "Native Indian" and I realized that she may not get the current American concern over which terms are "Politically correct" but I love the blending because it speaks to one of my key points in the book, that regardless of era or race, we are all blended together and share similar needs and desires and hopes and fears.  We need to learn that we need each other for our differences and love each other for the ways we are the same.

My Great Grandma Emma Belle Lafferty Slack

Me and Dad and my brothers in Yellowstone

Lubna's review can be read at
  and I hope that you take the time to stop by and leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Here We Go NaNoWriMoing

 November is very quickly coming on, and with it, one of my favorite activities in the world, because after all, November is Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo has helped make my daydreams and doodles turn into books and a bit of spare cash.
My first "Proof" copy
 The first time I heard of the idea of writing a quick and dirty rough draft in a month. I thought pledging myself to writ 50,000 words in November sounded just like what I needed.  After all, I had been telling people i wanted to write, and taking writing classes for 30 years.  But I had only filled a few notebooks with poems and short stories and sent a few out but stopped when the rejection letters came.  Now I know, DUH!  Of course they come.  They are good things.  Only writers get rejection letters from editors, so while I was getting them, I was being a writer.
The "real book"

first painting
 So I wrote the 50,000 words and realized that it was a lot of work, but it wasn't close to a finished book, and it took me a year to write the next 38,000 words and more time to edit and doodle and make covers that looked like my main character could have drawn them.

painting for 2nd book
 But createspace had offered to make a free copy of a proof of the finished book if we finished NaNoWriMo, so I was motivated to do this just to have one copy of my book in my hand.  I finally hit "publish" at createspace and my book came here, and obviously needed edited a lot, and a new cover but I was hooked.  I made the corrections and did the work and soon had a box of books to sell to people at schools and fairs and links on Amazon and other bookstores.

Book 3 went in a time travel journey to the Oregon Trail

 And now, years later I still love the rush of writing without worrying about cleaning it up as I go, and the social support of 300,000 other dreaming writers around the world.  I don't always manage a book, and sometimes I do CampNaNoWriMo in the summer instead.  I have managed three books this way, and by going to schools and to writer's Conferences and using social Networking sites I have managed to have fun and sell enough copies, in paperback and kindle, that I can really say, "I am a writer" and no, you may not have heard of my books, but that's ok - some kids have and I have.

and in the end, there are a lot of books out there, but only I can tell my stories.  I think everyone has a story they should tell, one that is only theirs.  If you are ready.  Check out NaNoWriMo at

and my books at

Monday, October 8, 2012


A Review of A Casual Vacancy

     Of course all the reactions that are in all the other reviews of this book happened for me.  I was delighted that JK Rowling Was going to be publishing another book.  I was sad and unbelieving and hopeful and worried when I heard that it would not be part of the Harry Potter universe.  I am after all a functioning, adult woman, who just happens to also be a major Potterhead.
     I actually didn't start out loving Harry Potter.  That seems unreal to me now, but I remember thinking that the characters were stereotyped and the story itself was unoriginal and merely a rewriting of old stories.  Then I fell in love and never looked back.  So I trusted Rowling, and when I started the new book, I was willing to keep going even though I did not really like the Casual Vacancy.  I still didn't like it by 100 pages in and I was having a hard time keeping the characters straight.  The book has no clear central character and the view point changes from one section to another and back again so you never get to know enough about one group of people in the first introduction to have them firmly in your mind the next time they appear.  It was a confusing feeling like the first week in a new town when you always wonder, "have I met this person before, should I recognize some details or is this all new?"
     I spoke to other people who were reading the book and found that we shared some of the same feelings and had some interest in the same characters, but agreed that they were not exactly people you would "like" or want to know in real life.  But "Real Life" is what this book is all about.  I found myself recognizing situations and people in a way that was a bit uncomfortable and gritty.  I flinched at some of the brutal detail and the language, but after 23 years teaching children and meeting their families, especially those in Severely Handicapped classes, none of the brutality sounded unreal or exaggerated.  JK Rowling's new book is not a magical escape but rather a confrontation with the part of town a lot of people prefer to avoid.
     By the time I finished the final chapter, and turned the back cover, and glanced once more at the author blurb, the final line of the back flap stood up and slapped me awake.  "She supports a wide range of causes and is the founder of Lumos, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children."

    Then I saw it, and I realized this book is very similar to Harry Potter after all.
     There is even a faint reference to Harry Potter in one line on page 81, " . . . once, (she dreamed of it, still), a child who had been locked in a cupboard for five days by his psychotic stepfather."

     So this book is, like Harry Potter, about fear and prejudice against those who are different, and about children who are unwanted, or even if wanted, neglected through ignorance and desperation.  There is much about Harry and Krystal Weedon that is similar, but then with Harry there was an owl, and a magic school and a quiddich team and friends with powers and hope.  There were teachers who saw potential and nurtured it.  For Krystal there is no magic owl, and the rowing team breaks up when the book begins with the one adult who saw her potential, dropping dead. Her peer friends were also 16 year old powerless foster kids. Life without the magic,

 but still trying to show that disadvantaged children are

really there, and we all need to stop looking away.
Let there be light.  Lumos.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October is a Season of Steadfast Change

 In october you can feel the change in the air.  Every day is different than the one before.  Every Friday night gets dark quite a bit earlier than the one before it. It can be over 100 degrees where one member of the family lives while another is telling you that the temperatures dropped 65 degrees overnight and they have snow.
 Spring flowers get confused and sneak in a few new blooms while fall flowers start to show their glory and the leaves begin to outshine them all.  Fruits are plentiful and free in their abundance but already beginning to over-ripen.  The warm blackberry scented air starts to carry the smell of decaying leaves and fermentation.

"I - L- Y combined in sign language says, I Love You"
 Days that are cold and foggy in the morning leave you sweaty and breathless in the afternoon heat. Kids are back in school but the sense of summer lingers and yet Christmas things are already popping up in the stores.

For months I seem to not sell any of my books.  I carry them with me and chat about them, I write about them and tweet about them and work on the next ones but very little happens.  Then that too, changes.  I have a copy with me and don't mention it, and someone asks me if he can look at it.  Then a week later he tells me, "Well, I have bad news.  I can't give your book back" but that is because he gave it to the school district with the directions to order him a set of 36 for his class and the suggestion that it should be taught by all the 5th grade teachers in the district.  Then while I'm still smiling over that, a teacher from another school mentions that she is using the same book as a read-aloud to her class.  I know it is still baby steps, but that is perfect for Double Time on The Oregon Trail because this huge continent was crossed one baby step at a time.

 So while I welcome fall with jars of home canned blackberry jam and stacks of firewood stored up in the hope of defeating the cold ahead. While I stock up on candles for the inevitable dark, and stroll on the beach in a last celebration of warmth and light - I think about change and progress.  I think that the old, "the more things change the more they stay the same," is proven true once again.

 Every October I feel the same changes happening, new but steadfastly familiar as the earth repeats a pattern ancient and sure.  Every October I turn nostalgic and compare where I am to where I was and where I hope to go.  I work with the kids at school and realize I once taught their parents.  I write my stories and take my pictures and tell the people in my life that I adore them.  I know each October finds a few new people in my life and a few old ones missing, but I carry them in my heart and take the baby steps toward the day when i get to hold them in my arms once more.