Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Book Blurb #7

Sioux's rules or visit her at:

  • A photo is posted every Friday. The picture is intended to be the front cover of a book.
  • Your mission:  to write a blurb for the book, in 150 words or less (not including the title). Make it compelling. Make it enticing. Make it so engaging, the reader cannot resist buying it and reading it.
  • Post the blurb on your blog, and then connect your post to this one, via Mr. Linky. 
  • Check out the other blurbs. It's fun to see what direction other people went when it came to the same photo.

                                    Running to Win

“Jolly” Bracken had run all her life, hitting the streets with her jogger dad when she was ten. She was on the high school cross country team and ran track in college. After three kids and a broken marriage, could she play basketball in middle age?

The Delighted Divorce Dames needed new blood. Chipper Anderson knew just who could play with the team. She just had to convince Jolly to come on board. She had stamina and skill, could learn rules.

So one Tuesday in November, Chipper took Jolly to the sports store and bought her a pair of high tops. All was going well until a retired NBA played moved next door to Jolly and had some moves of his own. Would he score with their new high pointer? Distract her from team’s needs? Cause her to sink or air ball?

The real game was on!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Book Blurb #6

Go to Sioux's page at for complete rules on how to participate and links to other writers' stories based on the photo.

                                                  In Mrs. Phelan's Garden

Abigail Phelan was known across the state for her English garden. Each hosta and azalea placed with precision like sliver cutlery on an Edwardian table. Although she had a full time gardener to help, Mrs. Phelan could be seen early every morning pulling on her gloves to help.

The problem arose when she wanted to set a brass sundial. Nursey workmen dug deep for a cement base that Monday morning when the body was found. Wrapped in a canvas tarp, someone had been buried in Mrs. Phelan’s English garden. Who was it? Who put a body among the perfect arrangement of boxwood and gravel paths?

The town of Overman wanted answers, but a great many more questions came to the top of the garden before any answers formed. The remains brought suspicions, doubts, and fear to everyone especially Mrs. Phelan who could not explain the dead body in her garden. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Interview with Author Diane Yates

Many of the books I read right now are self-published or published by small presses. I pick them up at book events because I want to know what is on the market and because I want to support the hardworking authors. I have quite a stack of books from big publishers and small presses I am working through. When I picked up the memoir Pathways of the Heart by Diane Yates, I thought I knew what to expect, a love story people with gentle folks from the Ozarks during the Depression years.

The book opens with a boy and girl in a one school house jousting for each other’s attention, they fall in love and a teenaged marriage follows which includes babies popping out like biscuits from a burst can. Okay, sweet but predictable, but somewhere along the way the characters of Kenneth and Clella become complex and challenging. I began to read in longer sessions, to return to my book whenever I could. This became such a powerful story for me raising lots of profound thoughts on the way. It was also a bit of a microspoic slimpse into my own ancestral people that I have loved and lost.

The author, the seventh child of the protagonist, gave me a character that will follow me through my days now just like Dorothy with her Toto, Laura and her Almanzo, and The One and Only Scarlett. Clella is another durable role model, a strong woman enduring struggles and knowing the meaning of the words home and family. Her battles become the reader’s own.

Although she now lives and writes from the middle of Missouri, Diane Yates has deep roots in the Ozarks as her book reveals. She is the present president of the Ozark Writers League. When the group began to crumble while redefining itself months ago, Diane stepped in and became the midwife bringing the group to a new life. She has agreed to a mini-interview about her book below.

     What made you write the story of your mother and expose her to readers everywhere?

 I felt like God wanted me to share the story of my mother and Kenneth. I
thought maybe it could help couples who are struggling in their relationships. I
believe in many ways Mom was the picture of the virtuous woman in Proverbs
31. I’ve heard from a few men who read the book and they admitted it
encouraged them to be a better husband, but the one that surprised me was
a young single mother who said when times were hardest raising her little one
by herself, she just thought of Clella’s strength carrying those buckets of water

and knew if Clella could do it, she could, too!

     My mother was a private person, but if her story could help one person, she’d
be all for sharing it. Before I could submit it to be published, I sent the
manuscript to my siblings, and cousins for their approval. I had the complete
support of all my family.

You kept the stories of all the adults so balanced. How did you keep  judgement of Kenneth or Clella from appearing in your work?

There is no judgement from me in my heart of Kenneth or Clella. I believe theirs is the picture of what happens when you don’t nurture your relationship. Marriage takes work. If one’s not careful, the love you once felt will slip away in the hustle and weariness of everyday life.

As a writer, you quietly captured the pain and darkness of both the Depression and the character’s lives. How did you choose what details to put in and what to leave out?

I started writing this story in 1996. After a few months, I didn’t like what I read. I put it down because I felt the story was too important for such amateurish writing. Finally, almost ten years later, I decided if I didn’t write it, it wouldn’t get written. I still, even after publication,  find mistakes or want to make revisions. While doing my research, I made a list of all the stories I felt needed to be included. As for the Depression, Mother and Kenneth, and most of the people in that area, were made of tough stuff! They did what they had to do and made the most of what they had. Mother was the most resourceful person I have ever known. My husband says “she could always make something out of nothing.”

How did you decide to make this story a memoir instead of a work of fiction?

I thought about making it a work of fiction and almost did. I considered having her decide to stay with her husband as well. In the end, I felt like it needed to be accurate with real names. A testament to the strength, courage and character of the people whose lives touched one another. I was told the book was too secular to be published by a “Christian” publisher and too Christian to be published by a “Traditional” publisher. In the end, I am blessed to have found a Christian agent and a publisher who supports the book.

 Thank you so much, Diane, for both the book and the interview!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

To Write, Read

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
                                                                Stephen King

King isn’t the only author who advises writers to read, read, read. I used to tell my Writing Lab students about the many people who directed future writers to read all they could. I remember one used to type one page from a favorite author’s book just before he started any of his own writing just to get a feel for language, voice, and pacing. I think the late Pat Conroy was another who said read and read some more.

Reading is no problem for me, but sometimes I can’t put the books down to do my own writing. I get hung up on a story and am lost in it. I promise to write as soon as I finish the book. Then again I read books where I appreciate the author’s voice, but it is nothing I would feel comfortable writing. Others I wish I could write pages just exactly like the ones I read!

I find reading poetry will lead me to writing more of my own poetry. Favorite poets I visit for inspiration are Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, and Jane Kenyon. Reading their lovely lines can set the stage for writing poem but also for writing beautiful essays as well.

I just finished Let the Great World Spin for my book club next month. Colm McCann writes very modern prose with foul language, snappy dialogue (often minus the quote marks), and 21st situations which means drugs, sex and violence. I have to say in the end I would agree with the reviewers that the book was a worthy and interesting read, but it is not something I will look for again or one I want to mimic.

The old classics of Willa Cather-Wallace Stegner-Margaret Mitchell-F. Scott Fitzgerald-Frank Schaffer all hold stories and characters I would like to have created. Modern writers like Anita Shreve, Lee Smith, Stewart O’Nan, and Elizabeth Berg are writers who tell a good story. One of my problems is defining exactly what I want to write; I don’t think I am meant for romance, fantasy, creative non-fiction, or anything mystical. If I had to say I could write only one book ever, I would want it to read to be an enduring read like To Kill a Mockingbird, My Antonia, or Gone with the Wind.

What writer do you read to inspire your own work or which existing book do you wish you had written?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Short Spring Ride

Spring is easing in on the land. After dark personal winter but having mild winter weather instead of the forecasted nasty snow and cold, the pretty weekend felt like all winter was fading. DH needed a break from son #2 kitchen rebuild, and so I drove us to the farm to check on some bulldozing being done there. The air was warm but the furious wind was a March wind for sure.

Winter wheat was making tiny shoots like green spears reaching for the heavens. Yellow and white daffodils hugged farm house foundations waiting for lilac and tulips and forsythia to come. Contented cows rested on grasses mixed with saffron shades of dead growth slowly being replaced by spring greens. Once at the farm, the bulldozer was in action even on Sunday since the coming week is to be all rain. He worked while he could. He had already recovered much land, reshaping berms and dips like a boy with modeling clay. 

The black earth waited for seeds. The whole field seemed to quiver with expectation of growth. It looked still and lifeless, but the farmers knew life rumbled beneath. After a short bulldozing conference, we had time and inclination to drive about the other farms of the area which we had not done in years. DH named people who had once lived there. Even though the Johnsons might have lived on a piece of land for a long while, it might still be called “the Cantor place” or some such.

Nearby was once a tiny town called Kimball. It set as close the railroad tracks as possible without interrupting trains. It had a grocery, a barber, a small school house, a church at one time. Now it is practically a ghost town with abandoned homes and barns falling in on themselves. One house caught my eye, talking to me, calling to me about the woman who lived there once…how she worked flowers at her fence, at her door step, how she gathered eggs from hens that roamed among the flowers eating bugs on summer days.

We hated to cut the reverie short but needed to get on to check in at assisted living for his dad who will be 100 in May and my mother’s for quick visits before heading back to the kitchen job where sheetrock mud was drying. It felt good for a few hours to smell turned earth, feel wind on faces, to know that life rolls on with or without our permission. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Friday Again and Book Blurb #4

                      It's time for Sioux's Friday Book Blurb #4. This week I aimed for non-fiction.  

Go to Sioux's page at for complete rules on how to participate and links to other writers' stories based on the photo. 

                                           Native Americans and the Railroads

Spencer Bowling spent ten years researching how the railroads stretched themselves west and how they invaded the landscape changing it forever. At first he took the angle of railroads being a powerful new technology that would improve the country’s commerce and wealth.

But then, he kept running across documents and newspaper articles that echoed the thoughts of the Native American opinion. They resented the Black Beast and knew it would increase the numbers of White Men taking away their homes, eliminating their food sources, and trying to wipe their culture out completely.

When Bowling saw this new angle of thought, he switched gears and began to tell the story of the railroads from the Red Man’s perspective. With the 21st Century’s loud rants on immigration and walls and rights, it behooves readers to stop a minute and read Bowling’s well written book.