Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fantasy Cast #2: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf

I had so much fun reading How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf that I really had no choice, but to spend an exhorbitantly large amount of time finding the perfect cast, should it ever become a movie. And, just so you know (this only applies if you read the paperback), while she mentions the naked werewolf on page one and you meet the werewolf on page 32, there isn't any dirty naked werewolf copulation until like page 180...and, while I was sad about this at first (remember how I said if I'm going to read a romance novel I like it to at least have some dirty-ish anything), I realized a) she makes up for it by having several more 'little' scenes in the rest of the 200+ pages and b) it leaves room for such wonderful character development. Seriously, I've never been sad about a romance novel ending and I was a little sad about this one ending and a little sadder that the next book seems to focus on Maggie, but we can talk about that later! On with the fantasy casting.

Ok, so at first I thought of Cooper Graham, Mr. Sexy Crabby Werewolf, looking a little like this...

Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing Era
...and, then I realized that what I really wanted him to look like was this...

Alex O'Loughlin
No offense against Patrick Swayze as he forever changed the way I look at men and at dancing, but I really, really, really needed Cooper to look good when angry, look guilty and feel remorse (if you haven't seen Alex O'Loughlin in Oyster Farmer, a quirky, Australian film, stop reading and go watch it now), have nice hands and be gosh-darned lickalious (yes, it's a word that my friend made up to describe...well, to describe men who look like Mr. O'Loughlin or Ryan Reynolds...HELL-O!). Sure, Alex has already played a vampire, but he was meant to be a wolf...scouts honor, have you seen him shirtless!?

Mo (I'll save her full name so you have to read the book to find out) Duvall-Wenstein is part Jewish, part hippie and all her own person. She needs to be portrayed by the kind of person who looks too girlie to go out of doors, but isn't afraid to, oh I don't know, hit a werewolf over the head with a fire extinguisher.

Michelle Monoghan
I picked Michelle because I thought she was a dainty little actress until I saw Eagle Eye and she is amazing in action.

OK, so now here's where you're going to have to bear *snicker, snicker* with me because there are soooo many minor characters in this book, so many wonderful characters in this book that I had to cast the lot of them (well, almost all of them, anyway).

Mo's parents

James Read and Mia Farrow...excellent parents

James Read was so wonderfully good as the sweet well meaning father in Charmed that I think he would be lovely as Ash the anti-establishment, hippie, but endearing father. And, it is no coincidence that Read was on the brain as he co-starred with Swayze in North and South. Saffron played by Mia Farrow is brilliant, as she made an excellent, singing unicorn princess in 1982. She's subtly funny, she's fierce and would have no problem visiting you unexpectantly and throwing out all your Snoballs, but she's also sensitive and wants you to love her.

Sean Bean

Buzz is the owner of the diner/bar where Mo gets a job as a short order cook, she turns the place around. He's supposed to be big and manly,  blonde and square-jawed, gruff and kind. Everyone loves him and while he pretends otherwise, he loves everyone else, especially his wife, Evie. Sean Bean looks the part because he definitely manly, blonde and when he smiles birds sing and fawns tip toe from the forest to see the beauty. Watch the PBS Sharpe series if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Rosario Dawson

Now, Evie is supposed to be younger and more youthful than her husband, "nut brown" (yeah, not my favorite line from the book either) and Cooper's cousin. Rosario Dawson is beautiful, could easily pull of being the wife of a diner owner. I think she could kick butt as easily has she could don an apron and make inedible pie.

Evangeline Lilly
Cooper has this sister, Maggie, who would just as soon as bite you at the jungular as talk to you. She's featured in the second book of the series, but all she does in this one is whine, beat up people, whine, beat up more people, whine some more and, yet in the end, we're supposed to find her endearing enough to want to read more about her. Evangeline Lilly is fierce, but I don't mind!

Tom Hardy
Cooper also has a cousin. Eli is like Maggie in the sense that he wants whats best for the pack and leads the pack after Cooper gives up his leadership. I pick Tom Hardy to play this part because he could easily be your best friend or your worst enemy. When people start to go missing how willing is Eli to help find them?

Cooper's mother

Lynda Carter
Um...Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman, I think she can play the single mother of a pack of wolves, easy breezy lemon squeezy!

Aaron Eckhart
You don't have a good romance novel if you don't have another man who likes the heroine. This man has to be the opposite of the other guy (you know the foil) and you have to know from the very beginning that he isn't the right choice. Alan is that character. He's a ranger and blonde and nice...too nice.

Which leads me to Mo's best friend Kara, she still lives in the South, but manages to give Mo the support she needs when she needs it and even makes a visit. I imagined Jessica Simpson.

Jessica Simpson
She's sweet, will tell you like it is and just reminds me Southern hospitality!

Now, the next grouping of minor characters come in pairs...

Dolly Parton and Bill Erwin
You'll have to read the book to figure out why I put these two characters together. Susy Q is the mail lady and she's supposed to have big hair and wear loud Western clothing, I immediately thought of Dolly. Abner is this cute little old man. He's a local of Grundy and tries to entice Mo to move in with him because she cooks so well. There are lots of cute old men to choose from, however, I chose the now deceased Bill Erwin because he just reminds me of the best, sweetest little old man ever.

Alex Pettyfer and Paul (Holy Wow!) Newman
Cooper is supposed to have a grandpa that doesn't look a bit over 45 and a brother who's a flirt who doesn't mind being in the nude. Paul Newman (even in the last years of his life) was quite a looker and would make an excellent sick and stubborn grandfather and Alex Pettyfer (sorry I couldn't find this pic in color) is so pretty that it would be a shame to not have him play the fun-loving brother.

There are a several characters I left out, but I believe the above characters are the essential characters in this wonderfully delightful, sexy book about love and werewolves and the Alaskan frontier. I hope I've given you enough reason to read the book, and, inadvertently, I've given you a lovely list of shows and movies to watch!

If you would like to see my first EVER Fantasy Cast click here. (It's for The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand).
And, here's a cast from the Queen of All Things Fantasy Casting. She added different characters to her list.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge: Day Twenty-six

Day Twenty-Six: A Song that you can play on an instrument

          Um, yeah, I'm envious of the people who have the discipline to play a musical instrument past the requisite years in junior high and high school. My husband plays the guitar. One of the best times is listening to him strum the songs, trying to guess what he's playing in just a few notes. My friend Jenn takes guitar lessons as an adult. Now that takes dedication! I tried to take piano lessons (as I've always wanted to play the piano), but quit after the easy stuff, I just didn't have time to practice and learn what I didn't already know.
          You see I used to play the clarinet. It's the perfect instrument progression from the flutophone, and my grandfather played the clarinet when he was in the Army band in the 40s. I loved learning how to play, I loved learning how to read music, I loved making my grandfather proud. He even seasoned the keys for me (as my clarinet was new and the high notes were hard to play). In high school, however, being in Flags was a lot more fun and required less practice than marching...I stopped playing the clarinet.
         The only song I can still play on the clarinet is "Baby Elephant Walk"...WOW! it's so fun to play...I'd play it right now if my mother hadn't sold my clarinet so my sister could have a snare drum...not that I'm still bitter!

Feel free to join in by commenting below (I really do love comments, on fb or here), or doing this challenge on your own blog.

The 30 Day Song Challenge
Day 01 – Your favorite song
Day 02 -- Your least favorite song
Day 03 -- A song that makes you happy
Day 04 -- A song that makes you sad
Day 06 -- A song that reminds you of someone
Day 06 -- A song that reminds you of somewhere
Day 07 -- A song that reminds you of a certain event
Day 08 -- A song that you know all the words to
Day 09 -- A song that you can dance to
Day 15 --A song that describes you
Day 16 --A song that you used to love but now hate
Day 17 --A song that you hear often on the radio
Day 18 --A song that you wish you heard on the radio
Day 19 --A song from your favorite album
Day 20 --A song that you listen to when you're angry
Day 21 -- A song that you listen to when you're happy
Day 22 -- A song that you listen to when you're sad
Day 23 -- A song that you want to play at your wedding
Day 24 -- A song that you want to play at your funeral
Day 25 -- A song that makes you laugh

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Word of the Week: Bombastic and Weekly 100 Words

Here are my 100 words from Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow p58:

     "...The maid let out a scream and crossed herself. The little boy tried to get a look at it, whatever it was, but Mother and maid were on the ground, brushing the dirt off, and for a moment he couldn't get past them. Mother's face had turned so pale and suffered such an intense expression that all the bones in her face appeared to have grown and the opulently beautiful face he revered was shockingly haggard,like someone ancient. He saw as they brushed the dirt away that it was an infant. Dirt was in its eyes, in its mouth...."
This meme is hosted by Ruthi at Ruthi Reads!  The object is simple:  share exactly 100 words from the book you are currently reading, and no spoilers!  Be sure to include your book's title, author, and page number in your post.  Head over to Ruthi's site and add your link to your book!  Happy Reading!

Monday, June 27, 2011

50 Books in a Year: Book #28 Ragtime

          So, I've been meaning to read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow for about two years now. From the moment that I realized that Ragtime the Musical was based on a book, a book, that from what I understand is out of time and hard to follow. It's suppose to follow the lives of three families (a white upper middle-class family, a Jewish immigrant family and a poor black family) as they struggle with the progressive era.
          I've also read that this is the first book that is the first of its kind in the sense that Doctorow is putting his characters inside the first 20 years of the 20th century and, includes factional information within the lives of his characters. Most of his fictional characters don't have names and are called by their family station there's Mother, Father, Tateh and so forth depending on which family.
          It is a little dry so far, but I've already met Harry Houdini and a murderer, I'm looking forward to getting to the meat of the action, of course, knowing that there is no meat (or, that it's all meaty and worth my attention?) and that these characters go in and out of time in the Progressive Era teaching me what it was like to be an American so I can appreciate this concept as a Post-Modern American, way past the Progressive Era, and not waste any of the precious time I have.
          I miss the music.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Incase You Were Wondering... God feels about all of us and how we should treat one another regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. It's pretty simple.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Six Word Saturday #10

My life in six words
Summer, summertime, sit back and unwind...


Want to play along? All that's necessary to participate is to describe your life (or something) in a phrase using just six words. For more information, try clicking here. Feel free to explain or not explain. Add an image, a video, a song, nothing. The full list and linky can be found here. And, here's where I found it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Five: Summer Blockbusters

I love doing surveys and questionnaires. I love reading peoples answers to surveys and questionnaires. They are a weakness of mine, and in looking for topics for my blog to make it easier for me to post everyday once school started...I found this. So, Fridays we're taking a break from talking about reading and books and words to answer silly surveys and questionnaires. Feel free to post your answers below, on your own blog, or both!!! Ideas from

Summer Blockbusters
  1. What transformation do you undergo on summer Fridays at midnight?
  2. What super power do the kids in your neighborhood seem to have?
  3. Who (or what!) is your nemesis in these warm summer days?
  4. What is your trustiest weapon against the evil heat monster?
  5. What seems to be invading your life lately, and how will you fend it off?
  1. I turn into a sleeping hybernating Momma Bear.
  2. The incessant need to stay up late and make noice into the night with their cars. Thank goodness most of them have Summer jobs.
  3. Time...he's my arch nemesis.
  4. A book and air conditioning. If I'm feeling fairly adventureous...the creek.
  5. Always work...bills...the daily grind, I'll fend it off with a good nap and some TV watching with the kidlet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sad Day...Good-bye book, Good-bye *tear*

          Today, I have to give away a book. It is a book that I bought new, it is a book that I haven't even read, it is a book that I want to buy for myself (but can't afford two hardcover copies), but instead bought for a friend.
          It is killing me...I opened it up a little to read some pages here and there. Just a few pages and only a little, so the spine wouldn't bend and the gorgeous flap wouldn't get frayed. It wants me to read it, it needs me to read it.
          I usually don't buy books with the intent of giving them away...frankly for this reason...I miss the book when it goes, like a little piece of me is gone.
          And, I will definitely miss this one. Let me tell you a little bit about the book. It's called The Wilder Life: My Adventuress in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. Here's what the flap says: For anyone who has ever wanted to step into the world of a favorite book, here is a pioneer pilgrimage, a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession. Yes, it's about LIW. Here's more..."The Wilder Life is a loving irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones--and find that our old love has only deepened." In essence it's about my hometown, LIW and nostalgia, if you don't know how I feel about these topics checkout my feelings here. It sounds like it's going to be about everything that is the foundation of me (powerfully strong women and the Midwestern small town), only from an outsiders perspective and therefore probably a little more truthful. I want it. I need it.
          Instead, I'm giving it to one of my best friends who is also obsessed with all things Wilder...she could have easily written this book, she will love this book and give it a good home, and while I'll want to visit it and perhaps take it home for the weekend, I'll wait until I can afford one of my own.
          Sad day...sad, sad, bittersweet day...

*Grabs tissue* Anybody else have this problem?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge: Day Twenty-Five

Day Twenty-Five: A Song that makes you laugh

          I am an easy laugh.
          There is no way that I could be that teacher that doesn't smile until Christmas. I find everything, including the humor of teenagers, funny.
          Picking a song that makes me laugh is's only a song that has made me laugh my whole life, a song that we three girls begged our aunts and our mom to play over and over on the record player, a song that we bounced around to so much that the needle would skip and we'd only stop when one of them threatened that we were going to scratch said record and they wouldn't buy us a new one.
          I remember one time we were all at my grandparents, it was summertime and all three of us were sick. I was the one to feel better last (although I'm the eldest I'm always last) and my mom, my aunts (Nellie and Nesie) and my grandpa were all in the closed in porch dancing around to songs and they started this one. Groaning I wrapped the purple and navy afghan of granny squares around me, groaning I grabbed my 7-Up and my bowl of soup and heading to the porch to at least dance a little. My mother made me lie back down (it was easy as I was 7 and feverish), but not before I did a little bit of the Monster Mash, my favorite song that makes me laugh.

Here's a cool list of novelty songs, oh and here's another (even if it does have Barbie Girl) and another...

Feel free to join in by commenting below (I really do love comments, on fb or here), or doing this challenge on your own blog.

The 30 Day Song Challenge
Day 01 – Your favorite song
Day 02 -- Your least favorite song
Day 03 -- A song that makes you happy
Day 04 -- A song that makes you sad
Day 06 -- A song that reminds you of someone
Day 06 -- A song that reminds you of somewhere
Day 07 -- A song that reminds you of a certain event
Day 08 -- A song that you know all the words to
Day 09 -- A song that you can dance to
Day 15 --A song that describes you
Day 16 --A song that you used to love but now hate
Day 17 --A song that you hear often on the radio
Day 18 --A song that you wish you heard on the radio
Day 19 --A song from your favorite album
Day 20 --A song that you listen to when you're angry
Day 21 -- A song that you listen to when you're happy
Day 22 -- A song that you listen to when you're sad
Day 23 -- A song that you want to play at your wedding
Day 24 -- A song that you want to play at your funeral

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Word of the Week Ninnyhammer and Weekly 100 Words

Here are my 100 words from How to Flirt with A Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper p1:

     "When a naked man shows up on your doorstep with a bear trap clamped around his ankle, it's best just to do what he asks.
     This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. A lesson that I didn't anticipate that crisp June morning as I drove my ailing truck to the town limits of tiny Grundy in the southeast interior of Alaska. As sorry as I felt for my "new to me" four-by-four, I couldn't stop just yet.
     'Just a few more minutes, baby,' I said, stroking fond fingers over the worn-smooth plastic of the steering wheel...."
This meme is hosted by Ruthi at Ruthi Reads!  The object is simple:  share exactly 100 words from the book you are currently reading, and no spoilers!  Be sure to include your book's title, author, and page number in your post.  Head over to Ruthi's site and add your link to your book!  Happy Reading!

Monday, June 20, 2011

50 Books in a Year: Book #27 How to Flirt with A Naked Werewolf

          On my birthday my Aunt Nellie bought me books, loads of books, one of which was How to Flirt with A Naked Werewolf. I told her I was going to wait until Summer to read it and have since decided that we are well into the Summer Season and it's time for a little light reading.
          I'm looking forward to reading about a fish-out of water girl being ravaged by a werewolf with a heart...I'm thinking of it as Big Stone Gap meets Twilight meets Wendy Holden. Frankly, I've always enjoyed my summer reads, especial what I like to call British train trash like Simply Divine!
          I have no idea why I feel that I have to explain why I am reading a light, fluffy book written to entertain and to inform (if you ever meet a werewolf in Alaska and find him attractive)'s probably all those years of college literature classes, anyway it looks to be fun (love the cover!)
          I envy those of you who are like 'why are you hiding how you feel, read your werewolf porn' and those of you who are not so open with your emotions don't judge it's my teacher time off!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day, Christopher Lee!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Six Word Saturday #9

My life in six words
An adventure: Car-shopping for Aunt Nellie!

Toyota Rav-4

Ford Edge

Honda Fit

Honda CR-V...what she originally had before the accident
Which one? Which one?

Want to play along? All that's necessary to participate is to describe your life (or something) in a phrase using just six words. For more information, try clicking here. Feel free to explain or not explain. Add an image, a video, a song, nothing. The full list and linky can be found here. And, here's where I found it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17th Saudi Women Drive

Breaking the Law Saudi Arabian style

1] About the cause organized by Manal
2] We are supporting Manal Al-Sharif
3] Many are changing their FB Profile pic in support!!!

Me driving...students to Drama Convention,
yes, they allow me to drive a van full of high schoolers!

What brave women! You go ladies!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Heart of the Spring: Interview with author Laura Valenti

[She can also be found on GoodReads
and will put a picture up there as soon as she figures out how.]
Interview with author Laura L. Valenti, author of The Heart of the Spring, as promised! Here's what Laura has to say about the interview: "I hope you aren't sorry you asked for all of us this by the time you see how long the answers are to your questions. Now you know why I write novels and not short stories! Sorry....feel free to edit any way you like. This is also part of the problem with writing features over the years. Editors have told me they'd rather have 'too much' than 'not enough' so I tend to write long and then they can cut it if need be." Please know I didn't edit in any way. Happy Reading!
  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  I’ve been a freelance writer for 30 years and most of my writing has been newspaper features with the occasional magazine feature. These days I write regularly for “Ozarks Farm & Neighbor”, southwest Missouri’s farm newspaper, but I’ve also written for Springfield News-Leader, Lebanon Daily Record, Missouri Life, Ozarks Magazine, and others. I once had a discussion with novelist Barri Bumgarner, also from Lebanon about which was easier to write, fiction or non-fiction. Barri, with three novels under her belt, insisted it was fiction, because if you don’t like the way things are going you can just kill off a character, change him or her, have something good or bad happen to them and so forth. I told her non-fiction had always seemed easiest for me, because essentially I get paid for meeting someone, having a conversation with them, taking notes and then going home and writing up what we talked about and sending it in to an editor. Easiest of all, the check comes fairly quickly, especially when compared to novels!
   As for me personally, I had a conversation recently with some friends who pointed out I’ve not had the ‘average’ life. I grew up in and out of Mexico with a ‘gypsy father’ who just liked to travel. My husband, Warren and I were Peace Corps volunteers in the 70s in El Salvador, where my oldest daughter and my oldest son were born and I still have close ties with friends there who are now basically my family. I’ve lived at Bennett Spring, outside of Lebanon for over 30 years, where we’ve raised 4 children and I now have 5 grandsons in Missouri and Texas.
  1. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?  Lots of them, including Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jim Kjelgaard, Walter Farley, Anne Sewell, Alistair Maclean, Harold Bell Wright, Helen MacInnes, Morris West—true storytellers, one and all. Harry Kimmelman wrote a series of books in the 70s and 80s about a suburban rabbi who lived outside of Boston and his best friend was the Catholic police chief. In their discussions, Rabbi David Small used rabbinical logic to help the police chief solve various crimes (which is the stuff of King Solomon’s decision from the Old Testament story of two women who both claimed the same baby. He said cut the baby in half and of course, the true mother instantly relinquished her claim.) I loved those books because while the reader was enjoying a murder or some other mystery, they learned much about Judaism. I’ve always loved stories that were fun and yet the reader walked away with something more--more knowledge, more history, a lighter heart, a better understanding of people. After reading Kimmelman’s books, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to write something like that and that is where the original premise for “Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice” came from.
3.     We talked how most writers have to understand that writing is a part-time job, what do you do when you are not writing?  I worked for over 10 years for the Laclede County Sheriff’s Department, first as an administrative assistant and then as the Jail Administrator for the last 3+ years I was there, which  means, yes, I ran the 106 bed county jail. Since leaving there, I’ve gone back to freelance writing as well as trying to keep up with 5 grandsons, ages 3 to 10, and a husband who just retired after 33 years at the Missouri Department of Conservation, including 21 years at the Bennett Spring Trout Hatchery. I’m also on the Board of the New Life House and on the Laclede County Drug Council, a group that works to promote drug education in schools and work places throughout the area. Both of those are volunteer positions.

  1. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? Writing for me began in childhood when I used to write long letters home from camp, to grandparents while we were in Mexico, to anyone and everyone, to family in the US while we were in El Salvador, all before the days of email and cell phones. I was the rare kid in high school and college who LIKED essay tests because even if I didn’t know the answer, I could usually bluff my way through, as opposed to multiple choice where you really did need to have some idea of the correct response!
My first published item was a Letter to the Editor to the local newspaper while I was in college in regards to the Viet Nam war. It stirred up quite a controversy at the time and demonstrated to me the power of the written word, Thomas Payne, notwithstanding. My first book was “The Fifteen Most Asked Questions About Adoption” which I wrote after adopting a child from El Salvador and discovering many other people were hungry to do the same, but didn’t have any idea as to where to begin. The year was 1985, long before the Internet or Oprah and adoption information was not easily available.

  1. What motivates you to write? I heard it best described recently at a writers’ conference when the speaker (I believe it was Bobbi Smith, the romance novelist) said, “we don’t write for the money, although that is very nice and necessary in some regard, but we write because it’s in us and it has to come out.”  And that is so true.  For me, I feel sometimes if I don’t get it out, I’ll explode. My husband, who is, God bless him, a light sleeper, has often had his sleep disturbed by me getting up at midnight or 1 am, to write an essay or an article that has suddenly occurred to me in its entirety and “I have to put it down on paper right now!”  Or for that matter, it may be the perfect ending to a chapter or some episode where I’d written myself into a corner, so to speak, and here was the answer.  I believe it was Alice Walker, author of “The Color Purple” who said once in an interview that when she was ready to write that book, she was “like a woman who was pregnant with eight characters at once and I had to stop what I was doing and write it all down right then!”  That pretty well sums it up. 
  1. How do you choose the topics of your novels and where do you get your ideas? (Especially for The Heart of the Spring)  “The Heart of the Spring” actually grew from the suggestion of two friends who work at Bennett Spring. I was there in January 2010, on a very slow weekend of catch and release trout fishing. When I stopped by the Bennett Spring store, my friends told me someone had been asking about any material they had on the history of Bennett Spring and all they had to offer was a small pamphlet written by the state. “We need a book, a story that tells the history of this place,” one of them said. “You’re a writer. Can’t you do something about that?”  I laughed and told them, “It’s been a slow day at work, girls” and went on a walk in the January cold with my husband. When we were done with the walk, less than an hour later, I looked at him and said, “Oh my gosh, I know the story!”  To which he replied, “What story?”  “The story, the novel I could write about Bennett Spring. I know the whole thing, it’s a trilogy, 3 different stories at 3 different important points of Bennett Spring history!”  He just shook his head and I came home and got to work and “The Heart of the Spring” was available for the first time at Hillbilly Days 2010, less than six months later.
   As for other ideas, they are for me, always suggested by ‘real events’ or something else that I saw, read or experienced and yet, they are transformed, always floating, re-shaping, changing like the white clouds in a blue summer sky, until they become something new and different altogether. (We used to play that game when I was a child, lying on a blanket, watching the puffy clouds and picking out shapes which would change right before our eyes. That is how story ideas often seem to work for me!) For instance, in “Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice”, I can say that everything that happened in that book, did happen in one form or another, in one place or another. Working in the Laclede County Sheriff’s Department, we often heard of things that went on in other counties as well, so sometimes that suggested something, or I combined it with an event in another time and place. More than once, my co-workers and I would look at each and say, “if you wrote this down, people would swear we were lying!”
I’m not into sci fi, fantasy, werewolves, mermaids or vampires (much to my husband’s frustration as far as the bank account is concerned). I’m always about real people, their struggles, their courage, their tragedies and triumphs over whatever challenges they encounter in life. I’ve seen and experienced some incredible triumphs and I enjoy sharing those to encourage others, no matter what it is they are grappling with.

  1. What parts of your book are based on real life experiences and what parts did you make up?
In “The Heart of the Spring”, the main characters--Becky and her family, J.C. and the Senator, J.C.’s mother and sister, are all fictional. The history surrounding Bennett Spring is all factual, research I’d done in the past for various non-fiction articles for area newspapers and magazines.

            Other parts, like Lee Taylor, the gentleman associated with the butter churns actually comes from my own family’s history. My father’s uncles, John, Thomas, Will and Lee ran the Taylor Brothers Manufacturing Company in St. Louis in the early part of the 20th century and they made the butter churns for Dazey and Reliable butter churns so when you see those old butter churns in the antique shops today, they were made by my great-uncles.

            Some characters are part history and a little imagination. Josie Bennett Smith for instance and her brother, William Sherman Bennett were real persons who lived at Brice and Bennett Spring so it gets a bit trickier when writing about them. You have to be careful not to insult anyone and yet there are certain things you can figure out from the facts. Josie Bennett Smith was a divorced woman running a small hotel in 1924 in a very rural backwater sort of place. She had to have some real sand to make that happen and stand up to the inevitable gossip of the time and I’ve never known a successful inn keeper yet who wasn’t essentially a ‘people person’ and so my characterization of Josie was born.
  1. How did you come up with the title? I’ve lived a lot of places over the years and when I look back and think of my favorites, it always has to do with the people there. When we moved to Bennett Spring, it was from a place where people were not open or friendly to outsiders. One older lady there even told me, “your father and grandfather weren’t born in this county, so you’ll never amount to nothing here”. Needless to say, I was not sad to move from there! We found a warm welcome when we moved to Bennett Spring over 30 years ago and so I thought the most important thing was to find a way to recognize that—to make note of the fact that beautiful as a place may be, it is the people who are the true heart of the community, and so I had one of the characters say so!   {Stephanie, remind me to tell you a story sometime of some of the first people I met at Bennett. Not for publication but they instantly made me ‘feel at home’ at Bennett Spring!}
  1. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write for The Heart of the Spring and why?  Many parts were fun to write, like Miz Josie’s sassy answers to this or that or about the moonshining but my favorite might well be incorporating the information about the orphan trains into the story. Those trains brought children off the streets of New York out to the Midwest for the purpose of adoption, from the end of the Civil War all the way through the 1920s. I’ve seen pictures of the children and their arrival in Lebanon in the early 1900s and the opportunity to fold that history into “The Heart of the Spring” was a special joy, as the mother of three adopted children.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming book? “The Heart of the Spring Lives On” is set in 1935, 11 years after the original Bennett Spring book. Benji, Becky’s 11 year old brother, is now 22, and a new deputy with the Laclede County Sheriff’s Department. Meanwhile, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a huge national get-the-boys-back-to-work program that President Roosevelt instituted during the height of the 1930s Depression, had a camp at Bennett Spring from 1933 to 1937. They built the stone and dark wood gauge house and picnic shelter, both near the spring, the Bennett Spring Dining Lodge and laid the stone over the triple-arched bridge. In this new story, a young man named Jesse Newman from Riverton, in rural Oregon County on the Eleven Point River is all set to start work with the CCC and will be assigned to the Bennett Spring camp. The week before he is to leave he breaks his leg in a wagon accident and now obviously cannot join the work force. Like all the families with a son or father in the CCC, his family was desperately in need of the money and Jesse was afraid to go to the authorities and tell them of his new predicament. Instead, he convinces his twin sister, Jessica to allow him to cut her hair,  disguise her as a man and send her in his place for the six to eight weeks until his leg is healed. (There were actually 100-200 documented cases of women disguised as men fighting for both sides during the US Civil War; the CCC was only 70 years later, so….) And of course, the first person to discover that Jess Newman is not a young man is that new deputy, Ben Darling, and that is the beginning of the next installment of The Heart of the Spring.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published versus getting books published nowadays? Twenty-six years ago when “The Fifteen Most Asked Questions About Adoption” was published, traditional publishers like Herald Press, were very kind to even their newest authors. I’d worked in adoption for five years when I wrote the book so it was not difficult to convince them I knew what I was talking about. They flew me to Chicago twice, put me on CNN, arranged interviews with KY3, KSPR, a St. Louis Sunday afternoon TV talk show and a worldwide call-in radio talk show through Moody Bible College in Chicago. Today, unless your name is Stephen King or John Grisham, none of the publishers do any real publicity for your book. As the author, you are on your own!  Today, writing the book is about 20% and marketing the book is the other 80%! Likewise, getting an agent is the same crunch as most teens and young adults encounter when looking for their first job—no job without experience but pretty tough to get the experience without first getting a job! Many of us are now using independent publishing (also known as author originated publishing) which involve publishers that charge a set up fee (which can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars; new authors need to research carefully BEFORE they sign on the dotted line) and then the author buys the books at the same discount as bookstores and sells them at book signings and other events. With a traditional publisher, the author also has to buy the books at a discounted rate, if he/she wants to sell them. Then like now, non-fiction books are generally easier to get published and easier to sell than novels, but either way, if the author does not actively promote and sell their own books, they are going to sell very few books!
      The world of publishing has changed greatly over the past 25 years and the Internet and eBooks have had a tremendous impact. One of the speakers at a recent writers’ conference who has long been involved in the New York publishing world, said that “the New York publishing world continues to be in free fall, downsizing, firing editors right and left, agents are scrambling. It’s a mess.”  For the time being, authors are doing what we can but we are not spending a lot of time, banking on anything out of the traditional world of publishing and agents. As another presenter at that same conference pointed out, “some people do win the lottery but the chances of anyone here in Missouri, getting a big publishing deal out of New York right now is about the same as winning the lottery.”  And so it goes….

  1. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? A small publisher told me years ago, “people buy your book because they want to take a little bit of you home with them”, meaning after they meet you, speak with you or hear you speak somewhere, is when you have the best chance of selling a book. Another author recently put it this way, “forget about marketing your book. You have to market yourself.” And I’d say both of those are true. That means as an author, you have to spend a lot of time seeking opportunities to speak, meet people, share what you know and yet do it in such a way that you don’t come across as a royally self-absorbed jerk. Not always an easy task! The old saw, ‘they will never care how much you know until they know how much you care’ really applies.
     I’ve had good luck using full-color post cards which I literally hand out to anyone I meet and speak to for more than a few moments. My husband sometimes cringes as ‘selling’ is not his strong suit. Not always mine either but a necessary part of this business. (My late father was the original salesman but unfortunately he died just a few weeks before my first novel was published. He knew all about it, however and was tickled that the story of his uncles was included.) The response from the vast majority of people is very positive and they are often very enthused and excited. With that kind of feedback, I keep handing them out. The best marketing situations  continue to be ‘speaking engagements’ of all kinds and since I do not find public speaking the terror that so many do, I do seek out those opportunities whenever I can.

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?  Working as a newspaper and magazine freelancer, you quickly learn to separate your ego from whatever you write. You can’t approach every piece as if it is your special creation or you’ll never survive as an editor rips it up, insists you change the slant, the lead, cut it in half, or whatever it is that editor needs. Bottom line: If you’re going to sell it, the editor is in the driver’s seat. That being said, you earn a good reputation as a professional if you can deliver the goods on time and deal with it if the editor isn’t instantly in love with what you’ve written. It’s good training too, for writing fiction because I find I’m more likely to consider my fictional characters as ‘my babies’. I’ve been very fortunate that my editors have liked my characters and consider them genuine and believable. Probably the toughest criticism I ever received was from an English professor at the University of Missouri, the late William Peden. It was actually very kind because I’d written a piece about the very painful death of my mother and he said, “you know, sometimes we write for cathartic purposes, not for anyone except ourselves, just to let go of the pain.” And I realized he was absolutely correct in that case. I never showed that piece to anyone else but it was still good to have written it and experience the beginning of the healing process as a result.
The best compliment continues to be when someone I don’t know stops me in town or emails to say not only ‘I loved your book’ but especially when they tell you, “I cried at the end” (which a Springfield editor told me and she also said, “I never cry!”) or “it made me laugh because it made me remember a time when”…. In other words for me, when something I’ve written touches someone’s heart, brings a tear, a chuckle or a tender memory, that’s the very best!
  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? Never never never give up! It is so tempting to just say, this isn’t worth it. “I’m probably earning $2.75 an hour if I figure out what it actually costs to do a good solid article.”  With every one of my published books, I’ve had a crisis of faith right at the three-quarters point, feeling like “this is such a waste of time! No one is ever going to read this, much less pay money for it. Why am I wasting my time?” And with that said, my first book sold out its first printing in less than a year in the US and Canada and I won a national adoption activist award the next year as a result of that book. It also stayed in print for 10 years, which is a long time for most single subject non-fiction books. It was 20 years between the publication of my first book and my next one in 2006, “Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance”. A colleague and I interviewed 30 methamphetamine addicts in sustained recovery throughout southwest Missouri, and they told us how they got on, how they got off and how they stay off meth.
Meanwhile, I didn’t have my first novel published until I was nearly 60. Somehow there just wasn’t time to write fiction while raising four kids and working a full time job!  However, my dear friend, Ellen Gray Massey was about the same age upon the publication of her first novel. She now has over 20 books to her credit, has been publishing novels for nearly 30 years and is still going strong. Like I said, never ever give up!

  1. What are the most important elements of good writing? What tools are must-haves for writers?  For the most part, I feel as if I write like I talk. Good or bad, it’s that ‘what you see is what you get’ thing. The most important element, really, the test of good writing is…would you want to read this? And how can you make it more interesting? What can you do to grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning and that’s my rule for non-fiction or fiction. Now I loved reading some of James Michener’s  great works but as one of my colleagues pointed out recently, I don’t know that he could get published today. The reading public’s attention span is now shorter than ever, due in part, I’m sure to the influence of television, the movies, videos where the action and special effects are constant. We don’t have nearly the patience we once did. (You can see this in a number of older movies or TV series in that they move much slower than the current genres.) And the rule with most editors has become, if you don’t capture the reader’s attention in the first few paragraphs for a novel or the first sentence for an article, they are not interested. That’s a big problem for a great many writers, myself included. It’s the same rule I remember from singing in a state championship choir in high school—strong beginning and a strong ending are absolutely essential. In fiction, I find I start with the ending because you have to know where you’re going, your final destination. I write the end first (at least in my head if not on paper) and then the beginning and the middle is the journey to get from one point to the other.
Meanwhile, for me, my most necessary tools are the old-fashioned ones, a dictionary, to get the exact meaning of the word (what’s the difference between everlasting and forevermore, for instance? I found out recently--not much!) and a thesaurus. Often, I don’t use the words suggested there but it will get me going in the right direction. I do appreciate the ‘word count’ my computer displays and of course some of the other basic features of the computer but I spend way too much time still ‘fighting’ with my computer but that is another whole story! I’m literally from the old school. I wrote most of “The Fifteen Most Asked Questions About Adoption”  on white typing paper with a pencil and then typed it on a manual typewriter, between the hours of 11 pm and 3 am when my children were in bed. I’m getting better but I’m afraid I will always be an immigrant in the world of computers, someone who speaks with an accent and doesn’t understand all the nuances of this new and ever-changing electronic universe, whereas most people under age 40 were born into it. 


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