The Lies I Tell

 

 

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Shiprock in distance, where we’ve been in the mirror

A few months ago, I wrote about taking photos out of the car window including a view in my rear view mirror. Today looking for some other photos, I found two of those. I had been asked to post them so people could see the results.

We were out west and that’s Shiprock you see in the distance of the one photo and the other is just a view. I was using a Zeiss Ikon German 35 mm camera, which I had for years. I used it all during my newspaper days because I liked the results better than the paper’s camera. Then a fingerprint was permanently glazed on the lens. I forget what they call that and I didn’t know it could happen. So I had to buy a point and shoot, which never took as perfect a photo as that Zeiss.  Oops, just shows what can happen in the digital age if we’re not careful. In scanning the two photos, I forgot to change the default to jpeg on the second one, so it’s not supported for Word Press. It’s not much different from the first one, just a different angle and distance.

The Washington County Observer, being a small weekly paper, and it was back in the early 90s, we used all black and white film in a small 35 mm camera, then developed the pictures in a dark room. They were then hung around all over the place till the best shots were picked. Then the photo was screened for the newspaper. All old fashioned stuff.

Before I left the paper in 1999, we were using computers, but still not digital photos. If today one scans or copies those old photos, the screening is apt to show up in the finished scan. When I put together the book, Washington County, for Arcadia publishing, I chose the photos from old newspapers, took them to a shop over by the university where they were scanned by a Canon 500 color scanner, though they were black and white. The reason for the color scan was to brighten the contrast of the black and white and somehow take out the screening. Those scans were then numbered, a cut line added and sent to the publisher. Since there was no other text in that particular book, it was a fairly easy preparation, though the information used under each photo had to be spot on.

Oh, my, I don’t yearn for the good old days when it came to writing, in any form. Nonfiction historical books are probably the most difficult of any book I can think of to create. Even today, with digital photos that make that part of it so much easier, just the gathering of information, making sure the history is absolutely correct, then presenting it in a non-boring form so someone might want to read it, is so difficult. Compared to fiction writing, it’s a labor-intensive undertaking.

When I finished The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks, I requested of my husband that he shoot me if I ever agreed to do another nonfiction book. I was just so exhausted. I loved the traveling, interviewing, meeting so many nice people. But the creation of the book itself left me burnt out. There is so much more to nonfiction than the writing. I had done six nonfiction books by then, and have since gone to fiction. It was either that or commit myself.

After the first six novels written for Penguin in New York, I turned to setting my books in areas I’m familiar with and surrounding my fictional characters with characters based on all those fantastic people I met putting those early nonfiction books together. There’s always a certain amount of research for fiction, but I can make up so much of it. Still gotta get those guns and cars and airplanes and dog breeds and on and on correct or readers will get on me. But the stories. Oh, my the lies a fiction writer can tell.

My next book, The Pit and the Pinnance is #3 in A Twist of Poe Romantic Suspense novels set in Arkansas. Speaking of dogs, it has a darling pit bull introduced who will cause Jessie and Dal some problems, and a new kink in this couple’s relationship. These are sexy, dark, and gritty books for tough women readers. Not for the faint of heart. Look for it Mid-May. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, why not take a peek at #1 The Purloined Skull and #2 The Tell-Tale Stone, both filled with a sexy love story, some dark suspense, and a gritty mystery.

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Fifties Innocence

velda 15

Me at 15 innocence personified

At the age of fifteen I went to work at a drug store for the summer. In those days there was a soda fountain with stools, all upholstered in red leather and tucked under a counter of the same color. The drug store sold a small variety of hygiene products, everything from shampoo to foot powder, candy bars to ice cream, plus plenty of more personal items.

Mostly, I worked behind the soda fountain. I know you’ve seen them in the movies if not for real. I learned how to make floats, ice cream sodas, milkshakes and sundaes with little trouble. The job was fun, gave me some pocket money beyond the dollar allowance from my folks, and when cute boys came in I could flirt with them. I’m afraid I was a shameful flirt.

I watched Jane Russell on the silver screen and learned to flip my long blonde hair just like she did her auburn tresses. Now, if only I’d been endowed like she was. However, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t.

40 Ford coupe

1940 Ford Coupe Many a wild ride

That was the first summer I had a steady boyfriend and he had a car. A 1940 Ford Coupe and he drove like a maniac, tires screaming, black smoke pouring. My dad often complained that he didn’t drive his car, he herded it more or less down the road. I was soon to learn that no boy was good enough for Daddy’s little girl. Little did either of us know that I would one day marry this very boy. As far as Daddy was concerned, it would be over his dead body.

Anyway, back to my story that takes place in the drug store. I did fine even when I had to come out from behind the counter and take money for candy bars or ring up other purchases when the pharmacist was the only other sales person in the store. Things were way different back in the Fifties.

One day an old gentleman, probably at least thirty, came in the store while the pharmacist was busy filling a prescription. He looked around, then came over to me, and giving him credit, I did look older than fifteen, asked for a pack of Trojans. I stared at him for a minute, trying to figure out if that was a brand of cigarettes, maybe cigars. I’d never heard of such a thing.

After a few moments of me digging around trying to find something that said Trojan on it, he realized his faux pau and said he’d get them from the pharmacist. It wasn’t till I told my boyfriend about it that I found out what they were. Turned out he could fill in the blanks real easy, even carried a sample in his billfold. Was I red faced. Sex or anything resembling it was not discussed in our house. That’s pretty much the way it was back then.

 

 

 

 

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Frog Legs and Sinking a boat

frog on plate

Frog in a plate

 After my dad came home from the South Pacific and World War II, he and a couple of his buddies went together and bought a little fishing cabin on the Ninescaw River outside Wichita, Kansas where we then lived. And Daddy, being a family man, and my mother up for just about anything, we spent a lot of summer weekends together there. Oh, there were times when he and his buddies went alone, but I remember plenty of good times there.

My dad was a storyteller, and a man who enjoyed humor, so this is a story he told a lot over the years, and one I’ve never forgotten it. It began with the men going out after dark and gigging frogs. The women meanwhile tended a fire that would have plenty of hot coals for cooking.

Prepared with heavy duty flashlights and long poled gigs, they disappeared from the cone of firelight off into the night, filled with the low calls of bull frogs. I’d never eaten a frog and wasn’t sure I wanted to. The idea was less than appetizing. 

“Gonna have frog legs for supper, gals,” was the cry when they returned. What a relief to know it was only the legs we’d have to choke down. They had a big catch of humongous bull frogs and went to work cleaning them. Soon the women had dozens of the legs which they breaded.

frog legs

Frog legs

Daddy waited till the grease was bubbling in several deep skillets to call us kids to the fire. “Want you to watch this.” He nodded his head and the women put the legs in the hot grease. Those long jointed legs began to kick and squirm as if they were still alive. I, being a pre-teen girl, let out a scream you could’ve heard miles away. And Daddy laughed, then laughed some more while all of us joined him in watching the dance of the frogs. They tasted pretty good too.

The next day early in the morning, all of us were up and eating breakfast. The men had brought a boat along so they could go out on the river to fish. It was a John boat, powered only by oars. So, my cousin and my Dad, both of whom had served in the Navy, decided they’d go out together to fish. They loaded up all their gear, climbed in and rowed it out to the middle of the river.

We were playing in the sand along the bank, splashing each other and not paying much attention, when both of them began to holler and laugh, simultaneously. We looked up in time to see that boat slowly sinking with those two, at first just sitting there looking around as if they didn’t believe what was happening. As the water rose into their laps they scrambled around trying to rescue fishing poles and gear while they laughed and water slowly closed in over their shoulders. It ended with them making their way to shore as the boat disappeared underwater. It was funny, watching them swim, then stumble out of that river soaked to the skin.into water

You know, I can’t remember if they ever pulled that boat out or not. But my dad sure did get a lot of mileage out of the story. He told it over and over to anyone who hadn’t heard it. Two navy men who couldn’t keep a boat afloat.

My childhood growing up was filled with such adventures. As I look back on it now I realize how fortunate I was to have my parents and to grow up in what was then a small town in those post-war days when life was so uncomplicated. I vividly recall the first time we went to a drive-in movie, my first real grown up date, when Kansas censored the movie The Outlaw because Jane Russell was too sexy in the bedroom scene, and so many other memories I hope to keep recording here.

 I have learned that after spending 80 years on this planet, there’s no such thing as not having “stuff” to write about.

 

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A hot wind and ice cream

our house

Could be our house

Who, me? Write a memoir? Believe it or not that has been suggested. I’ve spent my writing life telling other people’s stories. Some presented as the truth, others woven into fiction. But when I reached the age of 80 earlier this year, people kept asking me about stuff out of the past, and I found myself relating some stories. Then these same people urged me to write that memoir I’ve put off for so long. So I thought, hey, I write a blog every week, why not use it to write my memoir and it would be done. I wouldn’t have to worry about a cover, or an editor messing about with my southern words, or a publisher, or promotion. Gosh, to a writer with some 26 books in print, this sounds almost too good to be true.

Of course, there’s only one proven way to go about such a project. Put it in a blog. Sounds like a great idea. So, rather than begin at the beginning, the old boring line, “I was born…” I’m just going to tell my stories as they occur to me and hope to find some pictures to go along with the tales.

So where was I when my first story occurred? I was walking down the sidewalk of a small western town by the name of Wichita, Kansas, carrying an ice cream cone with one dip in it. It was a weekly thing, getting a nickel for ice cream. The sun was hot as blue blazes, as Kansas sun often was during ice cream eating season. The wind blew at least fifty miles an hour, cause it never blew any slower and often much faster.

I must’ve been ten because Daddy had come home from the war in the South Pacific, Mother had packed away his navy uniforms and his pea coat hung in the closet, and we had just moved into our first home since, well, since we left that little log cabin in Arkansas and started following Daddy around to construction jobs in 1941. He joined the navy in 1943 to keep from being drafted cause even men with families were now being called up to the army and he couldn’t see himself marching into battle, what we call today “boots on the ground.” So he became the radioman on the USS Attu, a flat top, today called an aircraft carrier.

We had a two bedroom house on Indianapolis, just off Patty and Kellogg (highway 54). I still remember the address was 1416 E. Indianapolis, our phone number was 4-6220. It was a neighborhood of older houses filled with kids, and though the street was not paved, on the other side was a brand new sidewalk cause some duplex apts had been built in the corner vacant lot. We were going to live in a small town that would soon spread out all over the prairie. Across the street lived this Catholic family with 12 kids, which amazed me because we were only two. Me and my little ornery brother Freddie.

And so, here I am, walking along with my ice cream cone that is melting faster than I can eat it. One big lick and a skip, skip, and the entire dip tumbles out onto the sidewalk. There was a moment there when I thought I’d cry. The ice cream cost me a nickel and Daddy had just started a new construction business and we didn’t have any money and I couldn’t afford to buy another one. The nickel was all I had.

I took a quick look around, always being the one to not be seen doing anything wrong or dumb or silly, saw no one and bending down, I pressed that cone into the ice cream and scooped it up. With one last glance around, I skipped on down the sidewalk eating the remainder of my ice cream. It’s one of those things that stands out in memory and is metaphorically fitting for the times. Kids today would not understand that at all, but those of you who’ve been around through the Great Depression and the time when money was tight, most certainly will.

kellogg school apts

Kellogg Elementary Apartments remodeled from the school

 

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Those Who Do Often Teach

Kittinger plane

Joe Kittinger biplane

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Just a sample of the images I’ll share

As if I weren’t busy enough writing several books each year and working as distribution director with the new dynamic publishing house, Oghma Creative Media, I’ve signed up this year to hold two classes with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), an association connected to the University of Arkansas Fayetteville.

On May 10 and again on May 24 I will direct two hour courses. The first is the History of Drake Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Also included in that class will be a history of the Old Pioneer Cemetery, located on the airfield property. The second class is about Men and Their Airplanes and will also include discussion of the many great stories written by Floyd Carl about the Air Museum.

I’m excited about holding these classes, and a bit nervous about using Power Point for the first time. Because I’ve spent 20 years or more holding workshops and speaking at Writer’s conferences, I have no qualms about that. But sit me down with a computer and I’m certainly apt to do something wrong. I’m told there will be someone there to fix any problems I may cause with Power Point, but they don’t know my propensity to foul things up.

Most of my readers are aware that I worked for newspapers for nearly 20 years. The first nine years was spent with The Washington County Observer, a weekly rural paper that was an active successful business for more than 25 years. I spent most of my time interviewing and writing about residents and the history of their families. But I also had the privilege of flying with many of the men who came to Drake Field for the annual airshows. Reporters were always given a free flight and we wrote stories about those men and our experiences in the skies with them.

So I’ve been working for the last few weeks off and on preparing the courses I will present. Now it’s time to get the photos I have in Power Point, and I have to admit I’m nervous. A fellow writer, Jerry Hogan, has offered to help me with this project. In fact, he’s already given me pointers. I’m confident if I run into problems he’ll be on hand to help me fix them.

Adobe assured me it could convert some PDF copies to Power Point. This was less than successful. I spent an afternoon converting four separate pages, but when I looked at them, they had not converted cleanly. There were gaps and spots. The copies are not usable. Jerry was kind enough to see if he could manage to put PDF on Power Point. And he did succeed, so he sent me instructions. Fingers crossed, that will be my project for today.

 My classes, I’m happy to say, will be held at Drake Field in the main airport building. They are scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday May 10 for The History of Drake Field and the Old Pioneer Cemetery; and Tuesday May 24 for Men and Their Airplanes and a peek at the writings of Floyd Carl. Check OLLI’s website, or email them at olli@uark.edu, or call 479-575-4545 for more information on classes this spring. There are a multitude to choose from. If you don’t care for airplanes or history, there might be something else there you’d like to sign up for.

 Maybe I’ll see you at Drake Field on May 10 or 24.

 

 

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Chewing on Life

Pamela is by far the finest writer I have ever had the privilege to know, and I miss her with my heart and mind. She is a true angel in the best sense of the word. Read on and you’ll understand why I say this.

Pamela Foster, Author and Speaker

I went to sleep before Wheel of Fortune.
At three a.m., precisely three a.m., a flash of light illuminated the room, silhouetted my open laptop on the desk next to the bed. By the time the thunder followed I was awake, staring into the now dark room, wondering, electrical storm or preliminary sign of stroke?
The slap of thunder was, thus, a relief.
There was only the one flash of light, the one rumble of thunder. I decided this was God’s way of telling me to get up and write.
Most of you know that, in August, after five years in the area, Jack and I moved from beautiful Northwest Arkansas back to my home town. Eureka perches on the Pacific Ocean, in the coastal redwood forest, about a hundred winding miles south of the Oregon border. My people have been here for eight generations. Not as long as the…

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A Writer Possessed

space demon

A Demon looking to possess someone, anyon

 

 

Ever noticed those newspapers in the rack as you check out at your grocery store? They have two-headed babies, aliens being autopsied, that sort of thing. What if you couldn’t stop looking? What if at that moment the demon spirit of an evil being passed into your body and mind?

We writers are a weird bunch. We come up with some wild what ifs. This book, A Savage Grace, resulted from one of those moments when my imagination grabbed hold of me. It’s a wonder I didn’t react much like Lenore does in this scene when she is first visited by a demon’s spirit.

In the local grocery store Lenore is caught up by a photo of a madman on the front of a yellow rag newspaper at the checkout stand. Everything stands still, his evil eyes snag her attention and the girl behind the counter is concerned. Asks what’s wrong.

Excerpt from that moment:

“What would Diana do if she told her everything was fine, she was simply going stark-raving mad and conversing with a demon-possessed madman? A disjointed giggle choked at her throat, threatened to bubble out and put fact to the statement.

Alf teaser

Lenore challenged

“The voice came at her again, spouting words so filthy she wasn’t sure of their meaning. She stumbled backward into old Mr. Stiles, who had joined the line, frail arms folded around a package of bologna and a quart of milk. He dropped the plastic carton, and it split open, gushing white fluid over his tattered shoes. Staring at the mess, he let go the pack of bologna. It hit the floor with a loud smack and splashed milk up the legs of his threadbare overalls.”

And so our heroine begins an adventure that sees her pitted against being possessed by a demon she finally comes to know as Alf. Lenore is an ordinary heroine. She lives with the man she is engaged to, but we soon learn he is not a bit helpful. They live in her deceased mother’s home in the Ozarks where she creates special blends of tea that sell at a local craft outlet out on the Interstate. Left on her own to battle Alf, she sets out to learn how to defeat him before he takes over her body and forces her to do terrible things. Her allies are strange indeed. A lay-Catholic priest and Eric, the man currently possessed by Alf. With their occasional help she will struggle against possession by this evil demon.

I had a lot of fun writing this book. It’s subject matter is far, far from what I usually write. No western romance, no romantic mystery, though the reader is treated to romps through the Ozarks and a bedding by both the demon and his counterpart once in a while. After all, I have to be true to my brand: Sexy, Dark, & Gritty.

Like all my books, A Savage Grace is available at Amazon. I’m not hard to find, nor are my books and I can’t seem to stop writing them. If you haven’t indulged in my particular brand of fiction or nonfiction, I invite you to dive right in. You should find something you like in the wide selection of different subject matter. Oh, and if you like something you’ve read, take the time to write a review on Amazon or on your blog. It doesn’t have to be long.

We writers so appreciate all our readers and love to hear from any of you anytime. I answer all my emails. See you soon in the pages of one of my books.

 

 

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Free Writer’s Conference

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Who’d A Thought It

Some years ago – we’re bad at keeping records – members of the Northwest Arkansas Writer’s Workshop decided to have a free writer’s conference, just to see how it might work out. We had plenty of members to help, and the best thing, a free room. In those days Jones Center was our host for weekly meetings and they allowed us a large room as long as we didn’t charge for the conference.

Those days are long gone, but we now are hosted by Ozarks Electric in Fayetteville, thanks to Dusty Richards, who is a board member there. We are so very grateful to them.

But back to having a free conference. Northwest Arkansas is home to uncounted writers of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays and songs, many of whom were just getting started back then. Many of us remembered when we were getting started and needed answers to so many questions regarding our craft. Our group was begun around 1985 in order to help those like us learn together how to get started in this crazy business.

Holding conferences can get complicated really fast because they are allowed to become so. We decided to keep ours simple. Hey, it’s free. We’re all volunteers. Did we dare ask speakers to do the same? It was worth a try. So those of us who had been in the business a while called in favors from writer friends and found most of them happy with the idea. So for ten years writers from all over our great area have given of their time one Saturday a year to help those who otherwise cannot afford to attend conferences.

Dusty and I have pretty much been chiefs, but all our members have stepped in each year without complaint to show up early, help set up tables and chairs, make coffee, bring home baked goodies and just otherwise prepare everything. There is no president and vice-president, no treasurer, no dozen or so people given official titles. We simply step in and do the work necessary.

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Sisters of the Traveling Pen

This photo shows four members of The Sisters of the Traveling Pen, Pamela Foster, Ruth Weeks, Linda Apple and Jan Morrill, who actually met and formed their group through our writers group. They presented a wonderful program on writing that wowed the audience.

This year for the first time since beginning our free conference, we are sending everyone out for lunch. We once brought lunch in and charged a minimal fee for that, because there weren’t many close places to eat. But that has changed, and besides it’s a lot of work to arrange for and bring in all that food, then pass it out. Something that’s been handled by Dusty and his most gracious wife Pat for all these years. We’re letting them off the hook and asking everyone to please return from lunch on time to keep from interrupting the after-lunch speaker.

We have had some fabulous speakers over the years to fill the morning spots, then Dusty and I each give a short workshop on writing from our experiences over the years. Another caveat of this conference is that any published author may display and sell their books at no charge. This conference folks said would never work has hosted up to 90 people, but mostly our average is around 50 to 60, and we’re pretty sure we’ve been doing it ten years. Like I said no officers so no one kept track, we just started doing it.

This year John Biggs is our featured speaker with his take on Magic Realism. We also have Mark Landon Smith, a playwright from Ft. Smith, Lori Ericson, a mystery writer and contest winner, and of course Dusty and I. The conference is set for Saturday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ozarks Electric on Wedington Road, Fayetteville, AR. That’s exit 64 off Interstate 49, go west almost a mile, we’re on the left. Come in the west side door. Please email or message me on Facebook if you need table space.

See you there.

 

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Are the Political Parties Cults?

This one is worth reading, even if you are avoiding political writings.

The Book of Writing

I’m probably nowhere close to being the first person to realize this. The problem is, us independents are very definitely a minority, so things we notice like this don’t get bandied about on Facebook and other social media. We’re drowned out by the faithful, yammering as they do about their candidates.

And the majority of them actually do act like they’re in a cult.

donald-trump-is-still-soaring-in-iowa--but-there-are-now-some-clear-warning-signsConsider: you have the Trumpites (Trumpets?), who seem to be the majority on the Republican side of things at the moment. Of course, in political terms, it’s a long, long time till November, so anything can happen by the time the election comes around, but right now he seems to be the one riding the wave. I think it interesting—and a bit disturbing—that the Republican leadership differs with their members on this one, as they don’t like the man. Do they know more than the average…

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The Sensation of Old

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Great-grandson Jace with me

Getting old is one of the oddest sensations. In the first place I never imagined it would be this way, that I would look back and wonder where all the years went. I never thought I’d simply wake up one morning and be old. My brain says it’s all a big mistake, but my body thinks different.

Yesterday I drove a tractor down to the creek so my Dad could load some rocks in the bucket to bring up to the new house we were building. We were laying flat rock for a patio and for the entryway to the house. I was just learning how to work the lift and didn’t stop it going up. My Dad was laughing so hard, riding in that bucket way up in the air that he couldn’t holler at me to let it down. He was that way though. So here we went up the bank and across the pasture toward the road, with a load of rocks and a laughing Cherokee riding high. I finally realized something might be going on and looked back in time to let it down before I hit the road to go on up the incline to the house. And I lived in that house for 42 years, walking over those entryway stones each time I came home. Oh, there’s a bunch of years.

Yesterday I went shopping for a horse. At last we lived in the country after twenty years of city living. The first one I rode was a big plodding beautiful multi-colored gelding I rode around bareback to try out. He refused to head home when I’d had enough, and I had to slide to the ground and lead him back along the logging road. Birds and squirrels chattered at us and it was a lovely spring day, the woods flaming with blooming redbud trees. Obviously they didn’t ride him enough and he just wanted to remain out all day. He was a bit too slow for me, so we went to look at another, a retired Tennessee Walker barrel racer named Katy. She was alert and stubborn and I loved her from the moment I swung in the saddle and she took off up the road like she had a designation in mind. I had her for five years until we had a bad auto accident and we had to sell her and her colt because she needed to be ridden.

Yesterday I walked into the office of the Washington County Observer with a book of clips under my arm to apply for the job of feature writer. And I remained on that paper for nine years, interviewing some of the most unique people I’d ever met. An Apache who’d flown secret missions during WW II for the country that had imprisoned his people for so long, America’s first spaceman who stepped out of an air balloon 20 miles above earth and dropped down through space and lived to fly me around in his barn stormer. The list goes on, but I was with that paper till it closed its doors for good. Then on to another for ten more years. Ah, there’s a clue as to what happened to the years.

Yesterday I sold my first western novel to Penguin, three more followed, then two with another publisher before New York took the plunge and I moved to writing historical nonfiction about

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Go West, Young Woman

Arkansas. Now, back in the novel game because of several small publishers, but mostly for westerns from Wild Rose Press and all the others from Oghma Creative Media. Watch this one, folks, it’s catching fire. There are a bunch more years, twenty-two to be exact.

Yesterday, I celebrated by 80th birthday. So maybe it all didn’t happen overnight after all. These few flashes of my past are only a drop in the bucket. You can read about some in Wandering in the Shadows of Time, which will soon be reprinted by Oghma as well as a sequel, coming up in 2018 or 19. I’ve lost count of dates lately, and can you blame me?

Think about recording all your yesterdays. I’m working on it. Let’s see, there’s getting married and having two beautiful children that led to three impossibly wonderful grandchildren and two unbelievable great-grandsons. Must write some of those memories. They would fill a book. Wait, that’s what I do, write books. Maybe I’ll figure out how to stop sleeping to get it all done. Or live till I’m at least 100.

 

 

 

 

 

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