Can I get a big yee ha, or maybe a yah mon? This has been one fantabulous week.
On the author side . . . Heaven to Betsy WON the 2015 USA Best Book Award for Cross Genre Fiction. Squeeeee! And a woman approached me in a restaurant when someone told her who I was to let me know she’d read ALL of my books. (This was in front of my adult kids, so maybe they now thing this writing gig is worth something) And finally, the Earth to Emily audio book was released.
On the speaker side . . . I keynoted the TAHCR Fall Conference in San Antonio delivering my wildly inappropriate and oh-so-much-fun “Colonel Mustard in the Conference Room with his Pants Down,” to an enthusiastic reception which included an on-the-spot booking for a spring keynote at a different conference. And roughly 10% of the people there had read my books before they knew I was keynoting. Lastly, Wyoming Writers booked me to speak at the annual conference in June.
On the personal side . . . our five kids and their significant others, my parents, and Eric’s mom visited and went to the (dismal, cold, but fun) Texas A&M football game with us. The house was packed, much to the delight of our dogs. I snuck a visit in to my grandmother while I was in San Antonio. Eric was able to take his mother to the painted churches of the Navidad Valley, which she LOVED. And we closed on our S/Nowhersville house in northeastern Wyoming.
That’s all I’ve got.
Greetings from Nowheresville, where I am supposedly hard at work on the last 25% of my third Emily book, Hell to Pay. 😉
For our first Nowheresville Halloween, we dressed up as Danny and Sandy-esque 50s folks, a la Grease, and went to a Skaraoke party at our local tavern.
I did a rockin’ rendition of Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart and backed up Eric on Saw Her Standing There. Truth be told, Eric has a four-note vocal range to begin with, and on Halloween he had a strangled cat in his throat, so I sang really, really loud. It was all good, and I held his hand tight so he couldn’t run off the stage. I had learned an Olivia Newton John song from Grease that day and planned to do it, to match my costume, but I chickened out. Seriously, I can’t sing that high except in the privacy of my own shower.
WHO SAYS COUNTRY FOLKS DON’T KNOW HOW TO PARTY????
We also discovered a new-to-us phenomena, trailer-treating. Adults and kids in a hayride style flatbed trailer pulled slowly from house to house (and farm to farm). I had serious trailer-treating envy, let me tell you.
Tomorrow my mother-in-law comes for a two-week visit, and this weekend my parents and all of our five and their significant others will join us, too. It may not be Thanksgiving yet, but I can’t think of anything I’m more thankful for than getting them all together with us.
That’s all I’ve got.
If one follow’s the lead of Harlan Coben (skilled and successful thriller writer), then an author should plow every cent of their revenues in their first five years of publication back into promotion, to build their brand and longevity. If I’m not mistaken (and tell me in the comments if I am), Harlan also did a book tour cross country to meet indie book store owners.
I like Harlan’s thinking.
Definitely in years one and two we re-invested in me and in SkipJack Publishing and our fledgling school of authors. And we visited 43 of the 48 contiguous states on book tours to stores both chain and indie and to libraries and even RV parks and coffee shops.
But a weird thing happened in year three. In year three we started making too much money to spend, at least at first. It snuck up on us. and it made me very, very happy because I hated feeling like an expense to our household.
As often happens, the workload increased as the income increased. More PFH and SkipJack books. More promotions. More at stake. More to manage. Eric kept impressing upon me that we could recreate PFHs to do everything but write PFH books (because we are not interested in becoming the James Patterson of the indie book world, ahem). I resisted, because I a) am a control freak b) didn’t want to train people, lose them, and retrain new people over and over c) can do it faster myself because I can read my own mind 😉 d) liked making a profit for a change and e) am a teensy bit anti-social.
Then one of our SkipJack Publishing authors, Ken Oder, came to us seeking author services: the ones he needed, in the way he wanted them, when he wanted them, and without making it a hassle for him. He told us he wanted someone who could do it like Eric and me. Then another of our authors, Rebecca Nolen, needed help we didn’t have the bandwidth to provide. Well, the only way to make that happen for them was to hire and train our own folks. About that same time, a great book and author, Marcy McKay, fell into our laps, and despite our vow to each other not to take on any more work, we stopped and took stock. If we hired help, could we solve the problems for PFH and the other SkipJack authors as well as make it possible to say yes to this incredible book and new author?
But that begged the question: what was it we were trying to do with SkipJack anyway? Eric and I put our heads together to reconsider and came up with this: We are trying to create a non-traditional publishing company where we provide an avenue to authors of magnificent books to publish with our brand yet maintain complete autonomy. We want books that are mysterious, thrilling, and suspenseful, that are not inconsistent with a life of faith—whatever that faith may be, and whether questioning or not. We had planned this as a “retirement gig” that bloomed ten years from now. We got lucky, and it bloomed quicker. Ready or not, now was the time.
So we put an ad in our small town free paper. It cost forty-two bucks and ran for a week. I mentioned on Facebook that I had capitulated and was going hire an assistant for SkipJack. Ten days later we’d had thirty applications. THIRTY APPLICATIONS for a job in a Nowheresville town of 500 people as a “publishing assistant.” It was crazy.
We met with four of the candidates, although many more were great. Three were just right, though what they were just right for took me by surprise. Two were perfect for the job we had envisioned, and each wanted to work part-time, thus equalling one full timer. Both are authors and have a burning desire to learn this crazy world SkipJack publishes within, and how to do it successfully. The third was a wild card, someone who had spent years in indie music promotion and booking, but lived five miles away and was looking to reinvent a part of herself. She didn’t fit the job we’d advertised for, but she did fit something else: visioning, branding, growing, looking for the new ways to monetize that we hadn’t pursued yet.
So . . . instead of one publishing assistant, we ended up with three new employees! (See our whole team, HERE) With our potential excess capacity, we can even provide author services to non-SkipJack authors, on occasion. And it’s been fun and exciting and, yes, it’s been hard because I’m trying to learn how to run payroll through Quickbooks and put together job tasks and projects and teach people how to do them and review work and answer questions and finish my book. Eric tries to squeeze a meaningful contribution into his busy travel and work schedule for his day job. I’m not complaining. I’ve enjoyed it. I get to do what I love full time. I am occasionally a wee bit stressed but I love it and can see the possibilities for the future.
I still wish I could clone me. The writing part.
But maybe if I just closed Facebook occasionally that would happen organically?
Feelin’ thankful, and that’s all I’ve got.
A few years ago when I was seeking balance in my own life, I defined my writing mission as COMMUNITY * CRAFT * CAREER. At the time, I had the helm of the Houston Writers Guild, and you’ll see it still as their stated mission. That may be what I am most proud of from my time there.
Moving out to Nowheresville, I am in the midst of finding a new writing community. Truly, it’s been an amazing experience. While the density of writers per square mile is not as great, the commonalities I share with the writers I find are different from the ones I shared with my Houston peeps, and fun. The joy and energy of this experience has led us to hire not one, not two, but three people to work with us over at SkipJack Publishing. All three are writers/artists/dreamers like Eric and me. I’ll be sharing more about them soon.
The writers back in Houston still hold a piece of my heart, though, and always will. That’s why I would like to let you know about the Indiegogo campaign running through the end of October put on by Spider Road Press and its founder Patricia Flaherty Pagan. Spider Road Press puts out anthologies by and about strong women and donates a portion of their proceeds to charities that help women find their strength. The writing they publish is phenomenal (take a look at In the Questions, Eve’s Requiem, or, my favorite, Trail Ways Pilgrims). If you’d like to be a part of this effort to publish new writers, give 5% to charity, make their upcoming “Approaching Footsteps” their best book yet, and keep contest fees under $25 (and to collect the many fabulous prizes that come with sponsorship), head on over to their campaign page at https://www.indiegogo.com/…/spider-road-press-books-by….
That’s all I’ve got.
I’m asked a lot how people can help me, which is really awesome when it happens, and usually comes from people that are already helping me anyway. A better question at that point is how can I help them/you? So here’s the deal: I’m going to post here my ever-popular (with authors, LOL) “How to Help Your Favorite Author” cheat sheet. Obviously, if you read it, you’ll know a bunch of ways to help me. That doesn’t suck for me, but what about YOU? In the comments to this blog post, let me return the favor: you tell ME how I can help YOU. Now, I’m not donating any kidneys this week or building a wing onto your house 😉 but if there’s something reasonable I can do, I’d love to try to do it. So hit me up.
Knights of Pamelot: How to Help Your Favorite Author
I’m sure the author in your life would appreciate any efforts you make on her behalf, even if you stop after the first suggestion in this article. But, heck, why not try them all? Any of us can eat a very large elephant, if we just do it one bite at a time (and preferably utilize vacuum-sealed freezer bags, because it’s going to take you a while). I will not address the vegan/vegetarian ramifications of this last statement; suffice it to say that I truly meant “can” and not “will want to.” Now, back to the topic of promoting your favorite author.
The Old-fashioned Way
Buy their books, people, in whatever form — print, e-book, audio, or whatever. But don’t just buy them. Read them. Tell everyone and their red-headed brother how much you loved them. Lend one to a friend, who might in turn buy the book as a gift for someone or tell five other people about it, who then go buy it. And here’s an idea — you can give them as gifts! Put one on your book club’s reading list; start a book club if you don’t have one. Ask your local bookstore to order them for you. Ditto your library, or donate yours when you’re done reading it. Your words are powerful. Use them.
The Techie Way, but Low Techie
- Subscribe by e-mail to your favorite writers’ blogs and newsletters. Then forward them to other people, who might also subscribe or visit the websites. While you’re at it, follow them on all forms of social media. You can find me at http://pamelahutchins.com to subscribe and follow. (Just sayin’.)
- On Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and similar social media sites, post links to the authors’ books. Or share/retweet links posted by others.
- One-third of all book sales occur on Amazon. Go to Amazon, and do several important things:
- Visit their author pages. Sign up to follow them/learn about their new releases. Share/tweet them. Here’s mine: http://amazon.com/author/pamelafaganhutchins
If you don’t know how to find their author pages, then go to one of their books. If you click on their name below the title of the book, it will take you to the author page. If you don’t know how to find their books, you’re in trouble. Just kidding. Search for the book by title and his/her name in the search box in the center of the page near the top.
- Visit every one of their books. The Knights of Pamelot have their own spreadsheet with links to every one of mine, everywhere. Share/tweet them. Leave honest reviews, with credible ratings. Write simply and from the heart. Heck, Amazon only requires 20 words.
Not High Tech, But For The InterWeb Savvy
- People buy books online at other retailers, too, and the best places, besides Amazon, for authors are
- Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/pamela-fagan-hutchins?keyword=pamela+fagan+hutchins&store=allproducts) and
- Apple’s iTunes and iBooks (https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/pamela-fagan-hutchins/id528793408?mt=11). On B&N and in iTunes/iBooks, you can leave a review/rating. Don’t forget to share/tweet the author and book pages on your social media. If you’re super ambitious,
- visit Google Play (https://play.google.com/store/search?q=pamela%20fagan%20hutchins),
- Kobo (http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=pamela+fagan+hutchins) and
- Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/pamelafhutchins), too.
- If there’s an audiobook version, include Audible (http://www.audible.com/search/ref=hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=pamela+fagan+hutchins&filterby=field-keywords&x=0&y=0).
- There’s a virtual author/reader social club online, and it is a powerhouse: Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/pamelafaganhutchins ). Join, people, join. Here, you can “fan” your authors, rate and review all their books, and even add their books to your “to-read” list. By adding their books to your to-read list, you are in essence recommending to the world that they all do the same. Or at least to the world comprised by your Goodreads friends.
- Do you Pinterest? From a page with your author’s book and an image of its cover, “Pin it” and include a comment about why you love it. The power of the Pin. Do you Stumbleupon? Again, from a page with something awesome about your author and their book, stumbleit. Use any other social media you like, too.
Now I’m Talking To The Bloggers
- Invite your author to guest post. They can whip up a custom confection for your site, or you can interview them or one of their characters. Do a cover reveal for them. Excerpt a chapter.
- Here’s an idea: you write about their book — as in, review it. I’ll bet your author friend will even give you a book for a giveaway. Don’t expect expensive loot, though. Authors are ramen-noodle eating, Salvation Army clothes-wearing sorts of people whose kids walk uphill in snow to school, and like it.
- Guest post on their blogs, which brings your traffic over to meet them, and potentially creates followers/purchasers.
- Join Amazon’s Associates, or B&N’s Affiliate Programs and their sell books for a commission on your site.
- And of course, share/post/tweet/pin/stumble like mad over all of the posts created above.
Bonus: Here’s my hyper-organized grass-roots marketing spreadsheets, for my Knights of Pamelot, free for you to download and emulate. https://www.box.com/s/c621f562f74e5e139ab9
Some of you are salivating with intention and I lost others of you at the first mention of booting up your computer. That’s OK. Just do the stuff you’re comfortable with. It’s all good.
Thanks for supporting your favorite authors, and me! Don’t forget to let me know how I can help y’all, below.
That’s all I’ve got.
p.s. The “Knights of Pamelot” is a Facebook group of people that like my books and want me to do things for them in return for them doing things for me and vice versa. They get advance reviews of my books and other authors, and they participate in cover design and other fun stuff. Feel free to join if you’d like.
Isn’t it funny how much can change in the blink of an eye? My grandmother, who we call Mama Kitty, is nearly 92-years old. She is just about the sweetest, cutest thing ever, and has been all of her life. She’s a looker, a stunning beauty with an Elizabeth Taylor smile. Her husband (we called him Big Frank) passed a few years ago, and since then she’s lived in a retirement community where she reunited with old friends and made many new ones.
Until recently. Recently, she went downhill fast. Not physically. Mentally. Dementia. She moved to assisted living and within a few more days was in a nursing home. Because of her diminished capacity, she would get up at odd hours and forget her walker. Several falls later, she was also in rough shape physically.
All of this came to a head a week before the wedding of her second youngest grandchild, an event she’d been really looking forward to. It broke her children’s hearts. My mother, aunt, and uncle. It broke all of our hearts.
Then the doctors figured out that she was taking one medication too many and one too few. Within days of the adjustments, her mental acuity started returning. Not to her 27-year old self, but definitely to her 91-year old self, which was plenty good enough.
And three days later, she was here:
The belle of the ball, enjoying a wedding celebrating her life and the contribution of her love to the world.
So we got to enjoy her, and that was wonderful. Also wonderful? Spending time with our far-flung cousins.
Alabama, Michigan, Illinois, San Antonio, Chattanooga, Nowheresville. Not pictured: my brother (his wife is on the far right), and the photographer (the partner of my cousin on the far left).
How is it that life can speed by so fast that we spend more time with strangers than with those we love the most? We grow up and leave the nest. We raise our children and they leave ours. And at some point we begin counting the moments until we spend time with them all again, measuring our life by that precious time. That precious, precious time.
Meanwhile, I’m working my way through the revisions on Hell to Pay. I’m 10% of the way through. It is my hope to do this revision “one pass,” which is about the same time commitment as writing the original draft. I’m thrilled that it is starting to sound like the first two Emily books. Starting to sound like me.
Here’s your weekly dose of wildlife camera:
I promised Eric I wouldn’t post the one it shot of him in his skivvies when the sprinklers malfunctioned against our window at midnight and he ran outside to deal with them. The funniest part of it was that I fell back asleep and forgot about it, so when I checked the wildlife cam the next day I freaked out, thinking a strange man was running around outside our house (we are miles from the nearest tiny town, and in the center of many acres of private property) in the middle of the night naked. Or nearly naked, anyway, which was bad enough. Yikes. And then right before I ran frantically to Eric to show him the intruder on film, I had an “oh yeah” moment.
Weddings, words, wildlife cams. It’s interesting isn’t it, this perspective on what’s important and how it’s most clear when we miss it. Family. Home. Our passions. God’s creatures. We appreciate most what we miss or fear we’ll lose. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and familiarity breeds contempt, or so they say. I wouldn’t go so far as contempt on the familiarity part :-), at least not for myself, but certainly I am guilty of the former. I miss my family, all so far away. And where are the dear people I love most to spend time with? Our children (Houston, College Station, St. Louis, St. Croix), our parents (North Texas and Florida), our siblings (Sweden and Tennessee), cousins (see above), grandparents (San Antonio, North Texas), aunts and uncles (Austin, North Texas, San Antonio).
While we have found our peace and way in Nowheresville and Wyoming, where not a one of them are.
So here’s to those rare moments when we connect to what is most important to us (and leave our phones in the car): the people, passions, places, and (in my case) pets that enrich our lives. But mostly the people, because when I stop and let myself really feel it—feel it down to marrow of my bones—I realize that my life is pretty meaningless without them.
That’s all I’ve got,
Way back in April, before my big H, I had planned to write Hell to Pay (Emily #3) in May. Then the Big H knocked me on my tushy, and my sweet husband gently guided me to a decision that was kinder to my body and my psyche. Recovery. Less pressure. Enjoying moving into our new home. No stress while moving my baby girl (youngest of five) off to college, and then coming home to a chickless nest. My goodness, I’d already written two books in eight months, from blank page to the end on each, after all, and I deserved a breather and would benefit from the brain refresh. Right?
So I took the summer off writing.
I planned to start H2P in mid-August, and I did. Now, for me, starting means “once upon a time.” I had actively brainstormed and synopsized and outlined before then; I didn’t end up with much, but I made the effort. I put myself on a saner writing schedule of 3000-words per day, four-days on, two-days off, down from my 5000-words-per-day-until-I-dropped schedule of the last two books. We took a ten-day vacation at the beginning of September. For me, this was working at a snail’s pace. And today, on October 3rd, I finished the first draft.
Seventy-thousand-words of hot mess first draft. Seriously, a hot mess. I’m getting better all the time, but it’s like the Big H was a brain lobe removal and not a you-know-what removal. I haven’t been able to remember what I wrote day to day, let alone in the two books I wrote within the last year, Heaven to Betsy (Emily #1) and Earth to Emily (Emily #2). I couldn’t remember words. I couldn’t come up with names, titles, descriptions, examples, and so many other details.
It was disheartening. Somehow I made it through, and revisions start tomorrow.
Now, each day seems a little easier and my brain a little crisper, more focused. Some creativity is coming back. I know that a few months from now the mindless slog of September will be an ugly memory.
While it’s been super hard to keep a smile on my face and my hands on the keys, in the midst of this crisis of confidence, blessings rained on me. Even I could see that, and I am grateful. A new Nowheresville home. A Wyoming vacation home. The happiness and success of our five kids. The ability to help my brother and sister-in-law after his accident. My dad’s recovery from a traumatic surgery.
Things like the writing tent Eric put up for me on the hill overlooking one of our unfenced fields helped.
My commute . . .
Traffic wasn’t too bad
How could I not keep going in this environment, with this love?
Working on the upper deck at my parents’ vacation home in Angel Fire, NM. The whisper of golden aspen leaves, 45-degrees, elk walking 20-feet past me, yoga in the brilliant fall sun.
It took a village, but I limped across the finish line.
I’m just so darn relieved to have made it.
That’s all I’ve got.
p.s. I think the first set of pictures we got on our wildlife camera were an omen, too. You’ll see why when you read your copy of H2P next April . . .
Recently I had the honor of keynoting the first ever Indiepalooza writers conference for writers considering a non-traditional path for publication.
IT WAS AWESOME!
With friends and fellow writers Patricia Flaherty Pagan (Spider Road Press) and Fernanda Brady (Inklings Publishing).
Attendee and writer Manning Wolfe from Austin.
HWG royalty Fernanda Brady, CEO, Denise Satterfield, CFO, and Rebecca Nolen, President (also a SkipJack Publishing author).
It was a full house. Pictured in the foreground is Kathy Murphy of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. We <3 Kathy!
Dixie went for a pedicure this week. She didn’t like it. I wouldn’t have either!
Eric and I regularly debate the height to hang pictures. He thinks I hang them too low, so this is how he hung the wonderful art deco peacock painted on a spool by Austin artist Stephanie Jarvis of Steplee Style. Isn’t he hilarious??
But when he hung it the right height, look what showed through the hole in the spool? Putty job ahead!
I found a new writing spot in one of our unfenced pastures and brought Dixie to help mow it. I call this picture “take your cow to work day.” Unfortunately, it started raining and work ended. But my husband set up a screened tent for me, and I now have a cool spot. I’ll show you next week.
Also, our youngest showed up for a surprise Monday visit and so I scrapped work altogether to spend time with her.
We had a great time. <3
And Eric bought me this at White Linen Night at Flown the Coop in Burton during Warrenton-Roundtop antique week:
Ha ha, Eric. 😉
Finally, I am frustrated to report that I fell another week behind on Hell to Pay. Life. How does it keep getting in my way, in the best possible ways? The good news is that there is “fat” in my schedule, and I’ll be fine. Breathe, Pamela, breathe, ha ha. And also more good ideas came to me during my down time. That always happens when I allow my brain to decompress. So it’s for the best. Really.
That’s all I’ve got.
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That’s all I’ve got.
We celebrated becoming empty nesters by loading two of our four-legged kids in our 24-foot Class C Motorhome, aka the Bookmobile, and heading to Wyoming. I’d traveled in the Bookmobile with Petey the one-eyed Boston terrier before on our 60-Cities-in-60-Days Book Tour in the summer of 2013. Actually, one of each of the kids rode with us at all times as well. Petey wasn’t a big fan of the Bookmobile then, mainly because there was nothing in it for a dog. Book stores? Rotary club speeches? TV interviews? No dogs allowed. Snore. He was a great comfort to me, but for months afterward he wouldn’t go anywhere near the Bookmobile.
Georgia the incontinent Belgian Malinois guard dog had never done an RV trip. At home, the first thing we do each day is take our pack of dogs on a leashless walk in the country. They have hundreds of acres to roam and run through. By the time they eat breakfast, they’re tuckered out. That’s important for a Belgian Malinois. A tired Malinois is a good Malinois. A bored Malinois is an “outside” decibel (permanent hearing damage a certainty) barking, couch-eating, herding/jumping menace, just this side of full blown insanity. At best, she doesn’t suffer other dogs silently, or calmly, although she’s great with people.
“You realize you’re replacing your offspring with canines, don’t you?” a friend asked me.
I ignored her.
So we loaded up the reluctant Petey and the ticking time bomb Georgia and took them on a two-day drive to stay in an RV park in Wyoming. Now, if you haven’t RVed before, let me set the stage for you. Its row after row of RVs parked fifteen feet apart from each other with tiny plots of fenced “dog business” areas. Two out of every three RVs carries a small yipping dog, or more than one in some cases.
From the moment we parked in Wyoming, Georgia’s switch was flipped. Dogs everywhere. A new “home” to establish and protect. People (and dogs) in and out 24 hours a day. And worst of all, a few people with dogs that would walk them right up to where she lunged and (explosively) barked on the end of her line and ask us if Georgia would like to play with their three-pound ball of fluff. Personally, I think that’s an IQ test issue, but you can draw your own conclusions. Most people take one look at her and ask if anyone has ever bothered us with her around ;-). Um, no. Have you seen the teeth on a Malligator? But then they’d hand FiFi off to their spouse and come pet her and she would give them her famous Georgia hug of greeting (shoving her nose between arm and hip and huddling close for a long moment of contact and affection).
She’s a beauty, and there’s something adventurously awesome about petting a dog that looks like a wolf, so she was actually a hit with other campers, as long as she’d STOP BARKING. We’d learned lots of tricks to keep her quiet with Duke Ferguson’s Dog Training Genesis, so, if we were right there when it happened, we could soothe the savage beast. If not, we woke up everyone in a seven-mile radius. Putting her back in the RV helped, unless she heard another dog bark, or saw headlights, or any other of a long list of stimuli. One night there was so much activity that she sat up in the driver’s seat without sleeping all night, intermittently barking (“SHUT UP GEORGIA!!”) and sitting on the horn. I’m sure she wasn’t quite as popular then.
The key to RVing with Georgia, it turned out, was the same as living with Georgia at home: lots of exercise and brain work (smells, commands, things to stimulate her cerebral cortex at the same time she tired out her body), as early as possible in the morning. Petey seconded that motion. So our vacation started each day before six.
“They’re even more trouble than the kids,” Eric said, as he ruffled Petey’s ears.
It was at least a horse race.
On the first day, Eric took Georgia and Petey to the dog run so they could be off leash. It had one of those u-shaped gate latches, which was new to our dogs. He opened it to let them in and noticed Georgia watching him intently. When they were done playing, he put them back on leash and walked to the gate. Georgia stepped in front of him and opened it with her nose. Score one for the Malinois. Petey wants me to point out that he would have opened it but it was inconveniently high for a Boston terrier.
We headed to the mountains, to state and private land (we are hunting for a summer vacation home) where the dogs could be off leash. All the inconvenience of traveling with two dogs—one large, loud, and incontinent; the other small, demanding, and visually challenged—slipped away in the fun of hiking with them. They loved it. Loved it with a capital L. Loved it with twenty-thousand exclamation points shouted in Georgia’s outside voice. And it was a joy to behold. All the Dog Training Genesis paid off as they stayed within their allowed 100 yards of us and came when called.
Until they discovered wildlife. Squirrels. Chipmunks (aka mini-bears). Jackrabbits. Antelope. Deer. Then it was a little harder to call them back, but Georgia minded every time. Petey, the stubborn little cuss, not so much. Enervated by Georgia at his side, Petey was a wild man. Normally water-averse, he actually stepped boldly into ice cold mountain streams and waded across with water up to his neck. He chased everything with a pulse (never coming close, of course), and ran off into thick forest and down steep slopes, seemingly confident that Georgia would protect him from coyotes, mountain lions, and bears. We weren’t quite as confident, which is why we kept them close by.
On one hike into a fairly remote area, we looked onto the hillside above us, and a half mile away from us rambled a big, brown bear. It wasn’t close enough to raise our pulses, but it did get us talking about what if.
“I love Georgia a lot, but if a bear came after us and she wanted to protect us, I guess the smart thing to do is let her,” I mused.
“Absolutely. She wouldn’t let it happen any other way.” Eric patted Georgia’s head.
“Unless the bear got to Petey first.” The stocky little fellow strutted down the path in front of me, then stopped to eat a dead mouse. “NO!” I yelled. He looked aggrieved, and he resumed his strut.
“Petey’s appetizer sized. I don’t think he’d even be much of a distraction.”
“We couldn’t say this about our human kids,” I said.
The wisdom of hiking with dogs—of RV traveling with dogs—was becoming clearer.
We’d rented a four-wheel drive vehicle so we could traverse whatever roads we needed or wanted to. The back seats folded down and two big dog beds fit in the space nicely, along with their water bottles and treats and our cooler and hiking gear. The dogs helped us evaluate properties, and they were actually much more rational than our real kids. One was too prickly. One was too scary. One was pretty great. And one was just right. Petey refused to get back into the SUV at that place, and he had to be carried, squealing. I think we’ll be making an offer.
After one busy day of hiking, property prospecting, and house hunting, we determined we had enough gas (1/4 tank) to take the scenic way back, over the mountains and through a town to the south for a gas stop before turning north back to our RV park. Petey snored and Gerogia lay on her back, legs suspended in the air, blessedly racked out and quiet. The scenery was unbelievably gorgeous. We passed a sign that said 28 miles to our destination. We drove through open range grazing lease areas, and calves and lambs had to be honked out of the road. Deer and antelope moved out of the way a little quicker around every corner. We came to a fork (no signs) and stayed on the road we were traveling. We noticed, though, that as we drove, grass was sprouting out of the dirt road. The tracks were becoming rutted. And there was no sign of habitation except abandoned travel trailers and school buses.
It was making me a bit nervous.
Our gas was now down to less than an 1/8th of a tank. We’d had no cell signal the entire day, so I couldn’t pull up Google Maps or ask Siri to lend a hand. Finally we came to some signs. Our destination town was now FORTY-FIVE miles away. And we had a dangerously low gas tank and no idea where we were.
“Turn around?” Eric asked.
“Definitely.” I said, trying to sound calm.
“I think we’ve got about 50 miles back to town.”
“At least.” I gripped the hand rest on the passenger door.
“Why don’t we turn off the air conditioner. That’ll buy us a few more miles.”
About five miles back down the road, the empty gas tank light came on. We looked at each other.
“No one would bother us on the side of the road with her in the car.” I pointed at the blissfully snoozing Georgia with my thumb.
“And if we’re still out here a week from now, we could eat the dogs,” Eric said, matter of factly.
I laughed. “I couldn’t eat them.”
“Georgia might be a little stringy, but Petey looks like he’s well-marbled.”
“Hey, you said it earlier. We couldn’t say this if we were traveling with our offspring.”
The sun was setting and the temperature was falling fast. Who knew how cold it would get up here at night? Eric coasted downhill and used minimum gas on uphills. He cursed every lamb and calve that we’d cooed over before that forced him to use the brakes and cost us precious gasoline.
We came to the split in the road we’d passed before.
“That’s the direction we should have been heading,” Eric said.
“It will be interesting to see where we drove to, when we get back to civilization.”
We kept driving. Uphill. For twenty miles with that low gas light never blinking off. Then we were back on paved road, still with no cell signal, gas stations, or people.
“Twenty-eight miles to go,” I said, reading the sign we were passing.
“Should be downhill from here,” he said. “Mostly.”
Mostly was true, but mountains being what they are, we still had a lot of uphill left to go. Petey continued snoring. Georgia rolled over. Eric put the SUV in neutral on the downhills and I tolerated taking the curves faster than I liked so that he could minimize braking.
“Don’t try this neutral trick yourself,” he said, “or be very careful if you do. If the engine shuts off, we loose power steering and braking this way.”
“Oh, that’s comforting.”
“It’s all right. I’m monitoring the engine very closely. It hasn’t even hiccuped yet.”
The minutes passed slow as cold honey. With only five miles to go, we came upon an old man cautiously crawling his truck down the mountain, which made Eric have to slow down and lose his coasting momentum.
“Nooooooo,” Eric shouted.
The SUV still kept rolling, albeit more slowly. We saw the town ahead of us as we descended from the mountain into the foothills. Luckily, there was one last long, steep grade to go.
“First gas station we see,” I said.
Only there were no gas stations on that side of town. We cruised all the way to the center of town and had to stop at a traffic light. The engine started to sputter.
“We can push it from here.” I patted my husband’s arm. “You’ve done really good.”
Petey and Georgia sat up. Georgia barked.
Eric laughed. “With no help from them.”
“Just about what we’d expect from our real kids.”
Eric pushed the gas pedal one last time and with a few sputters, we made a left turn then an immediate right to coast into the gas station.
That’s all I’ve got.
Our rescue Belgian Malinois, Georgia, is a peach. She’s smart as a whip (kicked Dog Training Genesis’ butt!), sweet, funny, and queen of all she surveys. She’s also a bed wetter prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
A 70-pound bed wetter who sleeps in her own soggy mess. A long-haired bed wetter who jumps up from her puddle only to track and drip it all over the house, not just the tiled interior, but into our (brand new) carpeted bedroom. A wetter whose tinkle smells like seventy-hundred dead skunks and gets worse the longer it sits. At first we thought she was doing it out of anger or resentment, but quickly it became clear she only urinated when in deepest sleep, and that she seemed more upset about it than we did.
As we tried to determine what was causing it, we spent two long weeks washing dog beds, dog bed covers, and blankets daily, in soap, vinegar, and bleach. We mopped and mopped and mopped. We scrubbed our bedroom carpet with Resolve on our hands and knees, before we learned we’d have to shut her out of our room. We cursed when we stepped in the tinkle tracks (and lakes) outside our closed bedroom door. We burned smell-good candles and sprayed room deodorizer that made it seem we lived in an orange grove recently visited by a skunk, and we washed Georgia several times a day. Finally, we realized it wasn’t a temporary issue and that we needed help.
Although we’d never faced this before with our many other dogs, we learned that spayed dogs often struggle with these issues. We had a choice: medicate or try natural remedies. We decided to try natural remedies first. Greek yogurt, cranberry gel pills, apple cider vinegar, less dry food, and some herbal incontinence remedies for dogs in (very expensive) pill form. Although she didn’t love the taste of the apple cider vinegar, her condition improved immediately. We could tell she felt better, and her tinkle wasn’t quite as stank. And she mostly didn’t pee when she slept anymore.
“Maybe she’s going to have to sleep outside,” I suggested.
Eric shook his head. “What good is a personal protection dog if she’s not near the person?”
I remembered how she’d barked to go out in the middle of the night a few days before. Thinking she needed to tinkle (happy that she might do it outside instead of on her fancy bed), we let her out. She was gone in a flash and didn’t come back until five a.m. Eric was right; that wasn’t much protection. She’d have to stay inside to do me any good.
“If someone does break in and come for our bedroom, at least they’ll slip and fall in the lake outside our bedroom door,” I decided.
“There’s that,” Eric agreed.
So we embarked on our first RV trip with her in our 24-foot class C motorhome, aka the Bookmobile. Petey, our one-eyed Boston terrier, came, too, while the other two dogs stayed at home with the livestock and our youngest daughter.
“What are we going to do about the tinkle issue in the RV?” I asked Eric, as I packed and sorted for our trip.
He lifted a box of kitchen supplies, “We need to be sure to bring heavy duty trash bags to put around the dog cushions.” Eric is so practical. His suggestion made perfect sense. We’d started doing it at home anyway in the previous week. Georgia wasn’t wild about it, and she’d slept on an arm chair in protest, which resulted in us washing arm chair cushions the next day. Now we have all the cushions turned vertically so she won’t do that again. Eventually she gave up and slept on the plastic-covered bed, albeit on her purple satin and velour princess blanket.
Despite Eric’s trash bag solution, I worried, and I searched the internet for ideas. I found tons of diapers for dogs, but they all had bad reviews. I read through the comments and saw that some people cut holes in pull-ups for their dogs’ tails. I bought the biggest size available at HEB, size 4T-5T. I got the cute pink girl kind, of course.
On the first night of our trip, Eric slid the pull-ups carefully over Georgia’s tail, then stepped her feet through the leg holes. She held still, but she didn’t look happy, and she wouldn’t meet Petey’s eye (he only has one, after all). Petey looked pleased. He’d put up with Georgia’s exuberance, dominance, and herding for months now, and his new favorite pastime was whatever upset her apple cart. Stealing her pig ears. Darting in front of her to claim the bed she wanted. Dashing across her path to make her have to stop and turn. So, yeah, he didn’t seem to mind her discomfiture one bit.
We went to bed optimistic. When we woke the next morning Georgia’s pull-up was dry. Phew! Days two, three, and four were dry as well, although on morning four we found the pull-up in the floor beside her bed. Somebody had figured out how to shed it.
Each day it grew harder to get the pull-up on. On day five, we got to bed late. The dogs were already asleep. Eric didn’t have the heart to roust Georgia and put the pull-up on. Meanwhile, Georgia had been on something of a hunger strike while we were on the road. She was much more interested in new smells and sights and sounds than food. We used to feed her the incontinence prevention pills with her wet food (and apple cider vinegar, cranberry, and yogurt). Usually, I did the food and remedies. Somewhere along the way, the cranberry gellies had spilled into a little bit of remaining dog food. I had several canisters of food, so I just left the cranberry in the nearly-empty one and started feeding from the new one. I used the old container to hold all my other ingredients, like the pills we were having trouble getting her to eat. Some days we ended up picking the pills back out of the glumpy, yucky mixture and hand feeding them to her sandwiched in cheese or stuffed into sausage.
But not always. Sometimes we forgot or got lazy.
Still, when we got up the next morning, the RV was dry. Yay, Georgia!
Later that day, she fell asleep in the rental car after a hike and soaked the dog bed, which we’d forgotten to put the trash bag around. Not yay.
She got a pull-up again on night six, but just barely, since by now she was all but slithering away from Eric when it came time to don the garment of shame. On day seven, we were back on the road and arrived at a new RV park late at night.
We forgot the pull-up. We forgot the evening urinary incontinence pills. We forgot the black trash bags. And when Eric woke up at five a.m. to answer his own call of nature, he smelt it before he felt it, because there are no secrets in a 24-foot enclosed space, especially not when one of the secrets is skunk pee.
Georgia had leaked. She had leaked and leaked and leaked and leaked and leaked. One thing I should have mentioned earlier is that Georgia loves to drink. She drinks more than any dog we’ve ever had. So when Georgia loses control, there’s a lot to lose.
Not only had she leaked, she had done it while sleeping on an RV seat. An upholstered RV seat. Petey peered down on the scene of Georgia’s crime from his dry perch with haughty superiority.
Well, we were due to meet friends for an early breakfast before getting on the road. Operation emergency dog and RV clean-up commenced in the Colorado pre-dawn. While it was frustrating, mostly it was infuriating. We could have prevented this with trash bags in the right places and if we’d remembered the nighttime ritual of pills and pull-ups.
“Make sure she gets her pills and a lot of yogurt and apple cider vinegar in her food this morning,” I begged Eric as I ran to the shower rooms. “We have ground to make up in her system.”
“No problem.” He turned the business end of a hose on our sheepish Malinois and started washing her.
When I came back, Georgia and the RV were clean.
“I fed the dogs.” Eric grabbed our shower kit and took off for the shower rooms himself.
“I’ll finish getting us ready to leave, then.”
I scurried around the RV, closing and locking windows and vents, securing potential projectiles, bungee cording the bathroom door into an open and locked position, staging items in the console up front—like Eric’s glasses, which I found under a pile of clothes. Then I picked up the dog bowls. Petey’s bowl still had what looked like food in it. That never happened. Petey eats until near-explosion, and we constantly battle his food thieving and his weight.
I put on my glasses and looked closer at Petey’s bowl. The bottom of the bowl was lined with cranberry gellies. I grabbed Georgia’s uneaten food. There was still kibble in her bowl, but mostly there were cranberry gellies in it, too.
Eric had fed them the remnants of food mixed with the bottle of cranberry from the old food container.
But you know what? Georgia didn’t wet the bed on the last night of our trip. If Petey could talk I’m sure he would tell you that his urinary tract has never felt better, either.
And Georgia and I are heading in to get her prescription on Monday, first thing.
That’s all I’ve got.
Thirty years have come and gone since I spent my senior year in high school with 502 other bright-eyed youngsters in the windswept capitol of cattle country. We didn’t think of ourselves as youngsters, of course. We felt capable, mature, invincible, and many of us at least, ready to leave.
I left. Texas A&M, UT Law School, Dallas, Fort Worth, St. Croix in the USVI, then Houston and now Nowheresville. I left, and so did my parents, so for many years I didn’t go back. But lately I’ve returned time and again.
Each time I visit Amarillo, I am struck anew by how lucky I was to grow up there, and how deep the connection is between the people I shared those years with. Whether I write about (the Emily series), live it, or just think about it, my heart returns.
Thirty years is a long time. It’s time for us to lose friends (the two I leaned on in the picture below, Kim and Rusty), to become better people, to face hardships (like Judy, to the right), to remain dear friends (Tracy, the one about to hyperextend my legs, LOL) to lose touch (my partner, Mark, holding my left leg on the right), and to follow our dreams (see video below of my talented friends Lance and Brad, performing Another One Bites the Dust, the song of my high school years—our mascot was the “Golden Sandstorm,” our chant Blow Sand Blow still makes me cringe and laugh, and our tagline “This Dirt Can Hurt” is one of the only redeeming elements of our mascot).
Video of Brad and Lance in Another One Bites the Dust (very, very well done): HERE.
(For more pics, go HERE)
The smallish thirty-year reunion this past weekend reaffirmed who I am. Pamela from Amarillo. It reminded me of what I loved (Friday night lights). Of what I regret (that’s a very long list, but I’d top it with repeating what I heard without thinking for myself). Of what I chafed against (organized religion).
Of what I miss (the people).
I met my husband in his hometown, so I love bringing him to mine, seeing him in deep conversation with the guys I adored from my AP classes, my true soul mates, the nerdy smart kids who saw past my Barbie doll exterior. He enjoys seeing me do things and act in ways I don’t do in my introverted writer life. Dancing with a group of girls to our buddy’s 80s rock band playing John Cougar (Mellenkamp). Hugging, squealing, rocking to and fro. Where is his serious wife who keeps to herself and talks to her imaginary friends, taking breaks only to walk dogs and feed livestock? Singing all the words to every song when I can’t remember the lyrics to the ones I hear on the radio today.
Going back, remembering, reliving, reconnecting bring me closer to that woman I am today. It brings the journey into sharp focus. Each milestone on that journey sparkling in brilliant color and making sense in the context of then and now in a way that they don’t, bogged down in the every day.
These people, and many others who couldn’t make the trip, these are the people in the world, other than my closest family, with whom I have the most in common, with whom I share the bulk of my memories. God bless each and every one of them and keep them safe until the next time we meet.
Thank you, AHS class of 1985. Thank you Amarillo, Texas.
That’s all I’ve got.
Last summer, the summer after his freshman year of college, Clark Kent took a job lifeguarding. They told him that as soon as he turned in his new hire paperwork, they would put him on the schedule. In the meantime, they learned he was an experienced guard. They asked if he’d teach swimming lessons to the wee ones instead. When he said yes, they put him on the schedule for the next day.
He didn’t turn in his new hire paperwork.
About halfway through the summer, his boss reminded him to turn it in.
When the summer ended and he went back to school at the University of Houston, he mentioned that he needed the checks that he’d had sent to us for his work that summer. As in ALL OF THEM.
What?? What 19-year old works all summer and doesn’t spend one cent of it? Don’t 19-year olds run to cash their checks the second they get them and hang by their fingernails until next pay day after blowing it all the week before????
Yes, most 19-year olds, but not Clark Kent. He doesn’t spend money like a normal 19-year old, and his ADHD keeps him in the present moment where checks never cross his mind. Life is good in the present moment, most of the time.
So, now Clark Kent wanted his money. Only we never received any checks. As in, Clark Kent never got paid, not the whole summer.
We sent Clark Kent to his employer, who informed him that they didn’t issue checks to employees who didn’t turn in their new hire paperwork. Clark Kent—despite being a college CX debater—hates conflict when it is personal. So he tucked tail and came home.
All that fall, winter and spring, we stayed on Clark Kent to find a way to get paid. I was an employment attorney before I was a writer, and, while I felt empathy for his employer about the new hire paperwork, they should have never put him on the schedule. Once they did and let him work, they owed him for that work. All of it. Period.
“Um, they said I became a volunteer when I didn’t turn it in,” Clark Kent told me in the spring when I made him call them during tax preparation.
I shook my head vehemently. “N-O. No such thing. That’s unconscionable. They should have just fired you, but they didn’t. They have to pay you.”
The school year came to an end. I informed Clark Kent that the statute of limitations had run on my patience with him handling the paycheck situation. He frothed at the mouth and begged me not to, but I wrote to his employer, relating the story, and asking them to fix it. Clark squirmed and wriggled and wrung his hands in dread, all 6 foot 3 of him.
Well, not only did they send us a check for the whole summer, but they apologized, and they did employee training to be sure nothing like that would ever happen again. Volunteer my left foot! Pretty cool, huh?
“I’m keeping 1/3 as my attorneys fees,” I told Clark Kent.
He grinned ear to ear, all his fear of conflict apparently forgotten when facing $700 he thought he’d never see. “That’s fine.”
“I’m not really keeping it,” I said, “if you can tell me what we’ve learned here.”
“To turn in my new hire paperwork?”
“Um, that my mom is the greatest?”
“Ye-es . . . ” I waved my hand for him to continue but he looked blank. “Don’t ever, ever, ever give up when people make it difficult to collect what they owe you.”
“Yeah, that, too.”
I hugged him, and handed him the one-year overdue check.
That’s all I’ve got,
Yesterday, August 31st, was Phase 1 of the reintroduction of Blue Bell ice cream into the US markets. We happen to live in the (rabidly loyal) geographic area of Phase 1, so I asked Eric to drop by the HEB grocery store in Brenham to pick some up on his way home from a gig in Louisiana.
When he arrived at HEB, he found this:
As he took photos of the bare shelves (along with a throng of other people), he was approached by a news crew, which resulted in this:
(email subscribers, click HERE to watch the news clip)
Those of you that live in the Dallas Fort Worth area might have caught the clip. Isn’t he so cute???? Well, these empty shelves were after the third restocking of the day, apparently.
But my husband didn’t give up. First, he got me a consolation Route 44 Diet Cherry Limeade (a darn good consolation prize), then he went to two more stores. At the second, there was a Blue Bell delivery truck out front. As fast as the driver unloaded the ice cream into the cooler, it was being snatched up. When Eric reached, the cooler, it was down to this:
We’ve taste tested for all a’y’all out there, and we’re happy to report it’s just as delicious and as you can tell, above, made us feel great. Bonus: I had a R44DCL, too.
That’s all I’ve got.
p.s. This is my bangs after growing out for two weeks!
p.p.s. Hell to Pay is coming along nicely.
SENIORITIS PART THREE
Two months ago we took our youngest to Texas A&M for the New Student Conference, prior to her moving to TAMU for Gateway summer school. As I sit here typing this, she is about to start her first fall semester as an Aggie, and I am proud of her and miss her. Back back then, though–back when we went to the NSC–things were quite different.
For starters, Susanne was a beast. She made us late to everything, she didn’t speak to us except to complain or contradict us, and she spent all her time on her phone. It got so bad that I (calmly, sweetly) explained to her that if she couldn’t be nice, we could just leave her in College Station by herself and she could get a ride back to Houston with a friend. This was AFTER I had told her the week before that the title to her car was in my name, and if she couldn’t be nice for just three more weeks until she moved out, that I was keeping the car for myself. I like 2010 Mustangs. I think I’d look pretty good in one, frankly.
“Yeah, well I heard GiGi made you go to NSC by yourself because she was too mad at you to go with you, when you were my age,” she said. Her eyes twinkled behind their snotty expression. She was enjoying making us unhappy just a little too much.
“Correct. Which is how come I know for sure I don’t have to be here if you’re being a beeyatch.” Eric nodded at me, cheering me on, but keeping a straight face.
I ignored her.
She was nice long enough to get us to take her to Fuego’s for dinner.
The next day I channeled my happy place and ignored Susanne for all I was worth. The picture, above, was snapped of us on day two. I don’t look like I’m about to kill her, do I? Because I was really trying to hide it like a good Southern mama. Shortly after this photo, it was time for her to put together a draft of her fall schedule, and to take her math placement exam. I offered to help, but I wasn’t deemed nearly smart enough for the task. Thank God. I left her to it and took a walk around the MSC, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Finally, it was time for us to split up for the last afternoon. Parents to parent sessions; students to student sessions. We sat near the back in the parent session.
“So, parents, anyone in here experiencing the summer of hell with their student?” the speaker asked. One thousand hands shot in the air, and as we raised ours, Eric and I laughed. “This is a hard time for a parent, because it’s a hard time for a student. Are they kids or grown ups? Do they want to stay or go? Will anyone remember them after they leave? Will they be able to come back if they need to? Will life continue on without them at all?” She paused. “Parents of Gateway students, you’ve got it worst of all because instead of spreading it over three months, your students are compressing it into six weeks, all of it. So hang in there, relief is coming soon.”
Knowing other parents were suffering like us at the hands of their teenagers helped. A little. Knowing all this would end in two weeks when she started Gateway summer school helped more. After our session, we rejoined Susanne, who was beaming.
“How’d it go?” I asked her, wary despite all the teeth she was flashing.
“Julia and I basically put together the same schedule.” She tossed her hair and fell in step with me.
“I met her in the Gateway session before we registered.”
A quick friendship. “Ah, good.”
“She lives twenty minutes away from our new house in Nowheresville.”
Our. Before it had been “yours,” as in Eric’s and mine. As in the house we were moving into while getting rid of the one that had her room and her stuff in it. Whoops. “Cool.”
“Yeah.” She continued to chatter on, all sweetness and light.
Eric squeezed my hand. We smiled behind Susanne’s head, enjoying our reprieve, however short lived it might turn out to be.
That’s all I’ve got.
Have I got a treat for you! Ken Oder’s luscious new book, Old Wounds to the Heart, just came out. I’ve been authorized to give away e-book copies to my readers who commit to leaving an honest review on Amazon in the next 30 days. All I need from you is an email to me or a comment to this post with the format you’d like (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, pdf, etc.) and your email address.
How easy is that?
I have a story to tell about this book. It’s no secret that Ken and I collaborate. I am so honored to give him feedback, and to get his. He was one of my first-ever writing retreat attendees, too, and left this review about it, HERE. When Ken had finished writing The Closing (Kindle top 50, IndieFab finalist), he told me about an idea he had for a book that was in the same era/location, but was nothing like The Closing. Conventional wisdom would say he should write the same type of book to appeal to the readers he had accumulated so far. In fact, I often suggest that to people, but not at the expense of their creatively. I told him to write the book of his heart, not the book of his balance sheet. He thanked me, and a year later, he sent me a manuscript. Talk about a great gift for a very small pieces of advice! We got on the phone to talk about it. It was after we’d cleared the plot for our Nowheresville house, but before we’d started building. I walked around the clearing as I talked to him about his beautiful book and the ideas I had that might help him make it the best it could be. The spot I paced is now my kitchen/great room, and the book we discussed has a few of my ideas woven in is now Old Wounds :-D.
So, to whet your appetite, here’s the scoop on Old Wounds:
A violent southern romance
The second Whippoorwill Hollow novel
Shenandoah National Park, Thanksgiving Morning, 1967
The morning mists are still rising in Whippoorwill Hollow when two aging friends find themselves staring at each other: one pointing a gun and the other beaten and chained to a tree. Their love for the same woman has buckled under the weight of a long-held secret — until now.
Out of the blue mountains of Virginia comes a 1960s American tale bound with the regrets people carry to their graves and a tumultuous chance at redemption. Three friends decide if their hearts will lock them into old wounds or lead them to new love.
˃˃˃ Secrets, passion, love, and violence
“Secrets, passion, love, and violence: they’re not for the weak of heart or body, which is what makes the septua- and octogenarians in Ken Oder’s latest Whippoorwill Hollow novel so intriguing. The characters are endearing and eccentric, and the setting at once brutal and brooding. I couldn’t put it down, and I can’t wait for the next one.”
– Pamela Fagan Hutchins, USA Best Book Award winning author of Heaven to Betsy and the Katie & Annalise mysteries
˃˃˃ Thrilling, beautiful literary fiction
“. . . a thrilling experience . . . a work of art, or poetry, or beauty and all of the above. Oder takes you back in time to a place in a rural Virginia town and gently reveals parts and pieces of its topography and people. The story is not a gentle one . . . but it is simply beautiful.”
– Rebecca Nolen, author of Deadly Thyme and The Dry
˃˃˃ Reveals the symbiosis between joy and heartache
“. . . masterfully crafted, brimming with the sort of spellbinding wisdom that takes your breath away. Cast from characters who could easily be our friends and family, this story confronts the darker side of human nature with unflinching precision. It reveals that the line dividing right from wrong isn’t always clearly defined, that an undeniable symbiosis exists between joy and heartache.”
– Daniel Wimberley, author of The Pedestal
Email me or comment me if you want a free read in exchange for your honest, timely review.
That’s all I’ve got,
Greetings from Signal Mountain, TN, above Chattanooga, where I am visiting my brother and his wife and two young daughters. He had a serious accident a few weeks ago, and I’m pitching in for awhile. Yes, this is yet another reason I will be putting off starting writing Hell to Pay (Emily #3), but the outline is reaching completion, in fits and starts, and it’s probably better for it. A weekend talking through it with my husband/brainstorming partner, and I’ll be good to go! Meanwhile, I’m remembering what it’s like to rock a sleepy two-year old, to hear the peals of laughter that only comes from close-in-age siblings nose to nose whispering in bed when they’re not supposed to be, and to enjoy the simple words “I love you Aunt Pamboola.”
I’ve been entrusted with singing them to sleep at night, which is kind of my specialty. I know it’s supposed to be a soothing activity, but I confess that when I’m acting out the words, singing personalized versions, and using “feewing” in my voice, I might have the opposite effect. Which I love.
Eric traveled this week, too, for his job. Our youngest kept Petey—our one-eyed, overly-spoiled Boston terrier—at her apartment in College Station. She also swung by to feed/water/medicate animals at our place as needed. Here’s Petey shortly after Eric picked him back up from Susanne on the way back to Nowheresville (cutest dog ever alert!):
Oh, that smile!
It’s rained here all this week, but it’s still gorgeous. My bro and family live on 19 forested acres, and wild turkeys and deer roam their yard. I’ve managed to keep up with my sciatica recovery, walking and doing “30 days of yoga with Adrienne,” but I’ve blown it on my diet. I have two more weeks until my high school reunion. I will buckle down. I will, I will. And let my bangs grow, since I hacked away at them with a pair of dull scissors from my brother’s desk drawer today. Unfortunately, I cut them so short I couldn’t fix the crooked part.
Yes, they’re as bad as they sound.
Have a great weekend y’all.
That’s all I’ve got.
Yesterday I learned that mystery and flash fiction author and Spider Road Press editor Patricia Flaherty Pagan posted a blog about her experience at my first-ever writers retreat. If you want to hear about how it went (and see a lovely picture of our cow, Dixie), you can read it at Cows, Camaraderie & Concentration |. My 2016 writers retreat schedule is up HERE. I am going to take 4-5 people per retreat, so they will fill fast. Be sure to e-mail me far in advance if you want to come to one.
I’m off to the Tennessee River and my mountain man brother to help him and his family in the wake of his recent surgeries. I’ve got the world’s cutest little nieces, so this will be fun! I’m hoping to put in a little H2P time each day between nursemaid, car pool, and child care duties, too.
That’s all I’ve got.
Well, last week was big. Not only did Earth to Emily (Emily #2) release, but I hosted and facilitated my first writing retreat. In Nowheresville, which means it was down to the wire getting the house and yard and driveway and etc. ready, for my husband Eric and me both.
First things first. The retreat. I cannot tell you how awesome these five writers are; I was really blessed they chose to come work with me.
- Ken Oder, IndieFab Finalist (mystery/thriller) for The Closing (top 100 on Kindle), and author of new release Old Wounds to the Heart
- Patricia Flaherty Pagan, award-winning flash fiction writer and editor in chief of Trail Ways Pilgrims and Eve’s Requiem
- Felicia Little, author of literary horror (if there’s not such a thing, she made it up, and it rocks)
- Heidi Dorey, author of fantasy/scifi and psychological thriller
- David Welling, author of thriller, horror mash-ups, and Dickensian fiction
It was hotter than Hades out, so we stayed inside and worked hard most of the time. But it’s Texas, y’all, and Nowheresville to boot, so we set up an impromptu shooting range and did some target shooting. My pink shotgun, which I use for poisonous snakes and to scare away feral pigs, was a hit. I have a confession, though. I once used the shotgun to scare off an imaginary human. I was staying alone in the Quacker (our old travel trailer that we kept on the property before we built the house) and the dogs went crazy. I wasn’t sure if the source of their ire was human or not, so Eric texted me reminders on how to load and operate my shotgun and I went outside and fired two shots in the air, under the theory that the sound of the pump of the shotgun along with its blast would deter unwanted visitors, animal or human. It must have worked, because I passed a safe night alone, if not a well-rested one.
Here are some pictures.
Yes, we even had people staying in the Bookmobile!
I’ll probably do three retreats per year, so watch for more info here.
As for the book release, well, it was just wonderful. Four of my books were in the top 50 in romantic mystery, including Earth to Emily. And Heaven to Betsy rose as high as #2 in the category while Saving Grace was the the top download in the category. Even better, my author rank for romantic mystery was #30. SQUEE! Watch out Janet Evanovich, here I come. 😉 [I don’t think Janet will be losing any sleep over this.]
Finally, some bonus news. If you’re not from around Nowheresville, you might not understand that feral pigs are a dangerous menace in our neck of the woods. The pig trap below is a quarter-mile from our house. I was making breakfast last week and Petey was going nuts. Doing weird stuff, like running up and down the stairs to get my attention. I thought he needed to go out, so I opened the back door. Layla, who never leaves the yard, was coming back from the neighbor’s field. I heard the other two big dogs (Georgia and Louise) barking madly. Afraid they were attacking a neighbor’s animals, I grabbed my walking stick and phone and dashed out. What I found was the dogs going nuts over these pigs. In this photo, the mama was charging me. It worked. I backed off after she rammed the side of the cage and snapped at me. The babies are cute, but I don’t want any part of an angry mama feral pig. Note Petey thinking he’s a bad ass; he stuck close to Georgia and sounded like a pipsqueak. Louise is in the foreground. She’d had enough.
That’s all I’ve got.
- Writer of overly long e-mails, romantic mysteries, and (possibly) hilarious nonfiction. Resides deep in the heart of Nowheresville, TX and way up in the frozen north of Snowheresville, WY. Passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as long hikes with her hunky husband and pack of rescue dogs, her Keurig, and traveling in the Bookmobile.
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