Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A to Z Challenge: T is for Thanks! (and Kay Theodoratus and "Tallgrass" by Sandra Dallas)

Five Six more days in the challenge after today (Geesh. I really am anxious). I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm almost there. Nothing can stop me now. Sorry, that was too much like tempting fate.

Featured Author:  M.K (Kay) Theodoratus

Kay is a delightful person, a dedicated and interesting blogger (Lessons from My Reading), and a heck of a writer (she's a Coloradoan, too). And she not only publishes for sale, she also publishes stories that don't cost you one cent to read (and hopefully review).

In addition to that excellent blog, which is now featuring guest authors, Kay can also be found on Facebook and TwitterAnd Google+.  And maybe other places too.

Here's her page on Smashwords. Please note that her most recent Smashwords release, The Ghost in the Closet, is free.

"Dumdie Swartz sees things other people can’t. Her weird habits have caused her nothing but problems since she was a child. Even her sisters teased her mercilessly.

When her boss fired her because he thought her trances were TIAs, Dumdie became homeless. Though Dumdie was lucky to find a room in a homeless shelter, just as winter was setting in, she discovers that not only does a ghost haunt her room, but her safe haven is threatened by a lost will. Dumdie must conquer her fear of ghosts if she's to keep her room at the Archinhauser Shelter for Homeless Women."

Featured Book:  Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

I love everything Sandra Dallas writes. Tallgrass is one of my favorites (I'm about three books behind--the first one I read was The Persian Pickle Club).

Here's the teaser from Sandra's website:

"During World War II, a family finds life turned upside-down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes turn to the newcomers. Rennie has just turned thirteen, and until this time, life has been predictable and fair. But the winds of change are coming and with them, a shift in her perspective and a discovery of secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things. Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest—and best—parts of the human heart."

This award-winning journalist and novelist has a book for you. Check out this page for the cover art and links to more information.

Word of the Day:  Thanks!

When I hijacked the Featured Book slot on Day P to show the progression of cover art used for each edition of The Prairie Grass Murders, I linked to the e-book on I wondered if it would have an effect on my Kindle Book sales ranking, so I checked the number before the post published: #1,017,279.

I checked again the day after the post published and received a nice surprise. The sales ranking had jumped to #131,410.

Someone out there bought a copy of the e-book. Maybe more than one someone.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you so much.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A to Z Challenge: S is for Sociology (and Susan Spann and "Stories Gathered at the Kitchen Table" by Anne Randolph)

Seven more posts after today. I'm counting down, and my motor is running down. And I still have the dreaded V , X, and Z to go. I'm going to cheat again. I can see it coming.

Featured Author:  Susan Spann

Susan is an attorney who does a lot of work for the literary community, so she was a natural to teach a master class in Copyright and Contracts for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference a couple of years ago.

She had also written a mystery featuring a ninja detective and a Portuguese priest in 16th century Japan. That novel, Claws of the Cat, was so good Susan immediately snagged an agent when she pitched the book at the conference. The second book in the Shinobi mystery series, Blade of the Samurai, releases in July.

Featured Book:  Stories Gathered at the Kitchen Table: A Collection of Women's Memoirs by Anne Randolph

I haven't read this one yet. I bought my copy at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference last month and placed it on my coffee table to encourage me to read a story each day.

Here's how the book is described at Anne's website:

"Bold women from Kitchen Table Writing share stories that led them to confidence to become business women, leaders, mothers, healers, and trendsetters. In the safe haven of Kitchen Table Writing, these young creators and seasoned innovators create life stories that empower and resonate with women across generations."

Kitchen Table Writing is the name of Anne's coaching program and courses.

Word of the Day:  Sociology

When I first went to college right after high school, my father and I had a major disagreement about my course of study. I wanted to go to Journalism school, and he insisted I choose something practical where I could make law school. I compromised by agreeing to Business Administration.

I lasted two years, then left school to marry, work (in business/accounting/management), and have kids. When my youngest started kindergarten, I went back to college, this time focusing on only the things I wanted to study....subjects I thought would broaden my experience and make me a better writer...if I could ever find the time to write because I was still working in business/accounting/management and continued to do so most of my adult life until retirement.

My major was sociology, and my two minors were political science and natural resources. I know just enough in each field to help me research all the stuff I don't know.

Did you follow your father's advice when it came to school, work, and other life choices?

Monday, April 21, 2014

A to Z Challenge: R is for Repellent (and Raham and Resau and Ryan and "Running from the Devil" by Jamie Freveletti)

Eight more posts to go after this one. We're heading into the final stretch. I don't know about you, but I'm running out of steam. I'm still getting the posts written, but I've slowed down on the number of new blogs I'm visiting. I'll try to do better this week.

I couldn't pick just one author today, so I pulled three authors of books for kids and young adult readers out of the northern Colorado pool of outstanding writers.

Featured Authors:  Gary Raham, Laura Resau, and Amy Kathleen Ryan

Gary earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology at the University of Michigan and taught biology to middle and high school students. He has written 17 books, several video scripts, and award-winning articles for Highlights for Children, Cricket, Read, and other magazines, as well as some short SF stories. He also is known for his science illustrations.

Laura earned a B.A. in Anthropology and French, then decided she wanted to go somewhere far away, so she got certified in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and sent job applications around the globe. She has has written several novels for YA and younger readers. Her first, What the Moon Saw, was set in Mexico. Others have been set in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Aix-en-Provence, France.

Amy Kathleen Ryan attended college in Omaha, Nebraska, and Madrid, Spain, before she finally ended up at The University of Wyoming, where she studied anthropology and Spanish language. She began her writing career with YA standalone novels, then jumped into the YA sci fi genre. Flame, the third book in the Sky Chasers series, was released January 2014.

Featured Book:  Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti

I had the pleasure of meeting Jamie at Bouchercon 2009 in Indianapolis when she was a debut author with her first release, Running from the Devil. The beginning of the synopsis from Jamie's website:

"Emma Caldridge, a chemist for a cosmetics company, is en route from Miami to Bogotá when her plane is hijacked and spins out of control into the mountains near the Venezuelan border. Thrown unhurt from the wreckage, she can do nothing but watch as guerillas take the others hostage."

Don't you already want to read more? The Emma Caldridge novels are fast-paced and exciting, and the author is so good she was invited by the Estate of Robert Ludlum in 2011 to write the next in the Covert One series. That novel, Robert Ludlum's The Janus Reprisal, released on September 11, 2012.

Word of the Day:  Repellent

I've had a terrible time keeping the neighbor's cats out of our yard, my raised vegetable garden beds and the flower pots close to the front door. In addition to the cats driving my own kitty crazy (she's fiercely territorial, even though she's inside and they're outside), the thought of cat poop in my vegetable garden is disgusting. The neighbor cats are nice kitties, but they're allowed to roam (which by the way is against the law in our town but I guess no one enforces it).

I tried using orange rinds scattered around the garden area because cats don't care for citrus, but the peels dried out too fast. I couldn't eat enough oranges to keep all four boxes covered with fresh rinds.

There was an anti-pet spray intended for use inside and out, so I sprayed it all around my garden boxes. It reeked so bad the first hour, then dissipated. Didn't help at all.

Finally I bought a bag of powdered repellent to use to establish boundaries against cats and dogs. It contains dried blood and red pepper. I sprinkled it around the four boxes and dusted the frames a couple of days ago, plus sprinkled a bit outside the gate that the cats usually climb over. Then Saturday, after I'd prepared the second box for planting and put seeds in the first box, I reapplied the repellent around the four boxes....just as a little breeze came up and tossed a dose of the stuff in my face. It took me four powerful sneezes to get over it.

If I were a cat, I'd find a new place to poop.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z Challenge: Q is for Quit (and Brian Qaufman and (And) Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov)

There are a few authors out there whose last names begin with Q, but I've chosen to cheat on the challenge instead and feature a northern Colorado writer whose name sounds as though it could begin with Q.

Featured Author:  Brian Qaufman (aka Brian Kaufman)

Brian was the instructor in a novel-writing class I took back in 2003. My critique group, Raintree Writers, was formed by a few of the participants in that class, and now Brian is a part of Raintree Writers.

A writer of twisted stories about twisted people, Brian seems like a normal guy. He writes well, is an excellent and supportive critiquer, but one can't help wonder what's going on his mind when he gets too quiet. Is he thinking about zombies? Corpses behind the walls of an old house?

You'll see what I mean when you read some of his work: Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse, The Apocalypse Parable: A Conspiracy of Weeds, and Mary King's Plague. If you want to read an outstanding piece of historical fiction, though, get a copy of his novel about the Alamo, The Breach, written from the Mexican point of view. Hopefully he'll put that up as an e-book soon.

Featured Book:  (And) Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov

This is the first book I ever read by a Russian novelist, and the only one I've re-read. Just thinking about it got me back to my online library catalog so I could find it again.

I love this beautifully written story of life in a Cossack village in the early 1900s. The novel, which pits the upstart peasant farmer Gregor against Misha, a loyal Party member, and its sequel (The Don Flows Home to the Sea), won Sholokhov the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1965.

Word of the Day:  Quit

Occasionally I think I'll quit something I do now and replace it with something I'm not doing now.

One day it's writing. The next it's blogging. Or gardening.

Always in the interest of reading more...or crocheting...or painting...or really learning how to use my new camera...or taking a refresher course in piano...or taking guitar lessons.

I suppose I could give up blogging, but that would seem like cutting myself off from the wonderful friends I've made through blogs and social media.

I could give up gardening, but there's truly nothing like fresh veggies I've grown myself. Especially green beans, my favorite.

Writing, though? I don't think I could quit. It's the worst kind of addiction. Are there support groups for recovering writers? I'd need a good one.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Challenge: P is for Psychic (and Annie Proulx and "(The) Prairie Grass Murders" by Me)

Day P in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. I had a bad couple of days with the "N" brain freeze for book title and then almost forgetting to do the "O" post because I had a guest blogger scheduled the same day. I think I'm over the mid-challenge slump now and ready to carry on.

Today I'm featuring one of my all-time favorite authors.

And for the book ... I couldn't help myself. I slipped in a little blatant self-promotion. I'm going to make it interesting, though. I promise.

Featured Author:  Annie Proulx

I selected this author because I loved The Shipping News, cried when I read "Brokeback Mountain" in the Close Range: Wyoming Stories Short Story Collection .. and, in her bio, it says she lives in Wyoming (as well as Newfoundland).

The Shipping News won the Pulitzer Prize.for fiction 1994.

Featured Book:  (The) Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey

My very first novel, an amateur sleuth mystery featuring 60-something Sylvia Thorn and her older brother Willie Grisseljon was fun to write because I used the Illinois farm country where I grew u to set a lot of the action.

What I wanted to do here, however, was show you the cover art for the many incarnations of this book. First there was the hardcover from Five Star.

And then the audio book from Books in Motion:

The mass market paperback for Harlequin's online mystery book club:

And finally, thanks to the new popularity and ease of publishing an e-book:

That e-book cover was designed by a college student. I think she did a great job.

Word of the Day:  Psychic

I'm not psychic, as far as I know.

However, there's a lovely lady who's a member of Northern Colorado Writers who is a psychic. I attended one small group reading with her a couple of years ago, and then went about a year ago for a private session. She knew stuff about me and things happened during that session that kind of freaked me out.

I'm thinking about going back, though. I have a list of questions about a mile long. (And a couple story ideas.)

Have you ever visited a psychic?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Denver Teen Writers Get Their Own Summer Camp, Their Own Way ... by Trai Cartwright

Like lots of us, I’ve been writing stories since someone shoved a crayon in my fist. I got lots of oohs and ahhs from the adults in my world, not unlike a trained monkey at the circus might, but what I didn’t get was any kind of organized or professional support. There was exactly one creative writing class at my high school, and only a third of that time dealt with fiction. The rest of the time, I had to hack my way through poetry (anon, no!) and nonfiction (and this was before creative nonfiction, so it was basically journalism).

I was a sci-fi writer. I had no business or interest attempting either of those other mediums, but if I wanted any kind of fiction education, I had no choice.

When I grew up and started teaching creative writing for a living, I knew right away what my dream program was: a “boot camp” for teen writers. Four hardcore days of studying the craft with other teens, forming a tribe of people who understood exactly what it meant to be a writer, and encouraging them to pursue this most impossible of dreams.

It was the sort of program I would have died for as a teen.

So I went for it. I hired four local authors from different mediums to teach different tracks, I took on screenwriting, and away we went. Five years later, over 200 kids have attended Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camps, and the customer satisfaction is exactly what I hoped it would be:

"This was such a friendly environment, great learning and awesome people! Working with a writing teacher is important to me because they really have the finesse to help you. I can't wait for next year!"

Young writers are everywhere, but being writers they tend not to draw attention to themselves. They are the ones who disappear into their rooms for hours on end, not surfing or texting, but writing stories. They are the ones who pretend to follow along with classwork at their desks but in fact are revising a scene that just won’t stop running through their heads. They are the ones talking to themselves in different voices as their characters work out a piece of dialogue. They are the ones who keep book stores alive, who always have one foot and half their mind in another world, and who look somewhat bewildered when others are cheered for scoring a goal when they’ve just finished writing a 350-page novel and no one broke out the marching band for them.

Explorati Teens breaks out the marching band. We celebrate writers. We’re here just for them, so they can disappear into their very special cave for four days and do the thing they were born to do: write. Craft gets explained on a level designed just for them, revelations as well as friends are made, and best of all, they get help writing exactly what they want to write.

In Denver, no one else “lets” teen writers do this. There seems to be this idea that teens need prompts and guided exercises in order to write. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They want to learn how to do what they do better. And that’s Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp’s goal –whatever they are passionate about, we are passionate about.

So if you know a teen writer in the Denver area (or within commuting distance) who could use this sort of celebratory, inspiring, very serious approach to bolstering their endeavors, send them our way. We’ve got a camp for Middle Schoolers, developing High Schoolers, and for High Schoolers who are so advanced, they’re ready for a college-level education.

This summer is going to be serious fun!

Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp

Fiction I (middle school) – June
Fiction II (high school) – July
Fiction III (advanced high school) – July – August
Cost: $275
Location: University Park, Denver (next to University of Denver)


Trai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

A to Z Challenge: O is for Opera (and Linda Osmundson and "Ordinary Grace" by William Kent Krueger)

Holy cow! I'm getting this one in at the last second. Hopefully I can get a couple days ahead this afternoon so I don't start stressing out before the month is over.

Best to get to it.

Featured Author:  Linda Osmundson

Linda is a northern Colorado resident who developed a beautiful series of Western art books intended for kids from 5 to 105. From her website:

"At the age of fifty, she told her husband she wanted to take a writing course. Because of her many past interests, he asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She has grown up to publish many articles in local and national magazines and publish [three] books. Although she lived and attended college in Texas, she was never a cowgirl."

 Her books include How the West Was Drawn: Cowboy Charlie's Art, How the West Was Drawn: Frederic Remington's Art, and her new release, How the West Was Drawn: Women's Art. Any one of them would make a wonderful gift for a child or grown-up who appreciates Western art (or just loves pictures of cowboys and Indians and all things related).

Featured Book:  Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

I am a big fan of this author's Cork O'Connor mystery series set in Minnesota. The book I'm featuring today, however, is a standalone novel--one of the best books I read in 2013. Here's a shortened version of the blurb from Krueger's website:

"New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. ... Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years."

Ordinary Grace is a nominee for the Edgar® Award for Best Novel. It already won the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Thriller Dilys Award (Independent Mystery Booksellers Association), and Left Coast Crime "Squid" Award for Best Mystery Set Within the United States.

Krueger will be a keynote speaker at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in September.

Word of the Day:  Opera

I love rock opera. My favorite is Jesus Christ, Superstar. And I enjoy some traditional opera. Carmen is a favorite. So is La Boheme. I think of Porgy and Bess as opera, too, though the Gershwins were most likely happy to have their masterpiece called a Broadway musical.

Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are fun, too.

And I like most anything with a wonderful tenor in the cast.

Do you enjoy opera? If so, what's your favorite?