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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Some Excellent Publishing News

My short story, "Clouds from Up and Down" was published this week by the Longridge Review. Inspired by lyrics from Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides Now," the story contrasts innocent, white cloud youthful days with the dark, stormy days of a marriage gone bad.

The Longridge Review is an e-zine that began as the Essays on Childhood project. Below is their mission statement which explains the nature of the essays they publish.

"Our mission is to present the finest essays on the mysteries of childhood experience, the wonder of adult reflection, and how the two connect over a lifespan.
We are committed to publishing narratives steeped in reverence for childhood perceptions, but we seek essays that stretch beyond the clich├ęs of childhood as simple, angelic, or easy. We feature writing that layers the events of the writer’s early years with learning or wisdom accumulated in adult life."
Here is a link to the Longridge Review and my essay.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hot Irons, Cold Nights

Ironing was traditionally the household chore assigned to Tuesday. This was a logical arrangement since items washed on Monday could be pressed and put away in drawers or closets the following day.

Most homes were equipped with two heavy flat irons. One would be in use, one heating on the stove to keep from interrupting the ironing process. Some households owned irons in several sizes. If the iron being used was still hot when the lady of the house finished pressing an item, she temporarily rested it on a heatproof trivet.

Some items were pre-moistened to make smoothing easier, but steam irons had to wait for electricity. Invented in 1882, the so-called “electric flatiron” used steam. Since it weighed fifteen pounds and took forever to get hot enough to make steam, many changes had to be made to its design before steam irons gained commercial success in the 1940’s and 50’s.

The familiar curve-shaped ironing board was invented in 1892 by Sarah Boone, an African-American woman. Before it became a standard household item, ironing was done on any flat surface available, often the kitchen table, sometimes a mattress.

Part II of Never Done, titled “Hot Irons, Cold Nights,” includes scenes featuring both ironing and branding irons. Below are two excerpts that describe some of the ironing that took place in the home as described above.

Clara spit on the base of her iron to check the temperature. It had to be hot enough to remove wrinkles, yet not so hot it would scorch the only dress shirt Vincent owned. Satisfied with the sizzle, she spread a thin coat of beeswax on the iron’s base to keep it from sticking. A second iron heated on top of the wood stove, ready to trade places when the first one cooled.

Finished with the sweeping and dusting, Clara got to work cleaning the beeswax off her irons. While preparing for Vincent’s departure, she hadn’t had time to give them a thorough scrubbing. She sat at the table, and using a large square of sandpaper, spent the next hour scrubbing off the stubborn, baked-on wax.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cowboys and Clotheslines

Before the invention of electricity led to such labor-saving devices as automatic clothes washers and driers, Monday was the day most American housewives did laundry. Since Monday followed a day of rest it was the best day of the week to accomplish this demanding chore.

Water had to be hauled, sometimes from great distances, and boiled on the stove. Clothes were scrubbed on washboards and excess water wrung out by hand or with hand-cranked wringers called mangles. Neither method was as effective at removing water as a modern washing machine's spin cycle.

After everything was washed it had to be rinsed, the dirtiest items boiled on the stove, and starch or bluing added before a week-s worth of laundry was ready to be dried. More heavy lifting followed as women loaded the family's clothes, sheets, towels, etc.( still laden with water) into baskets and carried them outside. Hanging wet laundry onto clotheslines meant bending, lifting, reaching, pinning, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat until every item had been hung, dried, and carried back to the house.

Although Part I of my novel Never Done doesn't focus on this Monday chore, I included it in the first scene while introducing the protagonist, Clara. Below is how "Cowboys and Clotheslines" and Never Done begins.

A blue-gray dawn cooled the parched San Luis Valley that day as Clara grabbed a bucket for the first
of many trips she’d make for water. La Jara Creek was only a stone’s throw from the back of the house, but a bucket of water was a two-handed carry for a girl of fourteen.

It was the middle of July. She wore a cuffed and collared blouse, full petticoat, long linen skirt, and button-top boots. By noon she was wiping her brow with the sleeve of her blouse. Her shoulders ached and her neck had a crick in it from hanging clothes on a line she could barely reach. Taught not to complain, she dealt with the drudgery in silence, wishing she’d been allowed to go to Santa Fe with the others.

“How much is left?” she asked her Aunt Lou halfway through the afternoon.

“Just Albert’s work clothes. I put them to boiling on the stove.”

Clara sighed, knowing her next task would be scrubbing the stains out of her pa’s clothes. Ranch work turned even a persnickety cowboy into a dirt ball, and Albert, who worked right alongside his men, got just as dirty as they did.

“When do you think Pa and the others will be back?”

“Anytime now…hopefully before nightfall.”

Twenty-two and unmarried, Lou was the youngest of Albert’s sisters. Her slender frame was bent over the rinse tub as she wrung out the contents piece by piece. A few strands of her hair had come loose. She tucked the hair behind her ears, and then hefted a basket of wet sheets as if it held cottonwood fluff. “Hurry up,” she said as she walked toward the clotheslines with the basket. “We need to finish before they arrive.”

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Seven Parts of Never Done

When I decided to write a novel based on my great-grandmother's life, I read and reread her hand-written memoir, looking for inspiration. What impressed me was how hard she worked most of her life. Work isn't a very compelling subject, so I decided to include it in my story, but not focus on it. For a more detailed description of woman's work, I recommend Never Done, A History of American Housework by Susan Strasser.

In an attempt to organize the 148 pages of my great-grandmother's manuscript, I began  going through it paragraph by paragraph, highlighting every mention of work. Thankfully one of my cousins had transcribed our great-grandmother's handwritten life story into a Word document. In the margins of the Word document I wrote baking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc., so I could find what I was looking for when I wanted to mention that particular task in my story.

There are many versions of the children's nursery rhyme, “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush." The one I recall describes the tasks women in the past performed on certain days of the week. "This is the way we wash our clothes," for example. Using the typical Monday--laundry, Tuesday--ironing, pattern, I decided to write Never Done in seven parts—each part representing one day of the week and its related chore.

So I created seven Word documents, naming them Monday thru Sunday. Then I went back through my margin notes and transferred the work incidents into the appropriate document of the week. Later, as my novel came together, I revised the names of the parts to reflect both the daily task and what takes place in the story during that part. The appropriate workday is mentioned somewhere during each part of my story, but only as background or as the setting for a scene. 

That method of organizing my story was appropriate for Monday through Saturday, but in the past, Americans considered Sunday to be a day of rest. My great-grandmother never seemed to rest, so in part VII, I wrote about the devastating effects of Spanish flu on her life, as well as the people of Colorado, and named it "No Rest."

                                                           Part I: “Cowboys and Clotheslines”
                                                           Part II: “Hot Irons, Cold Nights”
                                                           Part III: “Make Do and Mend”
                                                           Part IV: “To Market, To Market”
                                                           Part V: “New Brooms Sweep Clean”
                                                           Part VI: “Live, Love, Bake”
                                                           Part VII: “No Rest”

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Where I Write

Here is where I spend a few hours of most of my days. I take up roughly one quarter of the small third bedroom my husband and I refer to as the den. In addition to my writing corner, the den contains bookcases, a sofa, and a great chair to sit in and read. My writing space is always messy, but I know  where to dig for what I need.

In the reading chair, usually asleep, is Kiki, my writing buddy. I think the sound of my typing soothes her. On the other hand, she sleeps most of the time.

On the wall in front of me is a clock my cousin Arlin Phillipps (Arlie) made from a large burl. He removed the burl from a tree, sliced it, and coated it with fiberglass resin. After the resin dried, he added numerals, hands, and a pendulum. Pictures don't do it justice.

To the left of my work space hangs a framed book carving of my novel Brute Heart. When I saw the artist's work at an art fair, I just had to have her create this beautiful three-dimensional heirloom. The artist, Sarah Bean, lives in Gold Beach, Oregon. Many of her book carvings hang in the Library of Congress.

The process is rather difficult to explain. First Sarah separates a soft cover book into two halves. Then she uses some kind of very sharp cutting tool to carve intricate designs into the pages, going deeper with some cuts than others. Finally she adds the cover, pictures, and miscellaneous small items to create a collage representing the physical book as well as the story within. Someday I am going to have Sarah make one for my second novel, Never Done.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bad Grammar

Bad grammar makes me shudder. A person doesn't have to know the rules, but can't they hear how terrible it sounds?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that is enjoyable and informative. Type almost anything in the "search" window and you will be directed to pictures of it. I enjoyed the experience so much I created boards representing my two novels--Brute Heart and Never Done.

In my writing I try to describe people, places, and things well enough for readers to visualize them, but  now they can go to my Pinterest boards and see actual pictures in some cases, close approximations in others. They will never see pictures of the characters, though. The people in my stories need to be assembled in each reader's imagination.

Below are a few pictures from my Pinterest boards. To see more go to