Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Gift of Writing

Grandma shared a gift, my great grandmother's school copy of Paradise Lost and her composition booklet. The novel is dated 1896, the composition booklet, 1913.

This gift is particularly special because it belonged to Martha Haldeman, the woman portrayed as Lenora on the cover of Moonshine Murder.

A writer herself, Martha wrote eloquently not only in English but also in Old German script, an extinct language. This woman, who I never met, has shared not just her image but her imagination and love of words, a trait she passed down to her daughter, Ruth--my grandma--and to me. I am thankful to Grandma for sharing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Sweet Ride

I was fifteen, earning my driver's permit when Daddy bought the Nissan. The deal was simple: I keep the truck as long as I maintain good grades. Gas was my responsibility and doable back when twenty bucks filled the tank.

(The Nissan right after Dad bought it. Notice the red paint job. This is before the fender bender in the school parking lot--not my fault--and the resulting new paint job compliments of Dad and Uncle Lance.)

I have many wonderful memories with that truck, most with my best friend, Erin Taveira Glenn by my side. We took that truck places in the mountains we probably shouldn't have. We lost a muffler and about washed the entire vehicle crossing what looked like a stream. Looking back on the experience now, I think it was more like a river!

I repaired and repaired again the Nissan, making is last for over half of my life as my first choice of transportation. It has traveled with me from Southern Colorado to Northern Colorado, across Central California, and back to Colorado. I've strapped dogs, friends (more than the legal capacity), and car seats in the cab. I have push started that truck more times than I could possibly remember, including an entire semester when my husband, Eric and I were too broke to fix the alternator. (If you are going to CSU, I can gladly share with you where to park on campus with enough slope to push start a vehicle.)

This last winter, we again dumped money into the Nissan, Eric scratching his head at how stubborn his wife can be in refusing to get a reliable vehicle. How could I part with something that has been with me over 16 years? We made a deal: The truck had to last for a full year to justify the most recent repairs. We shook on it.

It lasted three months. Right into the coldest part of the winter. With mixed emotions, we drove to the car lot and purchased my first vehicle since turning sixteen. And I love it. I love that it has air conditioning and heating. I love that it starts when I turn the ignition, and that I don't have to push it. It doesn't whine and cough in the cold. It is completely reliable. I feel safe loading up the kids, and safe on the slickest of roads. It doesn't have the odor of wet dog mixed with who-knows-what-kind of air fresheners and cleaning agents. No scars or dents.

But I found that early in the morning when I jumped into the new vehicle, I missed the smell of old vinyl and dust, and the curiosity if today I would be pushing the thing down the hill, or flooding the engine to get it going. Strange a person can miss those tasks.

What did I do with the Nissan? Well, I sold it on Ebay. And it was hard to let it go. But sitting in my driveway was doing neither of us any good. And it couldn't have gone to anyone better. A kid's dad bought it. It was just like the one he had owned, and he wanted to fix it up for his son. He loves it, and for that I'm glad.

It was a sweet ride, taking me through the adventures of adolescents and into adulthood. And the new vehicle? Well, my seven-year-old son, Ethan has dubbed it his sweet ride. We'll see.

(Saying goodbye to the Nissan. Yes, same truck, different paint job. That will happen when you've owned a vehicle for more than a decade.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moonshine Murder Takes a Field Trip

A local homeschool group studied Moonshine Murder using the free teaching guide accompanying the novel. Their end-of-unit reward and last day of school celebration was a Moonshine Murder Field Trip. I was blessed to be able to lead the group, and would like to share some of our adventures with you.

We had a packed agenda, starting at 9am in Silverton, Colorado. Each student was given an agenda with questions to answer throughout the day.

Our first stop of the day was the Old Hundred Gold Mine tour where we rode in ore carts deep into the same mine the main character, Lenora explored in the novel.

We then panned for gold before heading to the base of the mine--where the old mill was located--to enjoy a sack lunch.

This is a view of the Old Hundred boarding house located 2,000 feet above the mill and main mine entrance.

The next stop on the tour was the Grand Imperial Hotel located downtown Silverton. The photograph above is a view of a hidden tunnel leading from the Grand Imperial Hotel to Blaire Street, several blocks east. Men would walk through the tunnel to Blaire Street where brothels were legal. It was also used as a place to smuggle moonshine during Prohibition. We were very lucky to see this tunnel. They don't give tours and they don't advertise that it exists. We all smiled very nicely to receive this honor!

Here is a picture of the two homeschool gals, Kaleena and Alexx, wearing flapper dresses they made in home economics class (how cool is that)!

After our private tour to the hidden tunnel, the group made their way over the mountains back to Durango where we met at the swinging bridge. Yes, the same swinging bridge mentioned in the novel. Here the students answered their questions and received their awards.

Kaleena and Alexx each earned a signed copy of Sirens, another 1920's YA Fiction, written by Janet Fox. They were thrilled!

The last stop of the day was at the mural of Jack Dempsey boxing at the Gem Theatre. Alexx, pictured here, chose boxing as her research topic, and was extra excited to see this amazing painting.

The Moonshine Murder Field Trip was a wonderful experience. This group was amazing and what fantastic homeschool parents, Gayle Early and Melissa Hackett, for going above and beyond in educating these young students. I hope to lead many more trips in the future, so parents, teachers, and grandparents, plan your trip soon!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Interview with Award Winning Author, Leslee Breene

This month I'm featuring an amazing writer and a fellow Women Writing the West member, Leslee Breene. Leslee's recent release, Journey to Sand Castle, is a tale of love and redemption. Leslee will be giving away a free copy of her novel to one of my blog visitors today. Be sure to leave a comment to qualify! Please enjoy meeting another Colorado author!

First of all, thank you, Erin, for inviting me to be on your awesome blog!

Thank you, Leslee, for stopping by. What are you currently reading?

I just finished Jeannette Walls’, Half Broke Horses, a true life novel. Told in the first-person voice of Ms. Walls’ no-nonsense, resourceful, and compelling grandmother Lily Smith who survived Texas tornadoes, droughts, floods and the Great Depression. A great read!

What/who has influenced your writing?
The Rocky Mtn. Fiction Writers and Colorado Romance Writers were the first groups that provided conferences and critique. In earlier years, I was influenced by authors of short fiction/novellas such as Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, western writers Jessamyn West and Annie Dillard. Later, romance authors LaVyrle Spencer, Laura Kinsale and Maggie Osborne mesmerized me.

What do you do beside write?

I have a passion for western music and support events like the annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering (some poetry, lots of music). The Arvada Old Town Pickin’ Parlor hosts a monthly concert with a continuous list of outstanding western, blue grass and dixieland singers and musicians that I find irresistible.

Do places you visit pop up in your writing? How so?

During leisure time away from the computer, I enjoy scouting for book settings with my husband in the Colorado Rockies. Some memorable research sites are Leadville, Georgetown, the Colorado Sand Dunes, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. And, yes, several of these historical settings have led to storylines, characters and published novels.

Here is a little bit about Leslee and her new release.

Leslee Breene, award-winning author of novel and short fiction, takes pride in being a Denver native. She lives beneath the Colorado Rockies with her husband and, hopefully soon, a beloved rescue canine.

Her newest release, JOURNEY TO SAND CASTLE (June 2013), is a contemporary inspirational romance set in the San Luis Valley next to the Sangre de Cristo mountains. "Leslee Breene confronts conflict, resistance, and a well-written story of love and redemption." ~ Heidi M.Thomas, WILLA Literary Award.

To read the first chapters go to:

Journey to Sand Castle Synopsis:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Tess Cameron, a divorced teacher, becomes the unwitting guardian of a bi-racial orphan. She is compelled to take the little girl to the Colorado San Luis Valley to meet her grandfather. Estranged from the child’s missing mother, he is unaware of the granddaughter’s existence and doesn’t want her.
Grant Wilder, a widowed outfitter, offers Tess temporary employment on his ranch. This gives Tess a reason to stay in the area and continue with her reuniting efforts. But can Tess’s wandering spirit find the faith to accept permanent responsibility of the child? Can she open her heart to love again in this land of amazing beauty and haunting secrets?

Other works by Leslee:

STARLIGHT RESCUE, (2011- Treble Heart Books) a western romance, is available in soft cover through, and is set beneath the Wyoming Big Horn Mountains on an animal rescue ranch. It received an RWA PASIC Book of Your Heart Award in the contemporary, single-title category.

HEARTS ON THE WIND (2008 - Five Star), a Denver bestselling historical romance received an “A” review in the Rocky Mountain News. LEADVILLE LADY (2006 - Five Star) received the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers PEN Award. The RWA Valley Forge Chapter awarded second place to her debut novel, FOXFIRE .

Ms. Breene’s short fiction has been published in various magazines, won national awards, and finaled in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 Women Writing the West LAURA (Ingalls Wilder) competitions.

Ms. Breene attended the University of Denver, received a Denver Fashion Group Scholarship, and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City. For several years, she worked as a newspaper fashion illustrator in San Francisco.

She is an active member of RWA, Colorado Romance Writers, and Women Writing the West and is available for Denver/suburban area library and group speaking engagements. She welcomes visitors at her website: and

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

And the Winner of the Slang Word Scavenger Hunt is.....

And the winner of the slang word scavenger hunt is....

Eunice Boeve! Congratulations. Ok, here are her definitions:

1. Moonshine
2. Coffin Varnish
3. Daddy
4. Screwy
5. Flat Tire
6. Speakeasy
7. Prohie
8. Dumb Dora
9. Baloney
10. Jalopy
11. Bearcat

1. smuggled or illicitly distilled liquor
2. inferior liquor
3. the best moonshine also known as catdaddy. also a girl's boyfriend, especially if rich
4. Crazy was used to tell a person to leave, you're screwy
5. a bore
6. a bar tha tsells illigal liquor
7. a guy on probationary status, or a new guy
8. a foolish, scatterbrained, or stupid woman
9. nonsense
10. a dumpy old car and old heap
11. one who fights or acts with force a firey girl also lesser name for a panda

Eunice has won a free signed copy of Moonshine Murder! Thank you to all the participants. Visit my website for your own signed copy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moonshine Murder Slang Word Scavenger Hunt

During the 1920's, many people used coded words to represent illegal activities. Out of this new slang words were created.

Last week I did a slang word scavenger hunt with a classroom using my novel, Moonshine Murder. The students had a list of words they had to define based on the context of the sentence. We had so much fun with the activity, that I decided to share it here.

So here's the rules: Define the words listed below using the comment section of the blog. If you get them all correct, then your name will go in the drawing for a free autographed copy of Moonshine Murder. Be sure to share this link with any young adults you may know. This is a lot of fun and great education as well! The contest will stay open a full week, winner to be announced the following Wednesday, May 29th, during my usual post.

Good luck and have fun!

1. Moonshine
2. Coffin Varnish
3. Daddy
4. Screwy
5. Flat Tire
6. Speakeasy
7. Prohie
8. Dumb Dora
9. Baloney
10. Jalopy
11. Bearcat

Like the activity? View my website for the teacher / parent guide for Moonshine Murder. Tons of great activities for young adults!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mancos Middle School Flash Fiction: Young Writers in Training

The authors: Caleb Yoder, Zack Hunter, and Courtney Firestone

Today, I'm sharing an exciting new post. In March I was fortunate enough to visit our local Middle School classroom in Mancos, Colorado. Ms. Farrar's publications class participated in a "share story" where students in groups of three wrote a portion of a flash fiction story. One wrote the beginning, another picked up the middle, and the third student scribed the resolution.

The winning story was promised to be published here and the authors each received a free copy of my novel, Moonshine Murder.

There were some talented young writers, and choosing the winning story was difficult. I am proud to present the winning story today. Enjoy.

Written by: Caleb Yoder, Zack Hunter, and Courtney Firestone

It was a misty day in the rain forest, and Tancredo was out chopping wood.
WHAP. The axe came down and splintered the log.
WHAP, again Tancredo chopped the wood, but on the third time, the axe slid through his cold fingers, hit the ground and disappeared.

Tancredo, knowing he would get in trouble if he didn’t retrieve the axe, climbed through the whole left by the axe. He got his footing and began to scale the wall. He was startled by a loud thud at the bottom of the pit. Tancredo thought to himself, that was the axe. How was he to climb that far?

He thought it over then climbed out. His father had ropes in the shed he could use to repel to the bottom. Tancredo tied the rope to his waist, and the other side to a tree, and began to lower himself down the pit.

Tancredo was weary as he lowered himself and surprised at how far he had gone down without touching the bottom. He had to repeatedly untie the ropes, lowering himself down more each time. When he finally did reach the bottom he could just barely touch the bottom with his feet.

Tancredo started to feel around the dark, deep hole. He tripped over something hard, but before he could pick it up, he heard a soft crunch. Tancredo knew that sound, but couldn’t remember from where. He felt what he stepped on and recognized the paper soft crackle in his hands. It was a snake skin, shed off the body, and it was big.

Tancredo heard the snake slither and covered his mouth. He couldn’t move, stuck by fear and the memory of a snake biting his brother. He tried to climb up the slope but couldn’t find a good place to grip.

At last he knew what to do. He had to face his fears. It was the only way. He grabbed the axe and chopped off the snake’s head.
As he climbed up the slope all the way to the surface, he knew that he no longer feared the snake.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writing Inspirations

I checked on the bees today. The spring weather has had me itching for the smell of cut green grass and the zinging of bees.

As I popped the cover to my hive I ached with a great yearning for Granddaddy to be by my side. This was his hive and his knowledge. He gave this freely and with no strings attached. I smiled to myself as I imagined his smirk behind the bee veil as he told the story of the rogue bee caught in his suit.

I pulled out the first frame and checked the bees, greeting them as friends after a long absence. They scurried across the comb, protecting their queen and their honey stores.

As I placed the cover back on the hive body and began my treck from the bee yard, I couldn't help but think of inspiration.

(Another inspiration, my son Ethan playing beekeeper in my suit)

Most aspects of writing are earned from hard work--inspiration is a gift. This gift is what makes each writer genuine. No other person will experience life the same. Some inspirations come in the form of places, or experiences, or individuals.

Granddaddy was a source of inspiration in his love of books, his knowledge of the world around him, and kindness in the grip of his embrace.

(My Granddaddy, Walter Tycksen, and me getting ready to check the bees)

He shared much of his life with me. Including the whisper of a legend that is molding into my next novel.

What or who is your inspiration?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Extra Extra Read All About It!

Copyright Center of Southwest Studies,Fort Lewis College

In researching Moonshine Murder, I ran across some fantastic articles in the Durango Evening Herald. For the next couple posts, I would like to share the best quotes and photography. Some are quite comical.

This morning, John Contoleon was arraigned before Judge Draper on the charge of a violation of the liquor laws. He was defended by Attorney Barry Sullivan while the case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ja. Noland, Jr., assisted by D.A. W. Bruce
Jacobson. The officers are said to have found about a pint and a half of liquor secreted in the water reservoir of the toilet. Contoleon denied the violation. After the evidence had been
introduced Judge Draper announced that he would take the case
under advisement and would render his decision tomorrow morning.
Durango Evening Herald
February 18, 1925

Attorney Barry Sullivan scored a victory in Judge Draper’s court this morning when his client John Contoleon was acquitted of the charge of having violated the liquor laws.
Durango Evening Herald
February 19, 1925

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Women's Temperance Movement and Prohibition

Nineteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

The temperance movement, beginning in 1893, was greatly influenced by some women who believed strongly in Prohibition. One such woman was Carrie Nation. She was married to an alcoholic and left him. Believing she was given a vision, she destroyed many saloons with an ax. The prohibition law was passed by Congress in December 1917. Women didn’t have the right to vote for two more years, though many claimed women greatly influenced the prohibition law. Slowly, the nation realized the injustice against women in denying them the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920--too late to vote for the Eighteenth Amendment, but early enough to vote for the next President, Hubert Hoover, who was for Prohibition.

The “Ladies of Logan” sing hymns in front of a bar in support of the temperance movement.
Copyright State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sirens: Mobsters, Molls, and More

This month I'm featuring an amazing writer and a fellow Women Writing the West member, Janet Fox. Janet's recent release, Sirens, takes place in New York, 1925. Earlier this month, I quoted a piece from her book referring to 1920's actress, Clara Bow.

Josephine Winter, seventeen, is sent to live with relatives in New York City after her bootlegging father receives a threat, but bookish Jo harbors her own secrets. She finds friendship with lively Louise O’Keefe and romance with sweet jazz musician Charlie. But haunted by the spirit of her missing brother, Jo uncovers a nest of family lies that threaten everyone she loves, and Lou, in the thrall of the dangerous, seductive gangster Daniel Connor, is both Jo’s best friend and potential enemy. As Jo unlocks dark mysteries and Lou’s eyes are opened, the girls’ treacherous paths intertwine. Jo and Lou together will have to stand up to Connor in order to find their hearts and hang onto their souls in the “decade of decadence.”

Janet, congratulations on your novel! Tell us where the idea and inspiration came for this book.

Thanks so much, Erin!

SIRENS is a result of my response to a request from my publisher to set a novel in the 1920s. I don’t always say “yes”, but this time it was easy – I’ve always been fascinated by the Roaring Twenties and was anxious to research.

When I start a new novel I try to look for some twist – something different – that will anchor my plot, and the real inspiration for this story came one evening as I was listening to a radio discussion about the magician Howard Thurston and the Spiritualism movement of the 20s. I’m drawn to questions about the unknown, and that seemed like a perfect way to explore something richer about what went on during the 20s, something other than gangsters and Prohibition and flappers.

Why did you decide to write for young adult readers?

Call it a case of arrested development: my mindset resides in those years. These are the books I like reading, this is the age group I feel most aligned with. I remember all too vividly what it felt like to sit alone at the lunch table, or to suffer a broken heart. So I love writing about kids feeling the same things (even in a different era) because, maybe, it’s my way of changing my own past, rewriting my personal history.

How much of the book is realistic?

Well, none of it in the sense that nothing is based on history except the peripheral things like Thurston and the Algonquin Round Table and of course the city of New York. But my characters, including the gangster Danny Connor, are entirely fictitious. But plausible.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been a writer since 3rd grade! Seriously, my first poem was published in my hometown newspaper when I was in 3rd grade, and that did it for me. Ever since I’ve made it my goal to write and publish.

Who/what motivates you to write?

It’s kind of like breathing for me. I can’t live without writing. Or maybe it’s like exercising – you know when you haven’t exercised for a few days and you begin to feel like a schlump, all logy and tired and crabby? That’s how I feel when I don’t write. Like a part of me is missing. I have to go into that mindless and vast space or I would just wither up and die.

Are there any writers (living or dead) that have influenced you?

Almost too many to mention! Every time I pick up something new I’m influenced. I love reading new work and I try to keep current. Suzanne Collins, MT Anderson, Lauren Oliver, Libba Bray...I could make a very long list. I love reading literary, high quality writing, and I favor either historical or fantasy.

What do you find particularly challenging in writing?

If I don’t have a good idea where my plot is going from the beginning I have a much harder time of it. Plotting is my weakness. I’m a pantser, and I like to follow my instincts as I write. So I need to have at least an idea where I’ll end up – a final scene that wraps it all up. Then I can drive for that scene.

But without that point in my line of sight, it can be a real struggle. I’ve read every plotting craft book on the market.

Do you have advice for beginning writers?

Be persistent, and keep working at the craft. Read constantly. Know that you will feel like your work is total bunk, but keep going and believe in your vision. And always write from the heart.

Are you working on another project?

Several! At the moment I have a YA science fiction project going, and two middle grade fantasies. Someone where down the road I have an idea for one more historical YA, but I want to stretch and try some new things at the moment.

Where is the book available?

Everywhere. (Publisher: Speak/Penguin Group, 2012, ISBN 978-0-14-242430-8)

Janet Fox is the author of award-winning books for children and young adults. FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Young Readers 2010), set in Yellowstone National Park in 1904, is a YALSA Best Fiction for YA nominee and an Amelia Bloomer List pick, 2011. FORGIVEN (Speak 2011), set in 1906 San Francisco during the great earthquake, is a Junior Library Guild selection 2011, and a 2012 WILLA Literary Awards Finalist. Her most recent novel, SIRENS (Speak 2012), is set in 1925 New York and is told from alternating points of view of two girls who must confront a gangster and uncover dark secrets. Janet is a former high school English teacher and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults in 2010 (Vermont College of Fine Arts). Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana but you can also find her at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clara Bow: A 1920's Actress

In the 1920's going to the movies was the thing to do. Approximately half the U.S. population attended movies weekly. And one of the most famous 1920's actresses was Clara Bow, who starred in mostly silent films.

Born in the slums of New York and rising to stardom, Bow became the idea of the flapper during the roaring twenties. It was her spunky spirit and her willingness to defy convention that gave her this title.

Copyright MovieGoods

With a star cast including Clara Bow, a silent movie filmed in the southwest corner of Colorado certainly drew attention as is demonstrated in this article of the 1925 Durango Evening Herald:


The “Scarlet West” the picture which was made at Dolores, Colo., was originally called the “Pony Express” or “The birth of the West” but was changed to “The Scarlet West” by the First National, one of the largest distributors in the world. The picture depicts the pioneer days of ’59 and ’61 and was sponsored and financed by the Colorado Manufacturers and Merchants association. This stupendous and dramatic film with scenes that vividly portray early western life was shown recently to capacity attendance at the Colorado theatre in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Salt Lake City, Ogden and other cities have also contracted for this film. It is understood that it will be shown in Durango in the near future.

Dolores was selected as the ideal location for the production of such a picture and Mr. Carroll the producer was successful in securing an all star cast from Hollywood to take leading parts in “what we believe to be on of the greatest outdoor moving pictures ever filmed.” Notable amongst these actors and actresses are Robert Frazer, Clara Bow, Robert Edeson, Walter McGrail, Helen Ferguson, Gaston Glass, Johnny Walker, Ruth Stonehouse, Martha Francis and Florence Crawford. Several well known San Juan basin residents are also shown in the picture.

Durango Evening Herald
Sat. August 15, 1925

With news like this, I knew I needed to include a little bit of Clara Bow in my 1925 Historical Fiction, Moonshine Murder. Below is a scene from the novel:

Lenora glanced back. Several feet away, Rusty watched.
“Come on.” The officer prodded her in the back.
She swiveled around and tramped along beside him to his idling car and stepped onto the running board, then into the leather backseat. The officer cranked the gears and they drove off.
“I’m with Mr. Strickson,” she said.
“Sure, and I’m dating Clara Bow.” He slapped his chubby hand on the steering wheel.
Lenora tugged against her handcuffs. If she could just reach the door handle, maybe she could jump.
“People have died bailing out of moving vehicles.” The officer studied her in the rearview mirror.
“Better than your company.” She glared at the back of his balding head.
The officer snorted. Lenora slouched back in the seat.

Moonshine Murder isn't the only novel that cites Clara Bow. Janet Fox, in her newly released Young Adult Historical Fiction novel, Sirens, often makes references of the famous Clara Bow. Jo Winter, the main character in Sirens, "could've been a star. Another Clara Bow. She had the looks for it. And the smarts."

To learn more about Moonshine Murder visit my website. And come back and visit in a couple weeks to learn more about Janet Fox, author of Sirens.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Moonshine Murder

This Friday, January 11, I will be a guest blogger over at a fellow Women Writing the West member's page. Heidi Thomas is published by Treble Heart Books as well, and won the WILLA Literary Award for her YA novel, Follow the Dream.

Stop by and find out a little bit more about Moonshine Murder and my writing routine.