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