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.