Friday, June 26, 2009

Character Notes: Carl Owen

Carl is the main protagonist of my novel, The Man from Shenandoah, so I'll continue this series with him. The photos I put on his note card are of Bruce Boxleitner. He was probably too old to play Carl in a movie at that time, but now I could see him playing Rod.

Carl Owen
Carl is tall, 5-11 or 6 feet, with blond hair, blue eyes, and when he doesn't shave, grows a red beard. He is nice-looking, with a strong, rangy build that has been thinned down by hard riding and short rations while in John Mosby's Rangers. He has matured through his war experiences & thinks he takes responsibility well. Has no vanity, returns from war hardened and much quieter than the pre-war Carl. Still has a sense of humor, but it is hidden, repressed by his initial anger against Phil Sheridan & his burning tactics, then his subsequent anger at his father for treating him like a 16 year old while at the same time arranging his betrothal to a girl he does not care much for.

How do you envision Carl Owen?

Summer Treasure Hunt still going on

If you're not going here everyday to check whether or not you won that day's prize (you DID enter, yes?), please reconsider.

My Day is June 30, so go check out what clue you need to dig for and the neat prize you can claim if you win.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Character Notes: Roderick Owen

For years, I kept the original note cards I made for my first novel's characters. Although the major characters rated 4- x 6-inch cards, some of the minor characters only got 3- x 5-inch cards. I'm thinking I ran out of the larger ones, which were the first ones made. The lesser characters' notes were typed up as they were created in the writing of the novel. All the cards are typed with a typewriter I haven't owned for probably more than twenty years. I came across the cards about three years ago, to my vast delight. I thought they'd been tossed out when I moved.

Here's the note card I wrote about Roderick Owen. I'm going to write it out just as I originally typed it, run-on sentences and all. It's sort of a stream-of-consciousness, creating-on-the-spot note. Interesting to see some old conventions, like the apostrophe after the contraction of "though".

Roderick Owen
is a tall man, with med bl graying hair + full beard throughout story, craggy face, a strong man, he's a stockman, he's worked with dairy cattle in the east, he has blue eyes, and he is tough, he's used to command, he's the head of his household, what he says goes, even with his adult sons. The years have filled out his once slender build with muscle, but he is not fat. He served with Ashby, then with Rosser in the regular Cavalry. He also grew wheat and corn on his farm outside Mount Jackson, Shenandoah Cty, VA. He supported states rights, and thus, the South, tho' he was not a slave-holder. Loves Virginia, but sees hard times ahead. Not a coward, he has gained a sense of adventure from his wartime experiences, and hopes to make a better life in the west.

On the other side of the card I have a photo of actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., with an overlay I made of a clear film, upon which I penciled a full beard. A second photo is of Charlton Heston. Below the photos I wrote by hand:

2 items in code: Build an empire, and maintain family solidarity (supports the empire)

In your opinion, did Rod Owen come across in The Man from Shenandoah and Ride to Raton according to my original vision, or somehow else? How did you envision him?

More Reviews of Trail of Storms

Three new reviews of Trail of Storms have appeared recently.

It's so gratifying that reviewers are mentioning my work in such glowing terms. It warms the cockles of this writer's heart. Thank you, Teri, Kersten, and Liz!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Evil Flu

Hmm, I thought I had recovered from my bout with flu a week ago, but something's not quite right yet, as evidenced by the recurrence of upchucking last night. Not a pretty event. Maybe a nap will cure all?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Evening With My Characters, Part II

(Originally posted at Writer in the Pines on July 30, 2008)

* I run back to my own trailer for a couple of family-size microwave entrees and a bag of frozen vegetables as I wait for the men to clean up, musing on their appearance in my time. Rulon seems to have recovered all the strength he lost from the effects of his grievous war wounds. He's filled out, his chest regaining its former bulk. Carl still limps. I wonder if that will be permanent, given the awful damage to his left leg from the fight with the Acosta gang. Clay is taller than I remember. Ranch work evidently agrees with him.

Arriving back at the spare trailer, I set the microwave to nuke the meals, and bring out a pot for the Italian-style veggies. These guys have probably never seen zucchini, I remind myself as I fill the pot and set it on the stove. The shower runs in the background. I guess the novelty of an indoor waterfall won out over a sit-down bath.

I stare out into the night through the kitchen window, wondering about the men's brother, James. When I last left him--in published form, that is--he was in a world of hurt, estranged and away from the family, grieving over the loss of someone he'd cared a great deal for. I've been there, and my heart breaks for him.

Rulon comes down the hall in stocking feet, his dark hair slicked back, still damp from his shower. I invite him to sit, and he does so, pulling on his boots. I lean back against the counter.

ME: Tell me how you came here. It's pretty amazing to see you all.

RULON (settling in his chair): It was mighty amazing, the three of us riding out to check on the cattle, and seeing a rainbow arched through the sky, just ahead of us. We didn't think nothing of it. Rainbows generally fade back as you approach them. This one, though, it just stood it's ground, and we passed right under. I knew right off something wondrous had occurred.

ME: Why?

RULON: Oh ma'am, uh, Mom, everything was different. We was in a piney forest, for one thing. I found a trail, and we followed it a ways.

ME (breaking in): You always were the best tracker out of your brothers.

RULON (smiles at the compliment): Thank you. I'm teaching 'em some of the tricks.

ME: Sorry I interrupted. Go on.

RULON: We came to a clearing, and the edge of a cliff. Mom, the view was outstanding. Outstanding.

ME: It is indeed. You were on the Mogollon Rim.

RULON: We knew we was out of our time when we saw some of those cars and trucks you explained about. It looked like folks were fixin' to camp out. (He furrows his brow in puzzlement)

ME: Folks do that for recreation nowadays.

RULON: Recreation?

ME (sweeping my hand around the kitchen): All these inventions have given us time beyond what we spend working for a living. Most people don't have animals to tend anymore, so they can get away from their homes and go have fun.

RULON: Can't they have fun at home?

ME (laughing): You'd think so, wouldn't you? The days of gathering around the piano in the parlor for fun are long gone.

RULON: We didn't have a piano, but growing up, we'd sing hymns and the old songs in the parlor, like you said. James had the sweetest voice of all. (Rulon passes his hand over his mouth, and I know he's thinking of his absent brother)

ME: You miss him?

RULON: Him bein' gone feels like a burning fire eating away in my chest. (He slumps forward, his hands tightly gripped between his knees. His voice is low and muffled.) Pa was wrong in the way he treated James. He knows it now. Ma grieves something fierce that her boy is gone.

ME (shaking my head): He's not dead. I wish I could tell you about him. I can't.

RULON (raising his head and sitting up straight again): I reckon you can't. It helps to know he ain't dead. Thanks for that much knowledge.

ME: I don't know if you'll remember talking to me once you go back home. I hope you'll hold on to some measure of comfort.

RULON: I dearly hope so.

ME (stirring the vegetables): Tell me more about your coming here.

RULON: Well, we decided to make camp, since the clouds and thunder come up and we reckoned it would rain soon. We was unpacking our gear when along came a little red car, or maybe it was a covered truck? It was going the other way from all the camping folks, so Carl hailed them and asked if perhaps they had an acquaintance with you. We was mighty pleased to learn Mr. McCabe and Mr. Rains are your neighbors. They said they'd caught themselves as many fish as the law allowed, and since it was fixin' to rain, they was headed home. They said they'd carry a message to you.

ME: I was pretty floored to get the news that you were here.

RULON: Floored?

ME: Amazed.

RULON: Oh. They gave us directions on how to get down the right trails and find you. When they left, the rain come on plenty strong. We packed up and took out after them. I tell you, it was an adventure dodging all the vehicles when we got down to the macadamized road.

ME (guffawing): I'll bet! We call that a highway. It's a turnpike for our motorized vehicles. I imagine it was slick with the rain. I would have liked to see the faces of some of those drivers.

RULON: No you wouldn't. They was plumb angry. Said some mighty foul things, too. Some I didn't even understand. And then they would do this--

ME: Don't show me! I can imagine. Some folks are just plain rude. In their defense, they don't see many horsemen coming down that steep grade. Some of the turns can make a strong man blanch, and coming upon a horse in the road during a cloudburst-- (I laugh again, shaking my head)

RULON (frowning): Once we saw the way of things, we tried to keep to the side and out of their way.

ME (recovering my voice): I'll bet!

Carl and Clay come into the kitchen. I dish up the food and they sit around the table, exclaiming over the zucchini and red peppers and how short a time it took for me to prepare their food. They wait for me to sit down, then Rulon says a short blessing, and the men get down to the business of eating.

*This is a work of fiction. I don't really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they passed under the rainbow to visit me in my own place and time. To order my novels, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, visit my website at

An Evening With My Characters

(Originally posted at Writer in the Pines on July 28, 2008)

I found out that some of my characters were camping out on the Rim. Because it was so rainy, I invited them to ride down into the hamlet where I live and take advantage of the empty mobile home I own as a much drier sleeping arrangement. They agreed, and the first problem I had was finding a place to put up the horses for the night. After I made a few telephone calls, a neighbor let the men stake out their animals in her orchard. I ferried saddles and gear and men back to the trailer, and introduced them further into the 21st Century.

ME: Here we are. Let me unlock the door and show you around.

CLAY OWEN: The door's made of glass?

ME: It's called an Arcadia door, and it slides open.

(RULON OWEN affectionately ruffles his younger brother's hair): Keep your mouth shut, little brother, or you'll collect a heap of flies. I 'spect that won't be the only wonder you're gonna see.

ME: A lot of things will seem strange. You've leaped past quite a few years.

CARL OWEN: That's so, ma'am. After we passed under the rainbow, we noticed a passel of oddments, like that vehicle you use. We saw some like yours, and others with an open bed in the back.

ME: Mine is called an automobile. Or a car. It's for getting people around, like a buggy or a coach. Those others you saw are trucks. They're best for carrying gear or goods. (I pause and look at my characters standing around the living room, dripping on the rug.) It's odd to hear you call me "ma'am."

RULON: We took a vote, ma'am. We know you're by way of being our "mother," but it don't seem fittin' to call you "Ma." We have a fine ma already. Well, you know that. You made her up.

ME: Yes, years ago. (I gesture around.) This is called a living room. Sort of a parlor. That's the kitchen, but the stove is very different than any you've seen. I'll show you how to work it later. (I shepherd them through the house.) This is the bathroom. It's more than an indoor privy. It's also a washroom. (I turn the faucet on, then off.) You wash your hands here. This tap turns on the cold water, and this one is for hot.

CARL: Hot water?

ME: Yes, there are taps like these in the kitchen, too. I have sort of a boiler outside that heats up the water. Then it's piped in to the taps. (I turn around and indicate the bathtub.) No buckets here, folks. Hot water on tap for your baths.

(CARL bumps Clay's arm): You're overdue.

CLAY (bumping back): Rulon's the oldest. He always says he gets the tub first.

ME: Um, you don't all need to use the same water. See this little hole? And this lever? (I work the lever.) The water goes down into a big pipe that takes it away down yonder. When each of you is finished, you can drain your water and the next man can start fresh. Or you can bathe in the waterfall.

CARL: Out on the creek?

ME: It's an indoor waterfall. (I demonstrate the shower, and the men make appropriate sounds of disbelief.) We call it a shower.

RULON: All these things are miracles to us, ma'am. What's this white chair for?

ME: That's the privy part. (I lift the lid.) We call it a toilet. You answer Nature's call here, then flush it away with this lever. If you're not going to sit, lift the seat and (I feel my cheeks beginning to burn) aim low. Here's the toilet paper.

(CLAY stoops over to examine it): It's a whole roll of soft paper, Rule. (He tugs, and TP unrolls onto the floor.) Oh, sorry, ma'am!

ME (laughing): Just wind it back up, Clay. It comes apart when you need to use it for cleaning up after yourself.

CLAY: Comes apart?

ME: Look at it. It's perforated into squares. Perforated means not quite cut apart. You hold here and pull here, and there you have a square or two. (I hold up two sections of TP.)

(CLAY's face is still red as he winds the TP back on the holder): Thanks for the instruction, ma'am.

ME (looking after RULON and CARL, who have wandered on into the bedroom): It's small, but it's cozy.

RULON: Ma'am, I reckon we all can sleep in that there bed.

ME: I thought you could spread your bedrolls out in the Arizona room, but if you prefer . . .

CARL: We're used to the ground, ma'am, but a bed! We ain't seen such a nice puffy one before.

ME: The house is yours until you need to go back. Do what you want. Except, I really am uncomfortable being called "ma'am." I understand your feelings about not calling me "Ma." You can keep that for Julia. How about calling me "Mom"?

RULON (tries it out): Mom. Mom. What's it mean . . . Mom?

ME: It's short for Mommy! I guess that's not a Southern form of address.

CARL: We use Mama and Ma, or Meemah, ma'am--Mom.

CLAY: I like it.

ME: It's better than calling me "Marsha."

RULON (nods): Yes ma'am, that's not fittin', ma'am, I mean, Mom.

ME: Let's go see the Arizona Room.

CLAY: Why's it called that?

ME: I believe it's because of all the glass to let the sunshine in. Folks think Arizona is hot everywhere, but that's not true. Up here in the forest, the sunlight is welcome.

CARL (looking around): Where's the fireplace, Mom? We can't build a campfire on this purty rug.

ME: You won't need a fire. You'll be warm here.

CARL: We need to cook our supper.

ME: I'll show you how to operate the stove. (We go back into the kitchen and I turn a knob.) This fire comes from piped-in gas. You can make the fire hotter by turning the knob a bit more. Just make sure you turn it off when you've finished cooking!

RULON: Much obliged, ma--Mom. This is surely a wonder!

ME: It is. Modern conveniences have come a long way since your era. (I look around.) I think that's all you need to know for now. There are clean towels in the cupboard in the bathroom. Get cleaned up and I'll wait for you in the parlor.


*This is a work of fiction. I don't really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they passed under the rainbow to visit me in my own place and time. To order my novels, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, visit my website at

Those Crazy Characters

Welcome to the blog where I let the characters from my novels talk up a storm. I'm sure they will drop in from time to time to entertain you with tidbits about themselves and news of what's happening in their world.

Last year I had a chance to talk with some of those characters after they camped out on the Mogollon Rim, and I'll bring those posts over here from my "Writer in the Pines" blog. Then I'll add new posts as the voices in my head dictate.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interview at CraziBeautifulWomen

Lori Nawyn did a beautiful interview with me that has been posted on the Girlfriend to Girlfriend section of the CraziBeautifulWomen website. I hope you'll go take a look.

I updated the WIP Report. I found I'm at about 15,000 words! Now to go for the next 15K or so.

Although I've been down with the flu, I'm pretty much recovered now, and gearing up again into promoting Trail of Storms. The novel has been getting very good reviews, often from people who didn't ever think they would enjoy reading a historical novel set in the Old West.

Have you ever read a book in a genre you don't usually try? Are you open to the idea of expanding your reading universe, or do you tend to stick with one or two favorite genres?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weirded Out and Disappointed

Some of you know I've been under the weather the past few days. I'm slowly regaining strength, but it's been a weird weekend.

Not only is it weird to lose several days to illness, but I recently read a book that disturbed me. Here's the thing. The fact that this book was published by any credible publisher is what threw me for a loop. It was poorly written, had little plot, mis-used words right and left, and the formatting of the print edition was abominable (not the author's fault). Yet, at the time the book was published (and it wasn't the author's first), the author was said to be one of the publisher's best-selling authors.

At first I thought the publisher must be a boutique or hobby publisher, and that may still be the case since they're a small publisher, but today they seem to have a stable of authors in excess of seventy, and publish many titles, both in print and e-book formats, so I doubt it's just one person using multiple names to self-publish.

Beyond the disappointment that I paid good money for this sadly produced book, was my disappointment in the crux of the content: sex after alcohol, outside of marriage. This occurred after the heroine insisted that she wasn't the kind of girl who indulged in "causal" sex (used not once, but several times--where was that highly lauded editor?), and indeed, was a virgin, but fell happily into bed with the drunk hero because she promised she would do so to prevent a scene that might compromise his future.


My greatest disappointment, though, is that a person purporting to be of Christian faith would write such trash. Sorry, I won't be sampling the author's subsequent efforts.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

REMINDER: Summer Treasure Hunt continues

If you're not going here everyday to check whether or not you won that day's prize (you DID enter, yes?), please reconsider.

My Day is June 30, so go check out what clue you need to dig for and the neat prize you can claim if you win.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Giveaway on Anne Bradshaw's blog

This week, Canadian author Julie Coulter Bellon is giving away a signed copy of her international suspense novel, All’s Fair on Anne Bradshaw's blog. The contest ends Wednesday, June 17.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Brief Book Review: Candle of the Wicked

Candle of the Wicked

Candle of the Wicked by Manly Wade Wellman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book from 1960 was an interesting tale formed from several stories and legends about post-Civil War days in Kansas that the author picked up while he was newspapering in the area. The writing was crisp, the action was active, and the story problem was sufficiently problematical. I gave the book only four stars out of five because of the outcome, which was a bit dark for my taste. However, I'm re-reading sections of it for the flavor and to note down several delicious phrases that I want to treasure.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

And how cool is YOUR June?

Believe it or not, I spent a few moments looking for a light sweater just before I sat down to write this blog post. May was unseasonably cool, with an amount of rain showers we don't often see in that month, and June continues the cooler trend. It's so cool that I still haven't put away my electric blanket. It can be quite a comfort on chilly nights.

I'm hearing of snowfall in Colorado and Montana, even eastern Washington. Are you seeing weather anomolies in your area? Please describe what's going on in your part of the world.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Comment Contest Winner

Carolyn Murphy is the winner of Kersten Campbell's Confessions of a Completely In*sane Mother. Congratulations, Carolyn! I'll get the book in the mail to you
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