Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Contemplation with Lizard

by Amy Hale Auker

This morning I took a shovel and a roll of toilet paper and allowed the cabin door to slam behind me, a song that is peculiar to this door, this cabin, this home. Home is what I contemplate as I walk away with my shovel. If I lived here full time, would I go each morning to the same place so as to minimize my impact, my contribution to the soil, or would I try to spread it around so as to distribute the impact over a big area? Not everyone contemplates the impact of their morning soil, but they should. 

We are creatures of habit and I am walking to a place I've been before--soft sandy soil, handy big rocks for leaning the shovel, handy small rocks for piling, shade. My contemplation is interrupted when I see a macabre sight at my feet.

Macabre--adjective and noun. 

A dead lizard lying on his back, spread-eagled as if he'd been crucified there in the dirt, an eerie human quality to his blue-bellied appearance. 

Two arms, two legs with knees, tilted head and jaw, vulnerable torso--only his elegant tail marks him as not of my same family. Only, some days I could swear I have a tail. A phantom appendage that swishes behind me as I walk.

Three ants have already discovered the scene of death--his ended walk upon the desert is their morning treasure, too big to drag back to a hill. 

So now I am no longer contemplating waste and impact but death and tails and art. I want to end this morning routine and go back through the noisy door for my camera. If I photograph the dead lizard--posed as he is in the sand, plus ants--is it art or is it macabre? Is it a morbid documentation not fit for Instagram? I should spare other eyes and sensibilities the Amy-mind. 

Or is it art--a fascination with what will be gone by midday into the cycle of heat and hunger and janitorial sustainability? Or is it one organism's contemplation of what is nasty, unacceptable, gross, unclean, sad, negative, to be avoided, voided? 

A friend mentioned, "Many writers sit over in the corner of life, taking notes, rather than being active participants." Since I sometimes write reviews, I replied, "Then I don't want to read those books."

My fellow writers, I hope for you a day job that feeds your passion, even if it keeps you a little hungry…One that allows you to hike trails and see the sunrise if you crave the out-of-doors, one that allows for hours of fascinating conversation if your pen bleeds human nature, one that smells of old books and wood floors if you lean toward antiquity and melancholy, one that takes you to exotic beaches juxtaposed with poverty if you need adventure and orange starfish. I hope that it lends itself to contemplation--those long stretches of time when a writer is living life and aching for a pen, fermenting old experiences down beneath the new. A job that allows for passionate reflection of art and excrement.
Photo by Kathy McCraine

Amy Hale Auker cowboys on a ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona. Her day job feeds her writing. She is the author of 2012 WILLA-award winner, Rightful Place, and two novels, Winter of Beauty and The Story Is the Thing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fun Art of Failure

by Judith Grout

Has anyone else noticed that only successful writers boast about failure? Once they become wealthy, famous, and on every best-seller list, they go on and on about how enriching it was to have their former writing efforts fall flat.

From where I sit, I think success in the book publishing arena needs a healthy dash of old-fashioned luck – and I don’t mean a little luck – a boatload of it. Successful writers are risky people with important connections who got lucky - so you hear about them. But the ones who went flopped? They’re forgotten.

Writing should be easy – especially the fictional element. But no matter how accomplished you are, putting your personal inner thoughts, misspellings, punctuation goofs, etc., out there is a humbling experience. Messing up in full view of others causes no small amount of angst. Even the simple format of a Facebook statement is part of history once you hit that unforgiving “enter” key. After that, it’s too late to retrieve and fix.

In other professions, science and math for instance, where things should be concrete, most of that is guesswork too. Those guys guess about all sorts of stuff. They put a theory out there and are jubilant if they are even half right.

So let’s hear it for mistakes: they are mess-up-do-overs that are frequent, easily overlooked or forgiven, and necessary to move to the next level. They are the Rubik Cube stuck in hopeless disarray; the one step in the Rube Goldberg chain-reaction that was an “oops.” So you take another chance. You don’t find that elusive agent. You can’t convince that stubborn publisher of your talents. Still, you put your stuff out there and have your own private dance party for yourself. Persistence in writing is what gets you up in the morning, gives you a reason to dispense with the vagaries of life to get on to the creative part, and keeps what is magical inside alive.

BIO: During my formative career years, my left brain launched me into the fun and fact-filled science of healthcare. I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Science. I wallowed in assorted body fluids using analytical methods such as chemistry, hematology, microbiology (my fav), among others in assorted locations across this great land. The paychecks were regular (although at times Spartan.) But I stuck to the professional grind for 40+ years, accumulated my nest egg, and retired.

Now I’ve started my second career using a liberated right brain, writing, running the gamut from freelancing to fiction. I published my debut novel, Chasing the Strawberry Moon, Hitchhiking (for girls) in February of 2014. Reading it will scratch that itch you’ve had yearning to know more about 1939, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and a looming World War II. Hope to see you in the pages.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July Member News


Arletta Dawdy, Rose of Sharon. Orphaned, lost and in need of family, Rose of Sharon finds hope only to lose it again with the mental illness of her new mother, attempted murder, an inter-racial love affair and abandonment; Rose’s paranormal and writing gifts set her apart.

Roni McFadden, second edition of The Longest Trail with additional text, and full-color photos. “Ride along with young Roni as she discovers the lessons of the ancient spirits of mountains, deserts and horses – a wonderful coming-of-age tale in a magnificent setting.” 

Deanna Dickinson McCall, Rough Patches, a new collection of short fiction centered on women in the historical and contemporary American West. Shaped by challenging circumstances as well as the equally demanding landscapes they inhabit, her characters exhibit a brand of strength instantly recognizable to readers fortunate enough to know true "women of the West." Against long odds, McCall's protagonists courageously stare down adversity - sexism, illness and the unimaginable dangers of both the frontier era and modern-day ranch country. 

Evelyn Searle Hess, Building a Better Nest tracks the building of our first house after sixteen years of modified camping, as it explores ways to live lightly, to honor wildlife habitat, and to connect with and respect the local and world community. I probe the lives of my ancestors, and lessons of history, economics and Buddhist thought for clues of how best to live in a time of economic inequality and environmental crises. Released June 1, Building a Better Nest can be ordered online or by mail from Chicago Distribution Center, 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago ILL, 60628 / FAX: 800-621-8476 or in person from your favorite independent book seller.


Several of our members have been nominated as finalists in the Will Rogers Medallion Award, which recognizes excellence in Western literature and media.  The awards ceremony will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, on October 24.

B.J. Scott, The Rail Queen, is a finalist in the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Awards. Montana, 1884. Seventeen-year old schoolgirl Ryka Sundstrom dreams of doing what no girl ever has—build a railroad. The Rail Queen weaves through the awakening of the American railroad as it knits together the strands of empire from Atlantic to Pacific—even as every mile of new track speeds the vanishing of the American frontier, and of the brief age when anything was possible—even for a young schoolgirl with an extraordinary dream. The Rail Queen is the fifth in the Tales of Strong Women series of historical novels by B J Scott.  

Alethea Williams, Wallsfor the Wind was nominated for the Will Rogers Medallion for (Western) romance. Can an angel survive Hell on Wheels? Kit Calhoun leaves New York City with a train car full of foundlings from the Immigrant Children’s Home. Her assignment is to sever ties, so she has no idea of the tangled threads of connection that await her in Dakota Territory. First is what to do with the leftover children who simply refuse placement. Second is handsome Patrick Kelley, continually managing to distract Kit from her task. Third is the demented gambler who fastens deadly attention on Kit and keeps turning up everywhere from Julesburg to Cheyenne.
Forced to leave behind everything familiar, is it possible for a company of New York City castoffs to learn to fight for their hopes in the raw new American West?

Cynthia Leal Massey, author of Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier, is a finalist for the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Nonfiction. A story of the murder of Texas Ranger John Green by Cesario Menchaca, one of three Rangers of Mexican descent under Green’s command. Immediately word spread that the killing may have been the botched outcome of a contract taken out on Menchaca’s life by the notorious Gabriel Marnoch, a local naturalist who had run up against the law himself. But was it?

Nancy Oswald, Trouble on the Tracks (Filter Press), a partner book to Rescue at Poverty Gulch, a Ruby and Maude Adventure set in Cripple Creek in 1896.  In this book, Ruby and Maude come face to face with the notorious, Jake Hawker. Miss Sternum is arrested and Trouble, a cat with an attitude, endears itself to Ruby and Maude. Ruby learns more than she ever wants to know about Pinkertons, outlaws, disguises, and train rides, and her life is held in a balance as Pa reconsiders his courtship of Miss Sternum in order to give Ruby a “proper” upbringing. Also available on Amazon.   

EDITOR'S NOTE: Any WWW member with a new book release or an award is welcome to feature your book here in our monthly Member News blog (usually published on a Wednesday mid-month). email with a short (2-3 sentence) blurb, a jpeg of the cover by attachment, and your buy-link. Thanks and congratulations to our fabulous authors this month!