Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chasing Bierstadt, Stegner, and Abbey

by Kristen Lodge

After finishing college in New Hampshire, in 1999 I moved to my first mountain town near Bethel, Maine. I started writing my stories that eventually became Continental Quotient Stories From Both Sides of the Divide. My stories are about place and landscape, and how I found new adventures and met amazing friends across the US.

Since high school I wanted to be a westerner. Back then, to me, being western meant big landscapes with less people and more wildlife. I began to read Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey and dreamed of living west of the Mississippi. I discovered the western landscape paintings of Albert Bierstadt.

Colorado Blue Sky

I wanted to live in those wide open spaces they wrote about. I wanted to ski in western powder. I finally moved west in 2004 and continued to write the stories for Continental Quotient. One of my favorite stories to tell is about driving I-70 through Ohio, Kansas and into Colorado. The story of my journey west and my first western town becomes “Making A Home Out West.” I write about making friends and finding new adventures in Colorado that include hiking and biking. Steamboat was my first western ski town and I instantly fell in love with the Yampa Valley and the ski mountain.

What it means to be western has evolved over the last ten years. At first it was big landscapes. Then it was the blue, blue sky. Being a westerner and choosing to live in an arid landscape has become an education about water and protecting wild places. And now, after ten years living in the west, I’ve learned it is about taking care of each other and making a home wherever I live.

Fraser, CO

I am in love with mountain landscapes and currently am falling in love with the southwest desert.

The stories I love to tell are about taking every adventure that comes my way from living in a mountain town surrounded by wilderness to navigating through the prickly, Saguaro filled desert landscape. I re-read Stegner and Abbey every chance I get and still search for Bierstadt in western museums.

Continental Quotient is available for purchase on Amazon.com or Barnes and and Homebound Publications website. It is available on Nook and Kindle.  Please visit Kristen's website for more information about the book and upcoming speaking engagements. Kristen blogs at My Outdoor Blog.

Kristen grew up in Plattsburgh, New York and Rye, New Hampshire. She earned a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire. Her collection of creative nonfiction was published in October 2013 by Homebound Publications. She lives in Tucson, AZ with her two dogs: Daisy & Winnie. 

 Naranja Park near Tucson, AZ

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January Member News

We have an impressive list of new releases and recognition this month! 

New Releases
Irene Bennett Brown Chaff ’n’ Chatter This collection is her “sort of memoir” of the times. "Take a snippet of history, a tad of nostalgia, priceless photos, several small town delights (like mint princesses and the benefits of a back yard where kids imaginations turn old wagons into stage coaches). Put them together with quotes from Byron and Emerson and a few other poets in just the right measure and you'll savor insight and wisdom across the years and generations. You'll also be holding in your hands another Irene Bennett Brown classic. Chaff 'n' Chatter is a writer's research tool, inspiration and just plain good reading. I confess to a bit of the green-eyed envy that this award-winning writer has been writing this well since the 1960s. She must have come out of the womb with well-spoken words. How fortunate we all are that she's saved them and chosen to share them now in this wonderful collection of essays I'll treasure." Jane Kirkpatrick, New York Times Bestselling author of Homestead, A Memoir.

Sherry Monahan, Mrs. Earp When most people hear the name Earp, they think of Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, and sometimes the lesser known James and Warren. While it’s true these men made history on their own, they all had a Mrs. Earp behind them—some more than one. Mrs. Earp collectively traces the lives of the women who shared the title of Mrs. Earp either by name or relationship.

Susan Wittig Albert has announced the re-release, under her own imprint Persevero Press, of two books previously published by Jeremy Tarcher: Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Her Own Livelihood and Writing From Life: For Women With Stories to Tell. Both are available in eBook and print formats, online. 

Tammy Hinton, Retribution. The war changed everything Emilee loved. The young woman couldn’t foresee the terror that peace would bring. Moving to Texas seemed the answer, but Death rode the same trail west. Emilee vowed she’d deliver the villain to the hanging tree or put a bullet in him herself.

 Hearts and Spurs Two WWW members have stories in this anthology (first and last in the volume, respectively):
 "The Widow's Heart" by Linda Broday Desperate and alone, Skye O'Rourke finds courage and a love she thought she'd lost when a man from her past emerges from the shimmering desert heat.
 "The Second-Best Ranger in Texas" by Kathleen Rice Adams A washed-up Texas Ranger. A failed nun with a violent past. A love that will redeem them both.( How do you capture a cowboy's heart?
Nine of western romance's best authors come together in one volume to help Old West heroes and heroines find their happily-ever-afters. From mild to sensuous, from outlaws to lawmen, from sassy nuns to saucy mail-order brides and tough-as-nails widows, Hearts and Spurs leaves no doubt that when Cupid plays with cowboys, he plays for keeps.  The book is available in paperback at Amazon and in most e-formats at your favorite online bookstore (Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and others).

Althea Williams Clay's Quest, under the pseudonym, Christi Williams. She’ll do anything to get her way. Tall, elegant and beautiful, Emma Thorpe has wanted a baby for years. The yearning for a child occupies all her thoughts, her time, her effort, and any money she and her husband can scrape up for medical intervention. After trying and failing to conceive, the solution that finally comes to her is to leave her husband and hope to find a man—any man—capable of fulfilling her deepest desire. Also available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Gail Jenner, Across the Sweetgrass Hills, a previous WILLA Award winner, has been re-released by Prairie Rose Publications. Liza Ralston has had more adventure in her life than she ever wanted. Leaving her settled existence with friends and family in St. Louis to travel to the Big Sky country of wild Montana with her father, she soon wishes she could turn the clock back. When their scout is murdered and her father is severely wounded by thieves, the Pikuni tribe led by Crying Wind takes them in. But Liza wants nothing more than to return to St. Louis, despite her growing attraction for Red Eagle, the handsome son of a white trapper and Blackfeet mother.


Barbara Marriott The Fleet Angels of Lakehurst won the silver medal in the national military book contest sponsored by Stars and Flags. This book is the history of one of the United States Navy's first helicopter squadron. With oral histories and official documentation, the story of their missions, from the mundane to the heroic saving of lives, is told. Woven throughout is some of the quirky humor that got them through many difficult and dangerous times.

Sandra Ramos O'Briant The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood won First Place Historical Fiction and Best First Book at the fifteenth annual ILBA (Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer winner headed the list) held in NYC , and was included in another top 10 list of Latino Stories in 2013. (This one headed by Sonia Sotomayor). The book was also named to a top 10 list by in 2012, the year it was published. It was reviewed by La Bloga  and by Dawn Wink on Storycircle.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

But Now I Ride

by Amy Hale Auker

At Cottonwood Spring, there is a tree that sings. Sometimes it is a squeaky gate, sometimes a flute, sometimes a soprano warming up her voice. I am sitting on my horse here in the creek bed, waiting, holding a few cows against the fence until the boss, my husband, comes along with more. I may be here for a while.

When a woman hires on to cowboy, these are not the moments she anticipates, not the moments anyone talks about. There are no witnesses, no cameras, no glitter, no wild rides with her hair blowing in the wind.

There is no printed job description for “cowgirl.”

A few months ago, I passed out a survey to a handful of women who have cowboyed for a paycheck. I was not surprised to discover that most of them didn’t have a strong affinity for the word cowgirl. Many of them cited semantics or wryly wrote something about rodeo queens. These women more often think of themselves as cowboys or ranch hands, or simply ranch women.

But no matter what we call ourselves, we are out here.

We are riding. And digging postholes. Tying in stays. Calving heifers, haying, windmilling ... often with a toddler in tow.We are cooking over a campfire or in a slow cooker, even after having brought in our share of the cows that day. We’re training young horses. Doctoring sick animals. We’re riding point or bringing up the drag. We may even be complaining about how Western jeans aren’t made of heavy enough denim anymore, and we won’t buy a pair with bling on the back pockets when we have to ride on them for nine hours a day.

Our gear and tack look much like the men’s except for the rubies on the buckle of our chaps. We own several pairs of work gloves, and we can pull a knife out of our pocket or off our belt if we need to, even when we are all dressed up, attending some event in town. We can kill a rattlesnake. Fix a water leak and plant a garden. Maybe shoe a horse.

Some women were born into this way of life....

Read the rest of this article in Cowboys & Indians magazine.

Amy Hale Auker is an award-winning cowgirl poet and author of Rightful Place. Her new novel, Winter of Beauty, is available at and www.pen-l.com For more information, visit www.amyhaleauker.com

Friday, January 10, 2014

Costco Book Signing Part 2

by Gail L. Jenner

Unfortunately, this year's first signing arranged at the Roseburg, Oregon, Costco for the Christmas season had to be cancelled because of deep snow and ice. Interstate 5 was closed and I ended up getting stuck in Ashland, Oregon, overnight. I immediately called both Costco and Arcadia to update them.....then eagerly suggested I return the next week or whenever (as it turned out, the next week was again hit hard by ice and deep, cold temps). I didn't want to let any time lapse before getting a commitment from both Arcadia and Costco!

 A week later, when I finally arrived at Costco in Roseburg -- after a slip-slippery trip north over three mountain passes -- the very busy Costco manager met me, assuring me that he was impressed by my perseverance. He also noted that a couple of authors they'd lined up had refused to make the trip in winter again. For me it was a roundtrip of about 7 hours (in good weather), but it didn't matter! Knowing that Costco purchases at least 75 books if they're arranging a signing, I had to go. Last year I was fortunate to do the Roseburg Costco signing with Diane Gardner (WWW member and awesome author!). Not only did she allow me to stay the night with her and her husband, but we spent a wonderful afternoon together signing books (unfortunately this year she had to miss the signing). Fortunately, I sold almost 30 books in this year's 3 hour signing AND also signed all remaining books Costco had ordered.

One of the lessons every author needs to learn is that books to be sold, IF autographed, are "as good as sold" for the author. Don't let any of them go unsigned!

All of this suggests that any author hoping to arrange a successful signing, whether small or large, must:
1. Be willing to go wherever she's asked!
2. Be available and assertive in making contact and maintaining communication, not "waiting" for others to contact her.
3. Arrive on time and with energy and enthusiasm.....I even brought additional posters and marketing postcards, etc., with me this year, which the Costco manager appreciated (esp. since my original signing had been postponed and not as much "in-store" publicity was available).
4. Encourage whatever publicity agents she's attached to to seek out more opportunities...assuring her that she can/will promote the signing through news items, radio interviews, and social media outlets.

One last lesson that I took to heart THIS year was this: 

Be assertive with the patrons. Costco is an enormous store and many people do not approach an author, thinking that she is possibly one of those store sales people!
So put up your own sign: MEET THE AUTHOR!
Stand (don't sit) behind the table Costco provides. I enthusiastically greeted people passing by....sometimes asking, "Have you heard of the State of Jefferson" (because the "issue" of the State of Jefferson has been in the news lately, many people stopped and smiled, sometimes asking their own questions)?
Provide postcards/collateral with every book sold and place it for easy access on the table. I put up small easels where I could prop my books, too, since people in Costco often move quickly up and down the aisles. Making the books visible from many angles is important.
Connect with the manager and be sure and thank him/her for all help. And send notes or emails to thank those publicity people who helped arrange your signing. They do not get enough credit for the work they do.

All in all, I am tremendously grateful to Arcadia and its sales/publicity departments for their continued support. A publicist has a tough job to do and appreciates the enthusiastic support an author can give her/him.

Though I can't guarantee a Costco signing, I do believe signings (however limited) are important. The author is any book's best and principal sales tool, so we need to cultivate a visible and enthusiastic persona. With each signing I have gained more confidence and enthusiasm, even though I'd rather be tucked away in my upstairs office -- overlooking my garden and the ranch -- working on my newest piece of writing!

Gail L. Jenner is a Past President and Willa Chair of Women Writing the West. She has written seven books, including WILLA award winning Across the Sweet Grass Hills, and has written articles for numerous magazines. She is the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher and lives on the family's historic farmstead. For more about Gail and her writing, visit:

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Hard Work Pays Off in Costco Signing

by Gail Jenner

Getting a good book signing organized is hard work. I am not an aggressive marketer by nature, but I'm learning that most success is based on successful marketing!! Women Writing the West members have taught me much of what I've learned in regards to marketing over the last 14 years I've been a member; that's one important reason why attending conferences and connecting with other authors is so important. I'm supremely grateful to WWW for the contacts and awesome friendships I've made.

As with most authors, I've done a number of book signings -- from small, local bookstores and county fairs to Barnes & Noble and Costco! I'm fortunate that I have now had four signings at two different Costco stores in the last three years. In reality, I had little to do with the Costco signings; it was my publisher, Arcadia Publishing, who originally arranged them. I would note, however, that most Costco stores support the idea of promoting local books so approaching them even if your publisher hasn't done so is well worth the effort. But I do believe that my energetic responses to Arcadia's initial efforts has led to my repeated signings.

 First of all, when I signed contracts with Arcadia Publishing for the four various books I've done with them, I agreed to do any book signings. In my mind, I have always added, "regardless of the miles I must travel to get there!" I recognized that I owed the stores selling my book any amount of time and energy to promote it. So when the publicity department of Arcadia contacted me about the first possible Costco signing three years ago, I immediately responded. I also continually kept them in the communication "loop," which I have since learned is a trait many authors do not cultivate. In fact, just recently my Arcadia publicist told me that I had helped her immensely, saving her the trouble of having to make contact with me -- whether it was about double-checking arrangements or responding with requested information, etc.

 A simple lesson, perhaps, but every author needs to answer emails promptly in addition to following up on dates, places, and directions, or writing thank yous, etc... I also created/submitted local news items for the paper and every FB/social outlet I could access, and I contacted our radio station and arranged an interview.

As it has turned out, two different Costco stores have arranged signings for my State of Jefferson books in the last 3 years. I know the subject matter is part of the reason for their continued interest. Both Southern Oregon and Northern California are part of the "mythical State of Jefferson" thus the attraction is fairly widespread. While tourists and history buffs enjoy most Arcadia's titles, these particular titles have attracted even more attention. I've now coauthored four different books for Arcadia, including three on the State of Jefferson: Images of the State of Jefferson; The State of Jefferson: Then & Now -- which placed as a Finalist in the 2008 Next Generation Indie Awards; and Postcards From the State of Jefferson.

Read Part 2 of Gail's experience with signing books at Costco and her adventures in getting there on this blog tomorrow.

Gail L. Jenner is a Past President and Willa Chair of Women Writing the West.She has written seven books, including WILLA award winning Across the Sweet Grass Hills, and has written articles for numerous magazines. She is the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher and lives on the family's historic farmstead. For more about Gail and her writing, visit: