Tag Archives: Alvin’s Farm

Enjoying the fruits of my labours….

A cold has kept me from accomplishing much more than the basics, but sometimes it takes a small malady to force me into quiet time.  I’ve worked several Sudoku puzzles over the weekend, a pastime from my Yorkshire days. Mended a pair of jeans, sewed a couple of vibrant squares my grandson left on the quilt wall, watched a little basketball.  It’s been a busy time, what with The Burrito having turned three, Miss Em’s impending baptism on Sunday, plus my hubby and I will celebrate thirty years of wedded bliss this week.  I’m grateful to be feeling better, but lethargy lingers.

Two colourful blocks recently fashioned, their future currently undecided.

Weary of doing puzzles, yesterday afternoon I started reading one of my older books.  I’m not sure what led me to this particular novel, but I downloaded it onto my phone, laid on the sofa, setting a quilt over my lap, and suddenly I was transported over forty years in the past to Arkendale, Oregon.  Simultaneously I was dwelling in my more recent history, about nine years ago when I wrote Alvin’s Farm, yet residing along two different planes of existence wasn’t a bother, maybe due to my cold, or merely what happens when an author peeks back into their literary timeline.  To my delight, I couldn’t put down my phone; while the prose was at times rough, the story remained compelling, even though I know how it ends.

Miss Em catching a snooze….

Even more, I recall how this initial novel was concluded; like The Hawk, Alvin’s Farm had originally been meant as a short story.  HA!  As I wrote, the tale unfolded in manners not anticipated, but in following the muse, I didn’t become frustrated, permitting characters to unwind at their pace, or show up unexpectedly.  (Probably why writing The Hawk continues, as I managed to find The End on a previously enlongated tale….)  But what struck me most was how simple were my intentions; I wrote for the sheer joy of it.  Publishing was a dream, but releasing my books wasn’t even considered, which proves how quickly independent publishing became part of the authorial landscape.

Little Miss and The Burrito hard at work.

But eschewing indie and traditional publishing, what matters most to this writer is the need to share a story.  Nine years ago, I was enraptured with crafting prose, creating characters, bringing to life plots and schemes that seemed to leap from my brain onto the keyboard with an ease that led me to believe it would always be so uncomplicated.  Time to write has become the issue, I certainly have yarns to spin.  But maybe as I approach the last section of The Hawk, I need to remind myself why I do this.

I write because I love to tell stories and want to learn more about the world I inhabit.

That’s truly what it’s about, and what a pleasure and gift to be able to write at all!  I need to remind myself of this mantra, as I’ve put pressure on myself for the last couple of years to finish up The Hawk; girl, it will be done when it’s good and ready, and once it is finished, you will never write it again.  Well, not the first draft anyway, hehehe….

I recall when I completed Alvin’s Farm, stepping from the writing grotto out to where my husband was mowing our front yard.  It was the end of April in 2009, the scent of freshly cut grass heady, matching how I felt at that moment.  So much lay ahead, but all I knew was a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and even completion.  I haven’t felt that lately when finishing up a section of The Hawk, but I should.  I need to embrace all aspects of writing, not fearing what has yet to be set onto my virtual document.  Trust is key here, not merely in my abilities, but in where this tale is meant to go.  And getting back to my mantra is essential: I write because I love to tell stories and want to learn more about the world I inhabit.

Buttercup is pretty happy plopped on a sofa, bless her….

There is a deep personal reward in writing, a great responsibility to readers, but also to oneself in allowing breaks in the work, maybe longer than desired, but life isn’t lived merely with my butt in the chair.  What I bring to The Hawk after an extended absence will enhance it, I can’t be afraid of that.  And in years to come, I’ll sit on my sofa, snuggle under a quilt, and read a part of my fictional history that occurred before I was born, yet imperative to who I am becoming.  I’m certainly not the same as when I began it in 2013, just as my skills aren’t where they were in the spring of 2009.  I need to embrace all these elements, then move forward.  No fear, just trust, and enjoy.  Always remember to enjoy the ride….

The Todd Lambert Special

Four years ago I wrote a short story for Top Writers Block, that month’s theme being meringue.  The tale was an epilogue to my Alvin’s Farm series, although it could be read as a standalone yarn.  Having recently revisited that set of books, I decided to separately publish “The Todd Lambert Special”, adding it to the Alvin’s Farm series on Smashwords, although I have already released it as a part of my Chips Off the Block anthology.  Why now, you might ask?  Well, I’ve been taking a brief break from The Hawk, and having penned this little tale, it seemed silly to exclude it from the rest concerning the Cassel and Smith families.  I’m up to my eyeteeth with various life projects, but sometimes it’s good to sneak in a little literary fun.

Enjoy this story for either its brevity or if you’ve read the Alvin’s Farm books, a lovely way to wrap up Jenny, Sam, Tommie, and Rae’s exploits.  And the next time you eat a piece of pie, don’t discount how blessed it just might be, hehehe.

Writing For Me

Those two squares inspired by my grandkids have led to many more waiting to be sewn together, sort of how I seem to write books these days….

Lately I’ve been revisiting old friends, prose-style.  While The Hawk waits patiently, I’ve been reading some of my Alvin’s Farm books, novels I haven’t looked at in ages.  They were written over six years ago, some of the first I published independently.  What has surprised me most is how enjoyable they have been, not that they are perfect, but certainly some of my favourites.  And to my (great) relief, I’m rekindling a desire to write, which has been absent for….  A while now, why The Hawk languishes.  Perhaps I’ve needed this time away to remind myself why I started writing in the first place.

Not merely because I had a lot to say, but I have my own special way of saying it.

One blessing of indie publishing has been the freedom to tell my stories exactly as I wish to present them.  They aren’t shoehorned into this or that genre, no branding within this author’s realm.  Releasing The Hawk in serial form has been quite a thrill, although the conclusion has been breathing down my neck for a few months, and yet here I am, nearly at the end of book four in Alvin’s Farm, when I could be revising The Hawk part 7 or 8, I can’t even recall now.  Where am I in The Hawk?

Fortunately, I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be, in the latter third of The Farm at Sam and Jenny’s, just as Tommie gives it to Jenny with both barrels that she should try pot to ease her aches.  For, in reading that dialogue, I’m reminded of an inner delight to just tell the story, regardless of how long it might take.  The conclusion of The Hawk is probably going to be much lengthier than the previous sections, and that fact has sat in my mind, also weighed on my heart.  But so what?  There’s no editor hanging over my shoulder, pointing out that incongruity within the series, no publisher staring at a timepiece, tapping their foot, arms crossed stiffly over their chest.  This is my party, these are my novels, this is my path as a writer.  And what a blessing that is!

I don’t know when I’ll revisit The Hawk Part 12, but when I do, I hope I remember Tommie’s passion, trying to convince Jenny to use an alternative remedy.  There’s more than one way to write a book, and here I go, in a somewhat circuitous manner.  The Hawk might be taking its sweet time, but that’s not necessarily a bad way to progress….

Postcards from Camp: Garden fun

Well, the writing progresses at a lovely pace; I’ve reached my Camp NaNo goal, although the story has gone from an approximately twenty-three chapter novel to something a little more involved.  I won’t hazard a guess at this point how many books, but more than three, hopefully not topping the Alvin’s Farm series of six.

March 2012 Putting in the initial spider plants

March 2012; the initial planting…

Some ideas execute successful coups, sort of like spider plants.  Amid the noveling and epic-poem scribbling (poems are all written in longhand which sends joyful shivers down my spine), I’ve been attacking the backyard, usually my husband’s domain.  I prefer potted plants, but last year I put in over a dozen spider plants along the western fence.  They have succeeded in taking over that section of the property, and I know are plotting an actual coup for the house.

April 2013 spiders... Bottom three are new

April 2013… They are looking to move eastward, into Nevada, by autumn. The bottom three are newbies, who will hold down the fort as the rest scale the fence, heading for Vegas.

Part of this month’s writing has been poured into a poem that has awakened my love for that form of expression, and given a home to an idea that I didn’t realize meant so much.  I work on the novel in the mornings, the poem in the afternoons, amid baseball and recent outdoor tasks that will keep me busy over the next several months.  I don’t have an emerald thumb, but I do like to get my hands a little dirty.

Marble pathos with a spider in the centre

The marble pathos draping over the edge are cuttings from a houseplant, a spider hidden in the centre. This pot resides just outside my work window.

Like dabbling in melodrama; the WIP-novel-wise has really caught me off guard by its length, and my dedication to it.  With Alvin, even when I was wasn’t sure just how involved it was going to be, I took three to four months off between tackling another installment.

Back in 2009, I was looking at that book as installments, as I didn’t imagine it would take three novels to finish what I had assumed would be a tidy 50K tale.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

This plant was bought weeks ago at a local DIY, and is pleased to rest in a bigger pot.

But now I’m a wee bit wiser; just how wordy the current novel will become, I cannot guess.  But the intriguing part is that as soon as I wrap up this initial section, I don’t want to wait until summer to return to the story.  I’ll give myself a couple of weeks; I definitely need some down-time.  But come May, unless other issues arise, I’ll get back to spinning some more of that yarn.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

One cherry tomato, as an experiment.

And as for that poem…

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year.  Small pot takes the overspill...

The big pot held spider plants last year, petunias and zinnias this year. Small pot takes the overspill…

“The Hounds of Love and War” isn’t going to be completed anytime soon; I write three parts, then plop another poem amid the sprawling saga of the Scotlands and Nesmiths, still firmly entrenched in the mid-1960s.  Not all my poems are sturm und drang; one was about my husband’s recently purchased ninja hat.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

Leftover zinnias went into the ground near some flowers that survived winter, alongside the honeysuckle.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, of course.

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already...

Just for NaNo Buddy Laura; this peach tree was planted last spring, and the crazy thing has peaches already…

And then there is baseball (the SF Giants are playing well), family gatherings on the horizon, and I badly need a haircut.  But the muse has tapped into me with all gears.  I can’t tell which I enjoy more, prose or poetry, although the poems are pretty prose-like.  I’ve also scribbled a couple of short stories; pen and paper have lured me into brief flashes of fiction that I type out, fiddle with, will hand over to Top Writers Block.  One future theme is meringue, and I already know just what that will entail; Rae Smith’s foray into perfecting chocolate meringue pie.  If you’ve read the last three Alvin’s Farm novels, well, all I can say is that while Rae’s husband Tommie won’t be trying a slice of chocolate heaven, Chelsea and Pru think Aunt Rae’s latest Todd Lambert Special is just fine…

R.I.P. Brennan Manning  1934-2013

An unexpected Monday

Don’t get me wrong; I knew today was the first day of the week.  That’s not the issue.

The issue is that since the beginning of the month, this day on the calendar has been marked with my dad’s oncology appointment.  Between the lines is Road Trip; since my father’s prostate cancer was diagnosed in 2009, I’ve tried to attend as many of his doctor’s visits as has been feasible.  And when bone cancer was detected over a year ago, every three months I trek to my hometown, making a day of it; I get some breakfast at my favourite bakery-coffee shop, then head to the oncologist’s office, which is close to where my best friend works.  Sometimes I chat with her before I see my folks, sometimes she and I have lunch together, or just a frozen yogurt.  I stop at a local bagel shop for their day-old wares, hit another store for more bagels (I eat them every day for lunch, and my son appreciates it when I bring home poppy bagels), then drive home, singing to all my favourite tunes.

But the focus is my parents, my dad.  So far, just a few cancerous specks mark his left hip, and his PSA levels remain steady, in the upper teens.  He’s on Zytiga, but these quarterly visits are about how he’s feeling, getting another Lupron injection.  We joke that he’s suffering hot flashes on my behalf, and has been doing so for coming on four years.  Bone cancer adds a niggle to the whole situation, but so far, Dad’s a trooper, and what’s a road trip every few months?  I used to live eleven hours away by plane.  Long distances aren’t a problem.

But that I might have been exposed to the flu isn’t something to be ignored.  For a week, my daughter’s best friend was staying with us, and on Saturday, she wasn’t feeling so well.  Yesterday, she left, but took a bad cold with her, and just to be on the safe side, I’m not driving this morning.  I will visit my folks in a couple of weeks once I either get the flu and recover, or am certain it has passed us by.  Sort of odd thinking a nasty bug could be hovering.  Until it hits, I’ll continue with the work.

Sometimes life takes detours, but they’re not always bad.  Today I’ll edit, but the new idea has been pestering me, so I’ll probably spend a good chunk of time at the kitchen table, paper strewn about as notes are made, an outline prepared.  There’s no Monday Night Football, but my 49ers were very good to me on Saturday, not so kind to my husband’s Green Bay Packers.  By the time I see my parents, the NFC Championship game will have come and gone; either San Francisco will be going to the Super Bowl, or licking their wounds.  I received my love of pigskin right from my father and we’ll have plenty to jaw over.

If you’ve read Alvin’s Farm, my dad is a lot like Tommie Smith.  He’s had his sorrows, and his joys.  He was a young grandfather too; my dad isn’t quite seventy, but participated in his granddaughter’s wedding last summer, reading the first half of I Corinthians 13.  He finds my writing intriguing, not that he would read any of my books, but he loves telling his buddies about my exploits, sharing all his kids’ triumphs.  And the grandchildren’s too; he has seven total, my three twenty-somethings, then four little ones who have offered him a lovely glimpse of innocent days.

Life, like the tides, is cyclical.  What comes around, goes around, but hopefully not the flu.  Maybe just a date on a calendar will be rearranged, sans the trip to a doctor’s office.  I’ll get up to see my folks, do all the usual activities, just not today.  Today is meant for this post, some revisions, plotting a new novel.  The road trip is just waiting for Super Bowl contenders to be decided.

My dad

My dad

A different kind of courage

This morning I read this article on the BBC News; Pola Kinski, daughter of deceased actor Klaus Kinski and older sister of actress Nastassja Kinski, has revealed that her father sexually abused her from the time she was five until she was nineteen years old.  Pola, now sixty and also an actress, wrote her autobiography Kindermund in part to silence the hero worship still lauded upon her father.  After reading the BBC’s piece, I dug further, a dull weary ache rising within my chest; the Alvin’s Farm series is based upon one woman’s survival of sexual abuse.

In writing Alvin’s Farm, I wanted to explore my rural 1970s youth, also how alcohol affected my childhood.  What Jenny Cope suffered is pure fiction, but as usual, I crept inside her head, wanting to be as true to that character as I possibly could.  The same went for the rest of the cast; a writer assumes many personas; male and female, young and old, troubled and carefree.  When I started the last three novels of the series, more travails were mined, but sexual abuse continued as one of the themes.  Not that Jenny was again in danger, but a young woman close to her.  Having never been in that situation, I used my imagination, feeling slightly…  Here is where being a writer gets tricky; I abhor brutality, but without conflict, there is no story.  One of the characters in the last three books was assaulted from the time she was five, the same age as Pola Kinski.  I dithered when deciding that specific fact; it’s fiction, yet it represents what does occur.  Children are harmed, which turns my stomach, still I write about it.  Jenny learns that Dana was just a small child when her world came crashing to her feet.

While my novels often get close to the bone, I have yet to spill my own blood on a document.  Using fiction to alleviate anything that continues to trouble, I write around old hurts, slathering the whole simmering mess in love.  Love cures a plethora of ills, love and time and courage; Pola Kinski wrote her book not only to shed light on her father’s despicable actions, but to provide hope to those suffering in similar ways.  Raw upheaval seems to overwhelm, but bravery exists, uplifting and strengthening.  Comprehension leads to empathy, allowing those who have been intimidated and harmed to realize a new day awaits.  Jenny Cope ran for twelve years, trying to suppress what had stolen her childhood.  She landed in a small Oregon village where a slow but special man told her she was worthy, she was loved.  It took me years to realize I wasn’t insignificant, that my life held value.  Writing Jenny’s story was harrowing.  It was also empowering; given the right support and affection, trauma can be overcome.  I wish for Pola Kinski and others like her continued courage in facing what pains.  And a lasting peace knowing those incidents are truly in the past.

The Timeless Nature of Patience


How to even start this post; the book went live at 8.02 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.  Last night I spent the second half of the abysmal 49ers-Seahawks debacle giving the manuscript another peek.  We shan’t speak any more of football.  Let’s talk about Alvin’s Farm

Specifically this last book of the series; I wrote this novel for NaNo 2010, with the full awareness it was The End.  When I wrote the last sentence, which never did change from the initial draft, I wept, in part from the sentiment of those final words, and that the whole kit’n’kaboodle was done!  And what a series; six novels of plentiful love and heaps of angst set in Western Oregon.  I loved writing these books, really loved writing them.  Publishing the last one feels so good.

It’s like saying goodbye to beloved friends whom I really can see anytime; just open the book and read.  As this last one ties up many loose ends, there is plenty to peruse.  Having never previously attempted a series, plotting this last installment was tricky.  And when one character muscled her way into the action, well, I knew better than to halt the flow of progress. Pru Castle made her wishes known; I just typed the words.

To fully express all that sits in my head at this very moment would take a book; the Liner Notes at this novel’s conclusion go some ways in explaining this story’s meaning.  At this time of year, with so much expectation afoot, patience is indeed a virtue.  Christmas Eve, even for big kids, is awash in great hope for very good things; presents come in all shapes and sizes, what Jenny tries to tell her son Eric.  This novel is a lot about Eric Cassel, who is more like his father than anyone realizes.

It’s also about Eric’s cousin Tanner, who is a lot like my brother Joe, which I didn’t accept until several edits into the process.  It’s about seeing what is right under our noses as blessings, sometimes attractive, occasionally not so much.  It’s about love’s healing power trumping all evils, even if love seems vary far away.

Which at this time of year, a baby nearly born, seems like an apropos analogy.

This book wouldn’t be released if not for many people, why self-publishing is such a misnomer.  Julie K. Rose designed the gorgeous cover and provided vital editorial expertise.  My family proffered their support, and readers of the previous novels have lifted my heart; many thanks to all these folks.  My husband needs a huge hug for putting up with me (and the Cassels and Smiths) since I started this series in spring of 2009.  Last, but not least, I give all credit to God, without whom I wouldn’t even be writing this post.  This novel is my personal favourite, but I didn’t write it alone; divine inspiration lies at the heart of all my books, this one especially.

Closing this post, I just want to note what an incredible experience crafting and releasing this book, and the other five, has been.  Until I wrote Alvin’s Farm, I never saw myself as a serial author, but there is a lovely charm (and certain ease) in dealing with one cast.  Unwinding so many lives provided me with untold opportunities to explore my own path, which is why I write.  The Timeless Nature of Patience brought out the best of my writing to date, which was also exhilarating.  There is just so darn much I like about this book, which now I can share with those who are called to it.  Happy Christmas to all (even my vexing San Francisco 49ers), and to all a good read!