A NaNoWriMo Education

Galand Nuchols is a retired school teacher.  While teaching, she found that writing short stories that incorporated the names of students helped to improve their interest and motivated them to work harder.  At the same time, she found she really liked to write. Once she retired, she dove into writing full time and has turned out a number of books that are not only aimed at young teens, but can actually be a great help to them, particularly boys.  This year, she took on another challenge.  And today, she tells us about it.

For the least two years I’ve heard about the challenges and difficulties of the NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) contest. There were a few pros and a lot of cons coming from former participants. So why did it keep tap, tap, tapping at my brain? Why would I even consider giving up an entire month, especially the month of November with all the Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations: decorating, parties, family gatherings, travel, etc. to write 50,000 words in thirty days? For some unexplained reason I chose to do just that, and I learned a lot from the experience.

Plan ahead is at the top of the to-do list. I knew going in that I had to type an average of 1667 words every day. I realized I would not have the luxury of doing research as the story progressed from scene to scene. I spent hours talking to councilors, nurses, and on the internet collecting information on depression, appendicitis symptoms, the Big Thicket, suicide attitudes, guilt and anything else that I might possibly need, then recording it in a handy file.

Some of my characters were from a previous novel, but I had several new characters and prepared a physical description of each as well as their mental state. That left me time to create a couple of new characters I had not anticipated needing.

There would be several different sites in the novel. I toured the site where my characters would be living and traveling, took pictures of homes, barns, roads, and foliage in the area. A hospital would be needed. Descriptions of the entrance and waiting area of the local hospital were recorded for quick recovery. The highway the characters would be traveling on when they got lost was marked on a map so the proper towns could be named and included. Words counted and I would need all the names and descriptions of people and places I could work in.

A general outline of events that would happen in each chapter was worked out. None of my previous novels had over 25,000 words. I knew I would have to try something different and took a leaf from my favorite author’s writing style. Elizabeth Moon often moves from one character’s point of view to another’s point of view by starting a new chapter. This allows the author to let the reader see more details of the story, and it uses up more words. I decided ahead of time whose point of view and what event would be used in each chapter. This one feature helped me with the ‘head hopping’ errors I made in previous novels, errors my friends noted in their editing of my work.

All this was done before November 1. As it turned out, I still ran out of story before I used up 30,000 words let alone the required 50,000 needed to complete the contest. I had to carry the story of the suicide character on for another twenty thousand words or more. These extra events took time to develop, time I would not have had without the research and recording of information for the first chapters.

When we are faced with a deadline, we often give ourselves a kick in the pants and push on. I found this to be the case when I was tired or undecided on the next paragraph and tempted to stop at 500 words and go to bed or clean house or address Christmas cards. Then the thought of having to type over 2834 words the next day spurred me on to type something, even knowing it would have to be reworded. The idea was to get the story written and polish it later. It didn’t matter that I’d used the word ‘frowned’ fifteen times in the chapter. I pressed on with the idea of using a thesaurus during the cleanup phase after the close of the contest.

When last of those 50,000 words were typed, the story roughed in, and the submit button pushed, the satisfaction of knowing ‘I did it’ was great. The job was done, maybe not well done but done just the same. And best of all, I learned several things in the writing process.

JIM:   Thanks, Galand,for enlightening us, and encouraging us.  We can all use it.  Readers, click here to find more about Galand and her work.

Mixing History with A Fiction Novel

Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three housecats. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Elk Grove, CA.

Elaine has written poetry and short stories since childhood. She has completed six novels. Multiple short stories are published in magazines, on-line weekly magazines and in thirteen short story collections (anthologies). She writes cozy mysteries and humorous mysteries.

Today, she talks about mixing history into fiction novels.

Great care must be taken when mixing fiction with historical events. An author must never change history, but where’s the harm in tossing your character into the action with our plots? Example: Imagine if your fictional character lived next door to Benjamin Franklin and loaned him a kite one stormy night? Or during the Revolutionary War, your character sold his horse to Paul Revere. Our imaginary character doesn’t discover electricity, nor warn of imminent British attack, but the kite and the horse came from somewhere, right? I’m being sarcastic, of course, but you get the idea. It’s called literary license

My latest WWII era humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier is hot off the press this week. Mrs. Odboddy, an eccentric elderly woman fights the war from the home front. She is determined to thwart conspiracies and expose Nazi spies and in her bumbling way, does a pretty good job of it.

In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Agnes spots a Japanese air balloon bomb while manning a watch tower on the beach. She uncovers a ration book conspiracy and becomes romantically involved with an FBI agent searching for missing Hawaiian funds. And she meets Mrs. Roosevelt. As she weaves through historical facts, she changes nothing. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen that way?

In the just published sequel, Mrs. Odboddy, Undercover Courier, Agnes travels by train to Washington DC to join Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour. Agnes is asked to hand-carry a package to President Roosevelt. They must be secret war document! (Could happen!) She expects Nazi agents to attempt to steal her package. (It’s possible.) Of course, along the way, she also meets some intriguing characters who hinder as well as aid her in her mission.

Agnes befriends David and Samuel, two black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee Air Base, where they will be trained with the first all-Black fighting pilot squadron. And here is a bit of history about the Tuskegee soldiers.

Due to the many black men who wanted to volunteer, and the extreme loss of pilots in battle, it became expedient to set up a program to train Black fighter pilots, bombardiers and air support staff. A number of Black men with higher education and pre-war flying experience were selected to train as fighter pilots, but in a segregated squadron.

The most successful all Black squadron was the 99th squadron. They began to fly bombing missions in the spring of 1943.

Nine hundred ninety two Black pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941-1946. They were credited with 1578 combat missions, 179 bomber escort missions, destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air, and another 150 on the ground. Nine hundred fifty rail cars tracks and motor vehicles were destroyed. One destroyer was put out of action. Forty boats and barges were destroyed. Multiple citations were awarded along with many silver, bronze, air medals and 8 purple hearts.

Segregation of the troops ended in 1945.

When Agnes finally gets to Washington to complete her mission, she faces trials that challenge her perception as a home front warrior and the scourge of the underworld. Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier will amaze and amuse all the way from California to Washington, D.C.

Available at Amazon for $3.99 (e-book).

Elaine’s website is:  http://www.mindcandymysteries.com

Email your questions or comments to Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com   or leave a comment here.  Thanks.


The Hard Work of Telling the Truth:


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D.R. Ransdell is a writer and musician. She spent five years in Mexico teaching English and learning folk songs. Now, she plays with a mariachi group and writes a murder mystery series about mariachi bandleader Andy Veracruz. She also teaches writing at … Continue reading

A Time for Renewal


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Today’s guest is award-winning author Lena Nelson Dooley.  With more than 875,000 copies of her books sold, she has been on the ECPA and CBA Bestseller lists, Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller list, and several Amazon Bestseller lists. She’s won the Will … Continue reading

Tasmania – A Float Plane to the Interior

Before we go to Tasmania, here’s today’s paraprosdokian:  He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Quick, before I forget what I was going to say —

Before we stepped off the plane in Hobart, all we knew about Tasmania tasmanizwas that the Tasmanian Devil made its home there.

Tasmania is located about 150 miles across the Bass Strait from Melbourne, Australia. To its west is the Indian Ocean and to its east is the Pacific Ocean. It is about 225 miles from north to south and generally about 190 miles from east to west, and has a population of just over half a million.

The British settled it in 1803 and in the first 50 years, over 75,000 convicts were transported to Taz. One of the first places we visited was Port Arthur, just 35 miles from Hobart, and site of one of the most famous prisons in Australia.

floatplaneWe then headed into the interior, a thinly populated, but gorgeous area. (Another day, we’ll talk about Devils and mailboxes.) We made our way to Strahan on the west coast and made arrangements to take a float plane into the wilderness of the southwest part of Tasmania. Over one third of the entire island of Tasmania lies in reserves here, and there are no roads or settlements in this area.

Earlene and I and the pilot took off and circledtasmaniz-wilderness out over large fish farms in the Indian Ocean. Then we headed in-land. It is truly a pristine wilderness, with inspiring, untouched forests, and the white water Franklin River. After awhile, we were tracking another magnificent river, cutting between mist-covered mountains and dense rain-forest. We began to descend into the thousand-foot deep Gordon River Gorge and slowly settled down on the river.

tas-waterfallAs the pilot taxied over to the bank, a small dock came into view. He hopped out and tied the plane up and we deplaned. A short walk through the rain-forest took us to a magnificent waterfall. The only noise was the falling water. No boom-boxes, no cars, no people. Enchanting. Eventually, we walked back to the dock, got in the plane, and the pilot – standing on the dock, untied the plane. The swift current quickly began to sweep the plane away from the dock. What would we do if the pilot didn’t manage to get in before we drifted away from the dock? Earlene could fly the floatplane-on-riverplane, but could she take off from a rushing river? But, he managed to catch a strut, swing on to the pontoon and climb into the cockpit. Obviously, he’d done this before. It was a magical trip.

Our entire Tasmania visit was captivating.   If you get to Australia, allot ample time for Tasmania. We spent a week there, and would have enjoyed a month.tasmania-river


The Vanishing Horse

For some convoluted reason, Netfirms closed this site for a few days this past week.  So, I’m going to leave my Christmas story about the disappearing horse up this week.  And here is a very sincere wish that you and your family have a very happy holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’s.  But first, my thought for the day —

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

My second Christmas in Connecticut promised to be special. I had bought the house on Great Hill Road just a hundred feet from a quiet lake with maple, birch and spruce trees growing almost to the water line. The kids had ten free days to enjoy The Dolphin, a small row boat which they had helped refinish and paint, and which they could easily manage. If it turned cold enough and the lake froze, the ice skates would come out. And, though they didn’t know it, they were going to have a spectacular gift.

Earlier in the month, after considerable research, I traveled into central Connecticut to look at horses. The selection process proved to be horse-angrycomplicated. A horse named Trouble pawed the ground, snorted, and would have bitten me had I not been considerably quicker than I am now. A second horse, Lightning, slept through the interview, barely managing to put two feet ahead of the other two. He failed to make the cut. The next candidate, Cara, passed with flying colors—until price entered the picture. Grace, a lovely sorrel, had two—no, make that four—left feet.

Eventually, I found a beautiful, if not young, roan with a gentle, if occasionally obstinate, disposition named Cheyenne. After a brief ride, I purchased Cheyenne.

Marvin Whittle, who was employed at the research lab where I worked, owned a stable right in town, not far from our house on Great Hill. We came to an agreement and I made arrangements to have Cheyenne transported from central Connecticut to the Whittle Farm.

Never in my life had I bought a saddle, but now I shopped and evaluated. What did I know about such things? There were western saddles and eastern saddles, but no southern saddles. Curious. I discovered that Western meant big and comfortable while eastern meant small and uncomfortable. Just like the states. I opted for a Texas style, not so big that the girls could not handle it, and with the proper leather smell.

Then came a bridle, blankets, and a source for hay.  Wouldn’t a dog have been simpler?

A week before Christmas, I had the present—Cheyenne and all the necessary items to outfit him, house him, and even feed him for the first month. Early on Christmas eve, I moved Cheyenne from the Whittle Farm to a neighbor’s near-by home. Things moved along as smooth as a well used halter.

christmas-tree-3The children were nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. I slipped out, sneaked down a quarter mile to the neighbor’s house, and on tip-toes, lead Cheyenne to our place, and tied him securely to a bush outside the front of the house.

The land bordering on this part of Great Hill sloped down to the beautiful lake. Most houses, and ours was no exception, faced the lake. The main floor of the house, while at ground level on the side nearest the road, projected out eight feet above the ground on the lake side. Positioning Cheyenne in front of the house kept him well below the sight lines from bedrooms and the living room where the tree twinkled and presents waited impatiently to be unwrapped.

As was tradition, the kids arose before the sun, leaping from deep sleep to hyper-active as quick as a sneeze, clamoring to see what Santa had deposited in our living room. (They never expected to find only a lump of coal. In fairness, I guess they never deserved such.)

Christmas and presents, even if meager, generate excitement, screams of joy, and only occasionally envy. This Christmas was little different, if somewhat subdued. In truth, Santa had not been as generous as had been his habit in years past. Even those holidays when I was in graduate school looked somewhat fatter than this year. So, while it is not fair to say they were disappointed, well—it didn’t take long to open Santa’s leavings.

After a slight delay, wanting them to enjoy the non-horse items, I invited them to follow me outside. This produced a few groans, and actually made the Christmas offerings look a lot better and difficult to leave. But since I knew how excited they would be over the horse, I persisted. We exited the back and with a sly grin on my face I led them around to the front of the house.

Triumphantly, we turned the corner to find—nothing. No Christmas horse. No Cheyenne. No saddle. No blanket. No bridle.

To say I was stunned is to say the Sahara is a sand pile. Horse thieves in Connecticut? The kids, not knowing what to expect, just looked at me … expectantly. What was the big surprise? I knew what my surprise was. No Cheyenne.

Pulling myself together, not wanting to look too lost in front of the kids, I surveyed the area. Not only was the horse missing, the large bush he had been tied to was gone as well. Why would rustlers take my bush?

I mumbled some nonsense and sent the kids back inside to play with their meager cache. Slowly, I became a cunning tracker. Before long, I was picking out signs, some of which I will not describe, with the skill of an Indian brave trainee. After only a quarter mile, I heard the sound I had expected earlier: excited children. Rounding a clump of cedars, there was Cheyenne—as well as two young kids thrilled with the newfound present Santa had left for them.

I eased up, saying some soothing, cheerful things to the young boy and girl as I endeavored to take the reins. They clutched the leather tighter, accusing me of trying to steal their Christmas present. I bent low, hoping not to look like a towering monster, and spoke softly with an angelic smile on my face. Logic had always been a strong point for me, so I explained to them, in child-like terms, what had happened.

I remained the evil Grinch.

With some subterfuge, I got one end of the reins, and shielded it from the now screaming girl. But my gain amounted to little, as the boy instantly clamped his tiny hands around the stirrup. The boy’s cries now echoed hers and people on the other side of the lake came out on porches to see what malfeasance had come to Rainbow Lake.angry-woman2

Trouble was closer at hand. An angry mother burst out of the nearby house, ready to kill the miscreant trying to kidnap, or otherwise harm, her children. She was followed by a big, burly man, surely seven feet tall, who’s eyes did not exhibit the Christmas spirit.

paul-bunyonThe woman ran to her children, shielding them from scoundrel me, questioning them as to what I had done. The man, his Paul Bunyan legs requiring few steps to traverse the distance, grilled me. I quickly recognized he was a seven foot interrogator for the CIA.

At long last, logic arrived on the scene, tardy as usual in such situations. The children finally managed to sob that I was taking their horse. Santa had left their present outside, since it was too big to go down the chimney. They had found it, and now, Scrooge was trying to steal it.

With the aid of the one rein still attached to the bush, I described how Cheyenne uprooted his hitching post and wandered down to their yard.

The mother’s translation did not cheer the children. But they were somewhat mollified when I promised to bring Cheyenne down and let them ride him later in the day.

horse-1a           Needless to say, when I once more enticed my children outside to meet Cheyenne, Christmas became a lot brighter. He was an instant star, and continued to be their favorite even when, a year later, a younger, more beautiful buckskin named Major joined Cheyenne in the family circus.

James R. Callan

      A Silver Medallion, 2016

Cover - A Silver Medallion


Traveling and Writing–a good Mix


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Today, Carole Brown talks about the benefits of travel to a writer, giving examples of how it has helped her in many books.  She and her husband live in SE Ohio, but they have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and … Continue reading