Category: publication

Goodreads Giveaway for Seven Kinds of Rain

Seven Kinds of Rain historical novel cover

Seven Kinds of Rain, a new historical novel to be released July 1, 2016, is now open for entries via a Goodreads giveaway. These are Advance Reader Edition copies, and will be shipped to you with no obligation (although I’d be grateful if you’d review it, even anonymously!) There’s no charge to enter, just click on the Enter Giveaway link in the entry box below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Seven Kinds of Rain by K. Lyn Wurth

Seven Kinds of Rain

by K. Lyn Wurth

Giveaway ends May 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Book One of the River Saga, Seven Kinds of Rain revives three unwanted children’s voices, a tall-grass prairie scarred by railroad tracks, the mythic frontier’s fading heartbeat, and the violence that stole the West.

Enter now for your chance to preview Seven Kinds of Rain!

A Special Sort of Patience

Thirty years ago, I was a young mother with two preschool children, one of them less than a year old. The necessities of life transplanted me to a tiny house in a tiny South Dakota town, where I was lonely and exhausted, with a touch of the postpartum blues. There were cloth diapers to wash, a home to maintain on a shoestring, cheap meals to prepare, a baby to nurse, kids crying and laughing, me crying and laughing and not one friend within a 500 mile radius. Life took a special sort of patience, then.

It was a good, messy, joyful and hard time, and I sensed even then that my children would bring me a lifetime of rewards. Yet, in the midst of it all, something was missing, specifically the creative writing process that inspired me as a college student. In a life-changing moment of temporary insanity, I resolved to add fiction writing to my hectic days.

So at five a.m., while everyone else slept, I would seclude myself in our little enclosed front porch. There were no heat vents out there and the chill poured off the old storm windows, requiring socks, sweaters and, if memory serves me, a blanket over my shoulders. I wrote for a while by hand, then bought a used typewriter (a major investment in those lean days). Between ideas, I’d sit looking at my reflection in the glass (which is all you can see at five a.m. in South Dakota in winter, in case you wondered) and make up stories. Some were long and some were short, and few were notably good. But I knew I ‘d learn, if I didn’t give up.

In order to have something else to look at besides my own ghostly pre-dawn image, I took a 3×5 piece of notepaper and wrote on it a quote from Gustave Flaubert.

Talent is a long patience.

I taped that quote to the woodwork between the windows above the typewriter. Of course, the day I copied it down, I didn’t imagine how long my patience would need to be, to become the writer I hoped to become. And yet, I was already a writer from those first days, because I was putting down stories, editing them and sending them out.

This was back when we ambitious, wordy folks with delusions of publication typed stories on paper and sent them through the mail. With stamps. You know, to publishers and editors, who sent back rejection letters. If you remember, you probably did it, too. I looked forward to the rejections and those mostly-kind editors sent many, but I kept writing. I took pride in having been gently, even personally, rejected by some of the best publishing houses in New York. Yes, a personal rejection with a note of encouragement went a long way, in those days. I even had a close call, coming a hair’s breadth from having a short story published in Redbook. An agent represented my second novel manuscript, and I felt discouraged when that story didn’t become a book. Now I’m glad it didn’t. It wasn’t ready and neither was I! But I kept writing, and more short stories and novel manuscripts followed, along with skill and confidence. They were just the practice I needed.

Because practice didn’t put bread on the table, I pursued other lines of work, some quite happily. I went to grad school, studied writing and medicine, ran a home-based writing and graphic design business, learned about the world from different viewpoints and raised my family. Writing fiction and telling stories ran through it all, like an underground river, coursing unseen while sustaining me.

The tools changed . . . I graduated from typewriter to word processor to computer, from dot-matrix to digital printing and from typed letters to email. Publishing changed, too . . . it opened to everyone, even as it became more challenging to land a book contract with traditional publishers.

an occasional payment for words

an occasional payment for words

Inevitably, I changed, as well . . . there were personal problems, life problems and health problems. Unforeseen interruptions appeared to veer me off track, then turned out to be the stuff of life and writing. It’s been quite a time, the past thirty years. Good news, though. Everything got better! (Everything that matters, anyway.) Even my writing skills, apparently, because a few stories found publication in journals and in an anthology, The Arduous Touch: Women’s Voices in Healthcare. Every now and then, a check came my way. I went out on a limb and embraced publishing my own novel, The Darkwater Liar’s Account, in 2013, a grand adventure because talent isn’t only a long patience, it’s being willing to take a risk now and then. I have two more novels sitting on my desk right now. One is en route to an editor, and the other, its sequel, is a completed first draft.

In thirty years, some things haven’t changed, perhaps most notably that I’m still writing. I enjoy research and growing stories out of what I learn, about life on the Great Plains and in the West, history, family life and health. That scrap of note paper with its message is constant, too. Eleven different apartments and homes have housed me since I first taped up that quote. Everywhere I’ve gone, it’s followed. The tape’s changed so often, the paper’s upper edge is tattered as if someone’s been chewing on it. It’s a little wrinkled, too, like me. We’ve both proven ourselves in ways that the twenty-something girl I was wouldn’t have expected, and may have terrified her, had she known.

Talent is a long patience.

 As I write this, I look up and it’s there, between the windows in my workshop, over my desk. The words still inspire me. After all this time, I don’t intend to lose them.

Golden Women Writing the West

Go West, Woman Writer…

IMG_1498Women weren’t specifically encouraged to “Go West” as pioneers in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, but many did, nonetheless. They went as single women, wives, entrepreneurs, investors, farmers and ranchers, including and beyond the stereotypes of madams and soiled doves. (Hollywood’s John Wayne in his Western characters never met most of those women, but if he had, he may have been delighted and a bit intimidated by their strength and spirit.) Some of their genetic and spiritual great-granddaughters, Women Writing the West, gathered in mid-October in Golden, Colorado, at The Golden Hotel and The Table Mountain Inn. I was delighted to join them as a new member. We came not to pan gold or rope steers or run hotels, and not even to brew beer (a nod to Coors, at home in Golden), but to consider what it means to write the history and experience of the West.

WWW logoWomen Writing the West is a nonprofit association of publishers and writers who set down the Western North American experience via journalism, nonfiction articles and books, screenplays, mass media and children’s literature. They write contemporary, literary, historical and romance novels, short stories, and poems, but these categories only begin to describe their artistic ventures. This year was the twentieth anniversary of the organization, and many Founding Members were present for special honors.

This autumn, Golden beckoned farmers, scientists, ranchers, teachers, and even businesswomen, from Canada, Alaska, South Dakota, Virginia, California, Oregon, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico…well, you get the idea. The West lives everywhere.

Key conference speakers included Sandra Dallas, Susan Wittig Albert and Corinne Brown. Panelists led us through sessions as varied as Writing the West for Kids, Women’s Fiction, Place as Character, Self-Publishing, Trends in Publishing, Social Media and Collaboration Strategies. Mystery series author Margaret Coel led an inspiring session, My Journey with the Arapahos, that I’ll never forget. I learned so much, and came away so inspired, it’s hard to sleep at night…but I keep a notepad on the bedside table, to catch ideas.

IMG_1524The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum hosted the readings by, and reception for, this year’s WILLA/LAURA awards finalists. There were beautiful quilts on display, including the one WWW members made for this 20th Anniversary celebration.

CherokeeOn Friday Night, we met at the American Mountaineering Center to screen a new film, The Cherokee Word for Water, about Wilma Mankiller, the late Native American activist and modern Cherokee Chief. Her husband, producer and director, Charlie Soap, film producer Kristina Kiehl, and the young star who played Wilma in the film, Kimberly Guererro, met with us for a Q & A after the screening. View the film trailer and watch for this amazing story of how a community saved itself with hard work and “gadugi,” soon showing online or in a theater near you.

IMG_1508While the West is a physical region and encompasses an historic era, it truly lives, as one conference writer said, as a state of mind. In the West of the imagination, anything can happen. Fortunes can be won and lost, lives are wagered on a bright future and the wealth of our nation daily expands beyond our founders’ dreams, out where the tumbleweeds roll, the buffalo snort and the silicon harbors data.

418px-Baby_Doe_TaborBeing a woman in the West was always something special, yet usually untold. Many have heard of the Unsinkable Molly Brown, or even Baby Doe Tabor, Colorado’s Silver Queen, who lived in glitter and died in squalor. But if you want to know Grace Robertson, a teenage bride alone on the South Dakota Prairie, read Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark. Karen Casey Fitzjerrell’s Forgiving Effie Beck, which just won the 2014 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award, leads you through a mystery of a woman gone missing in 1930s Texas. To see frontier justice through a woman named Emilee, read Retribution, by Tammy Hinton, which garnered the 2014 Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award. To learn the secret of the Little House on the Prairie writing process, read Susan Wittig Albert’s A Wilder Rose, about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. For heartwarming Women’s Fiction, try Journey to Sand Castle, by Leslee Breene. If you prefer nonfiction and want to consider health, ecology and the power of connection with the natural world for healing, begin with Susan Tweit’s Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey. I met each of these women, and I’m saving more to write about in future posts, as I experience their work.

IMG_1586The highlight of the conference was the women themselves, and I basked in their warm welcome. Their voices, their love of writing and their encouragement inspire me to both live and write more deeply. As Margaret Coel put it in plainspoken Western style, “People tell you all the time what you can’t do. Don’t listen to them.”

IMG_1564On Sunday morning, to send us off in high style, many of us gathered for a High Tea, featuring our best historical costumes. Corinne Brown presented an amazing array of Western women characters telling their stories, deepening my appreciation for our foremothers’ sacrifices and endurance.

The great beauty of the West is in its still-to-be-explored history, changeability and multicultural fabric, reflected in and by this happy gathering of writers and publishers. Among them, this writer has claimed a new homestead.

WWW 2015 CatalogFor a pdf catalog of more great books by and about the Great Plains and West, go to this link and click on the “View the 2015 Catalog” button at mid-page. Take a leisurely walk through wild country…no cowboy boots or turquoise jewelry is required… but then again, they might get you faster service.

History, Courage & Learning to Remember

In college, I was no history buff. Dr. Lynwood Oyos’ legendary Western Civilization class at Augustana College nearly sank me in terms of my grade point average. He was a brilliant and personable professor who expected his students to immerse themselves in history, not simply learning dates, but absorbing the past in dimensions at that time beyond my grasp. I appreciated the man but came to fear history, at least as an academic pursuit.

On our first date, Goodhusband and I met in a bookstore…yes indeed, an auspicious sign. Thumbing through a published collection of World War II photographs, he told me more than I’d ever learned about that war. While he and I were in high school, some teachers claimed that it was “too soon” to teach or learn about it, that time must bring perspective. Maybe it was just too near and painful to talk about.

World War II holds my interest as a writer because of its complexity and endless potential for storytelling, so I read quite a bit about it. My as-yet-unpublished novel, The Darkwater Liar’s Account, is about a woman who survived that war and lived to regret it. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, as a reader I’m attracted to stories about people caught in events so devastating, so pivotal and yet so real.

Last week I read Sarah’s Key, a novel by Tatiana De Rosnay that revisits a World War II event in Paris. Beginning on July 16, 1942, Paris police herded thousands of French Jewish families into the Vélodrome d’Hiver before deporting them in train cars to extermination camps. Sarah is a fictional character at the center of that catastrophe who captures the interest of the novel’s main character, a journalist named Julia Jarmond. This Rafle du Vél d’Hiv, or the Vél d’Hiv Roundup, is seen from both Julia’s and Sarah’s perspectives as De Rosnay explores the multi-generational and cross-cultural suffering generated by indifference and complicity with Nazi racial extermination. Her story also explores healing, which is an essential, elusive but excruciating process for individuals, families and communities at war. It’s a great story and I highly recommend it, although it depicts intense tragedy and its aftermath. Don’t go into this story expecting to emerge unruffled. For more information about Vél d’Hiv, Ms. De Rosnay and her fiction, I recommend her website. Background on  Vél d’Hiv is widespread on the web, but the Guardian ran a cluster of features on the historical event, De Rosnay’s novel and the related motion picture, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas. The Time World page on the 70th anniversary of the Vél d’Hiv roundup, this past July, is worth viewing, as well.

Denise Madeleine Bloch

My random WWII research this week also led me to the story of a survivor of Vél d’Hive, Denise Madeleine Bloch. As Parisian Jews, she and her family must have felt the tide turning; they fled Paris just in time, crossing the demarcation line into “free,” unoccupied Lyon on July 17th. There the Special Operations Executive, a British World War II organization, recruited her into resistance as a wireless operator and courier. A successful and resilient agent, she learned the art of deception, memorized cryptographer codes, underwent rigorous physical and psychological training and even gathered the courage to parachute jump. Her codenames included “Ambroise” and “Crinoline.” Ensign Denise Block was executed in early 1945 at Ravensbrück and received several posthumous awards. You may read more about her where I found this information, here.

These women–an author, an undercover agent and fictional characters you’ll never forget–their lives, events and stories demonstrate that facts can expand and live through storytelling, whether academic, journalistic or fictional. Resounding with meaning in our senses and memory, stories lead us to embrace and remember people and events that must never be forgotten.

That’s probably what Dr. Oyos wanted me to learn, once I was ready.

Research and Information, the Old, Hard Way

In research for my fiction writing, I use primary sources when available. The internet is a wonderful thing but there are a lot of opinions flashing around, impersonating facts. Because of blatant plagiarism, bias and writers apparently on magic mushrooms, I work to cross-check online information against books, photos, magazines and video from the relevant culture and period.

Scientific American, March 1967

For my novel-in-process, I purchased on eBay a Scientific American (SA) issue dated March, 1967. Reading, I was struck with the scope and depth of the scientific information that, for many people, was everyday reading.  Adults and older children sat down in their living rooms with this magazine to expand their understanding of the world, in their free time.

Here are some of the featured articles in this issue:

“Toxic Substances and Ecological Cycles” Yes, people were concerned about the environment then, even before the current “green” marketing barrage. This article concerned radioactive materials and DDT.

“The Heart’s Pacemaker” focuses on the detailed functions of the atrioventricular node and sinus node in the human heart.

“Ancient Ararat” is an expedition into the civilization of Ararat, or Urartu, via archeological finds in Turkey.

“The Surface of the Moon” begins with the subtitle, “Nine spacecraft have provided thousands of close-up pictures of the moon…” and questions the moon’s origin.

“Behavioral Psychotherapy” considers abnormal behavior and its relationship to “social learning.”

“Salt-water Agriculture” suggests that plants in sandy soil might flourish in even oceanic-strength salt water.

“The Origin of the Automobile Engine” in 1876 and how it had progressed since then.

“Advances in Superconducting Magnets” had wide application in research.

Scientific American
“The Amateur Scientist”

Two other regular features in SA were “Mathematical Games” and “The Amateur Scientist,” which demanded considerable thought and effort from a reader.

While the magazine topics may seem basic and outdated today, several articles were groundbreaking in that year. You can still connect the relevance of that technology to our current research and concerns.

I ordered this sixty-cent edition (I paid more than sixty cents, but it was still a deal) of Scientific American to check facts related to my novel’s plot because there was no website with that relevant information. Of course, the irony of finding the magazine and purchasing it over the internet does not escape me. It’s just one more reason that the internet will always be my friend–my smart, funny, colorful and distracting friend who will eat up all of my time if I let her…my friend who can give me a false sense of intellectual security because she’ll show me almost anything I ask her to, even if it’s not correct. More, the internet says to me, this isn’t enough. You must look for more. Absolutely. I keep other friendships with libraries, archives and good old printed books.

This magazine from 1967 gave me more than my money’s worth. It is a snapshot of a time, information and its context. It reminds me that unbridled access to knowledge does not equal an education and scratching a surface teaches me nothing about depth. I admire the writers and readers of this 1967 publication for their curiosity and focus because it meant calculating, studying, writing and owning information, the hard way.

Tragedy on the Great Plains: The 1888 Children’s Blizzard

winter 2010, outside our back door

Weather humbles us and we’ve bowed to it frequently during the last several years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, wind-whipped wildfires, blizzards and floods demolish our attempts to humanize our landscapes and keep ourselves safe. We can’t quite imagine, though, what it must have been like before our dopplers and satellites and well-educated, attractive weather forecasters on television (who are starting to look like 12-year-olds to Goodhusband and myself). Now we take for granted our 24-hr satellite channel devoted to weather. We can even follow it on our mobile phones.

A terrific thunderstorm with seventy-mile winds blasted our Little House on the Prairie last Saturday night. On surrounding farms and in town many tree limbs fell, some even blocking roads. West of us, the wind peeled back the roof of a large steel building. We lost our power for several hours, which always adds a dramatic touch to late night storms; there’s just something about that kerosene lamplight… I didn’t hear that anyone was injured and fortunately, the corn plants are yet too small to have suffered from the pebble-sized hail. We did gain a much needed one and a half inches of rain.

Dust storm, May 2012

It was a terribly dry winter here, as it was in many regions. Two weeks ago, after the funeral of one of Goodhusband’s dear friends, we experienced a dust storm that made us all shudder, as if it were the dirty Thirties again. Most of the people I know between 70 and 80 years old said they’ve never seen anything like it. I know I hadn’t. You can see it coming in my snapshot. The top part is cloud, but that dark roiling mass on the ground was prime Iowa topsoil in flight. As it surrounded me, I couldn’t see that nearby tree that’s still visible in the photo.

Storm Front, August 2009

In August, 2009, I captured this image of the leading edge of a thunderstorm, just north of our house. I knew the situation was serious as I drove home, when I saw a team of stormchasers setting up instruments on the highway at that very spot. But like the angel of death in Egypt, this one passed over without striking. 2011 was a banner, horrific year for tornadoes, though, across the Plains and in the South.

Yes, we all like to talk about the weather. As for reading about it, The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin, remains one of the most interesting and moving non-fiction books I’ve read. I’m a Great Plains and Western history and fiction lover, so this true story made my list years ago. It’s one I’ve lent out repeatedly, which may be why, when I looked for it today, I couldn’t find it on my bookshelf!

The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin

As Laskin describes it, “An evil genius could not have devised a more perfect battleground for clashing weather fronts than the prairies of North America. ” Yet, January 12, 1888 started out as a beautiful day on that battleground. Within 24 hours, the temperature dropped as much as 100 degrees and by the time that freak blizzard had swept through, approximately  235 people died. It’s undeniably tragic, but hard to grasp just by numbers. Laskin documents not only the meteorological event, but gives faces and personalities to the homesteaders and immigrants who gambled everything to settle the Plains, then paid the ultimate price. Even as he documents the weather monitoring and alert system at that time, he emphasizes the human element of failure and loss, particularly how humans can be so intelligent and courageous, yet so easily caught unaware.

It’s just the book to read, as our weather heats up into summer. If it gives you the urge to pack extra winter clothing in the trunk of your car now, so you don’t forget in October, console yourself. You’re not the only one…

The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin  2004  HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0060520752 (ISBN13: 9780060520755)

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
cover art

This review is based on a pre-release reading of the uncorrected, “galley” proof provided to me by goodreads. Novel Release Date: June 5, 2012.

I just finished an early taste of summer vacation, with a rich and engaging book. Nichole Bernier’s debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., is a brave and breathtaking story about the subtle natures and interplay of womanhood, parenting, marriage and friendship.

The story begins as Kate Spenser, her husband, Chris, and their two young children begin their seven-week vacation at the beach. Kate is still processing the death of her friend, Elizabeth Martin, the victim of a plane crash in Queens that is abruptly overshadowed by the disasters of 9/11. As she mourns her friend, Kate also finds herself responsible for Elizabeth’s secrets and legacy; Elizabeth directed in her will that Kate alone receive the locked, antique trunk that holds Elizabeth’s journals.

Kate, although a reluctant interpreter of her friend’s written life, takes the responsibility seriously. Her commitment to reading Elizabeth’s journals influences not only her memories, but raises questions about Kate’s own decisions and marriage. Her fascination, which borders on obsession (as mine did, reading “over her shoulder”), stirs Kate into uneasiness. While ruffling the surface of her marriage, the responsibility also places her at odds with Dave, Elizabeth’s surviving husband, who struggles with his own suspicions about Elizabeth.

This story begins as an intriguing mystery about Elizabeth–her personality, relationships, changes and affections. Yet, this mystery is only the wrapping that conceals other, more tender dilemmas for the reader to unfold. Through her strong characters, striking observations and deep insights, the author leads us to ponder the dedication it takes to endure uncertainty; about the people we love, about seemingly random events and the “mere” coincidences that make the difference between life and death. The greatest mystery I savored in this moving story is the immeasurable cost of secrets, which protect, torment and shape us.

Nichole Bernier draws the reader into Kate’s private, conscientious point of view. Reflecting on her deceased friend, Kate considers that some people “don’t fit into a box. They grow to infiltrate everything, and when they suddenly go missing, they are missing everywhere.” In another post- 9/11 moment, Kate considers that, as for having a third child, “It seemed a dangerous thing, having more children than hands.” (Out of respect for the uncorrected proof status of my galley, I won’t quote more than this…although I could go on and on with great pleasure, thanks to many “aha” moments of literary and emotional resonance.) The author rings true with her characters and a timeless consideration of the dangers of love, in its many mysterious forms.

Please find more information on the author, book excerpts, the first chapter, release date and where to purchase at: Nichole Bernier’s blog and her author website. Thanks to goodreads for drawing my name out of the great hat of cyberspace. I will post this review on their site, as well.

Who, me? Modern?

I’m not a kid anymore and most days I’m really happy about that. Fortunately, my own kids have kept me up to speed on technology. When I get stuck, they help me out. But as someone who’s been writing for LOTS of years, I see the world changing exponentially each day. When I first started writing, a writer didn’t even need an agent. You actually sent your manuscript in a box to publishers. It’s true. But we did have fire and the wheel.

I want to share a wonderful post about authors and technology. Kristen Lamb is not only funny, but persuasive and ready to share knowledge with those of us who are trying to catch the brass ring on the publication carousel (I just dated myself again with that analogy, didn’t I?). So go to Kristen’s blog, read what she has to say and remind yourself, that if Kelly can learn this stuff, anybody can. Especially when we have people like Kristen to fire us up and light the way.