Monday, September 28, 2009

Whittling My Report

I've been back from my travels for days now and still trying to get caught up. One of the things I'm working on is my workshop report for the Afictionado ezine for ACFW members. I volunteered to be a reporter for literary agent Natasha Kern's workshop entitled Sin + Virtue = Bestseller.

I took notes of Natasha's workshop with my mini while at the conference. Natasha spoke very fast for an hour plus and I tried to keep up with her. I ended up with about 2200 words. But it was too much. My report has to be 500 words maximum.

So, I whittled it down to 1500 words by taking out all the examples she used. Still not enough.

Then I worked it down some more and am now sitting at 1100 words. Sheesh. I still have to shave 600 words off it!

It wouldn't be so bad except that Natasha has some excellent stuff there. She talked about conflict and heroes and villains in a way that although it surely wasn't new, it was new to me. I'm excited to get back to Emma's Outlaw and breathe new life in my characters...

but Yikes!

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Poem Featured at Inktropolis Today

It's Poetry Day at Inktropolis and I wrote a special poem as my first public offering.

If you've been following my blog here, you'll know I visited the Oregon Trail Ruts this past Monday. A special friend had mentioned she'd wished she could make the journey with me and as I stood on the site in Guernsey, Wyoming this poem formulated in my mind. It's called, You Were By My Side.

So if like history and/or poetry pop over there and leave a comment with an email address for a chance to win a Love Inspired Historical book as well as have your name entered in the big end of October Grand Prize giveaway.

Although I'd love to hear from you here, you will only be entered in this draw if you leave a comment at Inkwell Inspirations during the next 3 days.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Prairie Chick Visits Wyoming

I'm blogging at Prairie Chicks today about my Wyoming recon for Emma's Outlaw.

Go check it out for some inspiring, unique photos. If someone had told me there were natural land formations like these, I would have been hard pressed to believe. But now after seeing them for myself, I can only marvel at the imagination of our God.

And here's a pic that didn't make the Prairie Chick cut:


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wild, Wonderful Wyoming!

Today was the day I followed Emma's ride in my Outlaw story. I'm not posting those photos here, however, because I need them for my Thurs Prairie Chick post. But I recorded many other photos for you. Here's a pic of the the Laramie Mountains from the local McDonald's parking lot. This is what you'd see if you looked south from the city of Casper.

A typical sight in Wyoming are these piles of boulders just lying there in the middle of a field. It always makes me wonder what formation they were before they fell.

Honestly, you can't go 2 miles without spotting a heard of a dozen or so pronghorn antelopes. They are a real menace on the Wyoming roads and I see them eating the farmer's fields which appears to be a luxury in this semi-arid state.

Wyoming reminded me of the biblical wilderness. Forlorn windmills like this one dot the state:

This memorial and an information sign are all that mark the route of the Bozeman trail.

I thought a butte was a flat topped hill. Nobody told me it was 20 times wider than it's height. This is a picture of one of the 'Pumpkin' Buttes.

The Big Horn Mountains are on your left as you travel north from Casper

Many of the roads and highways in Wyoming are made from the abundance of red dirt.

These topless hoodoos remind me of Mount Rushmore.

As I crossed the state line into Montana, the land became fit for farming again but always in the background were the mountains.

This tree was stark white and dead when I saw it just before sundown. I guess it hid in the shadows by the time I got my camera out:

Well, that's it for this day. Tomorrow I'll make my way across Montana, hopefully arriving home before nightfall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Oregon Trail

I awoke this morning in Wheatland, Wyoming, close to Fort Laramie along the North Platte River. I set my GPS for Register Cliff and headed for Guernsey. It didn't take long before I got off the interstate and headed east. It was very easy to follow the signs and soon I was parking my van. I'd expected the site to be in a state park with an entrance fee but I'd passed that on the west side of town. After grabbing a sweater, I started up the trail:

It would've been a nice leisurely walk if not for the cold wind and 44F temps. I reached the top in just a couple minutes and tucked my hands in my pockets. It was the last day of summer. I alone stood at the top and read the sign. Not sure what to expect, I turned around and saw this:

It reminded me of a film set. The rules at the start had said only foot traffic could leave the designated paths. I had feet . . . so I stepped off the path and saw this:
I stared for a long time. All I had to do was take a step forward and I'd be in the middle between the ruts left from countless wagon wheels. I took that step and without conscious thought, closed my eyes. The feeling of being there was so intense I started to cry. I looked up the hill to the north and saw this:

How many pioneers had stood where I stood and looked east across the North Platte River wondering if they'd ever see their loved ones again? No matter how many years had passed, except for the plaques and cement path, this is what they saw:

I followed the Trail south, sometimes on it, sometimes beside it. I found many instances of survival with trees growing out of rocks and cactus on the ground. I actually took over 200 photos and I'll be putting more on Inktropolis this Friday, so only a couple more here. Look closely . . . sometimes beside the wagon ruts, sometimes I didn't see it, but to me it looks like the path of the women and children who climbed the hill as their men coaxed their oxen forward.

After walking around for over an hour, I was ready for a rest so I started the path down. In this next photo if you look close, you'll see a bench at the end of the path just before it turns to the left. I sat there and made notes on my iTouch while everything was fresh in my mind.

My next stop was Register Cliff just a couple miles south of the wheel ruts. It's a wall of limestone, common in the area, where hundreds of pioneers and present day people as well, have carved there name in the soft stone:

I didn't have time to research, but someone even made a tunnel:

I walked up to the gate, peeked in, and took this shot:

I started up the trail, hoping no boulders would slide down the cliff:

This 1840 inscription is the earliest one I found:

Unfortunately, those written on the south and southeast walls can't stand up to the winds of time:

I walked past the security fence, around to the west until a fence stopped me. This next shot was taken on my way back with the fence on the left and a small monument to the pioneers.

On the way back, I followed the path on the other side of the boulders which had fallen and found this jewel hidden in the prairie grass:

Back in my van, I drove north to Douglas and then west toward Casper but I had one more stop before I slept. Five miles south of I-25 is Ayers Natural Bridge. I parked beside a red wall and went for the 3rd walk of my day:

It was a short walk over a metal bridge to where I saw this natural wonder:

The place where I stood with the natural bridge was cool and surrounded by tall cliffs. I took a walk around and saw this:

And this:

Also, these trees caught my eye:

And these bumpy trees. Now they may be the norm for this area, but they sure look different to me:

And that's it for the Wheatland to Casper run. Tomorrow I hope to start Emma's journey which is why I'm sitting in Casper tonight.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It Just Got Better and Better

Since my last post, the conference just got better and better. The agent I went to see in the Friday night agent chat is interested in my historical novel, Emma's Outlaw. This is the same story the editor at lunch in my last post is interested in, so I'm very glad I'm taking time to do a recon in Wyoming to lend authenticity to Emma's journey. However, that's tomorrow since I'm still in Colorado.

I didn't have time to blog yesterday on Sat but the conference is over now. I'm sitting in the hotel lobby and want to download these photos before I hit the road in case I don't have internet service tonight.

Friday night after the Harp and Bowl worship session, I joined the Seekers for their nightly get together.

Starting at the back row, left to right: Julie Lessman, Cheryl Wyatt, Audra Harders, Janet Dean, Mary Connealy, Camy Tang, Tina M. Russo and Pam Hillman. Front row: (L to R) Cara Slaughter, Debby Giusti, Ruth Logan Herne, Sandra Leesmith and Missy Tippens. Missing from photo are Myra Johnson and Glynna Kaye

I call these gals the Steeple Hill Knitting Club. They knit everywhere including during workshops. From left to right are Danica Favorite (eHarlequin Steeple Hill board host)and Love Inspired authors Allie Pleiter and Camy Tang.

After the workshops ended on Saturday afternoon, the authors took their places for the book signing. Here are some of the Love Inspired authors. From left to right starting at the front row: Marta Perry (seated), Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Missy Tippens, Debby Giusti. And the back row left to right: Tina Russo, Glynna Kaye, Seeker pal Lisa Jordan and Sandra Leesmith.

Here's one with me and two special Love Inspired authors: Margaret Daley on the left and Cheryl Wyatt on the right.

After the booksigning, everyone got gussied up for the ACFW banquet. Here are some of the Inkies from the new Inkwell Inspirations blog. By the way - head over there for daily prizes as well as grand opening prizes to be given away at the end of October.

Left to right starting at the back row: D'Ann Mateer, Jennifer AlLee, Debra E Marvin and me, Anita Mae Draper. Front row (L to R) Connie Marquise, Gwen Stewart and Lisa Richardson.

Inky Lisa Richardson was runner up in the Historical Romance category of the 2009 ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished writers.

Here I am with a special friend, Seeker Julie Lessman who won the much deserved Book of the Year award for A Passion Most Pure.

The Awards banquet dessert was this double chocolate layered mousse with edible ACFW sign.

And that's it for the 2009 ACFW conference. I'm shutting down my laptop now and heading north searching for the ruts that show where the pioneers travelled along the Oregon trail.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Good News, Bad News & God News in Denver

This was a bad day-good day for me in Denver. I've been suffering from lack of sleep but actually slept for 4 hrs in a stretch last night. That was good news.

More good news was the Steeple Hill breakfast. I brought Gwen, my critique partner and roomie and we shared an enjoyable buffet with Margaret Daley, Missy Tippins, Cheryl Wyatt, Ginny Aiken, Laurie Kingery, Danica Favorite and Camy Tang. Unfortunately my camera batteries were dead and I didn't get photos. Eeep!

After breakfast, I had a 'God' moment. It started when I realized I didn't feel like attending the morning session I'd signed up for because I would have to leave part way to make my agent appointment. Margaret Daley said she didn't mind if I went in and out of hers since everyone else was going to be going for appts as well.

I needed to run off some papers in the business centre and by the time I finished, the morning sessions had started. I decided I should do some praying before my appt so I headed to the prayer room. But, a funny thing happened when I got there. I 'felt' like I shouldn't be there but should check at the registration desk to see if I was needed.

So, I turned around and headed there. I was about to take the short cut past some classrooms but again, I 'felt' like I should take the long way through the lobby. I did. When I got to the reg'n desk, I told Michelle whom I'd worked with as a volunteer yesterday that I 'felt' like I should check to see if I was needed. Holding a handheld radio, she gave me a funny look and said she had the perfect job for me. I said I'd take it. She spoke in the radio, said she was sending a volunteer down and directed me to the ballroom where all our meals are eaten. As soon as I walked in, a lady at the back started waving her arms. Turns out 3 publishers sent about 1500 books for free distribution and it was decided by the higher-ups to tie a string around them - 2 to a pak. The 2 ladies there were so thankful I'd shown up! Now here's a confirmation that it was a 'God' thing . . . I took the short cut this time and guess what . . . I passed the classroom where Margaret Daley was teaching. So, if I had taken that route instead of going the long way, I would have just stopped in and not gone on to the registration desk. And those ladies wouldn't have had my willing hands for that hour.

For the past year, I've deliberated on whether I need an agent at this stage of my writing journey. I thought I might so I made an agent appt. But today, at the appt, the agent said I wasn't ready for one and to keep in touch. Still, it was a downer.

Lunch followed. It was one of the special ones where an agent, editor or successful author sat at each table and you had a chance to pitch to them. I wandered around unsure where I should sit. I didn't feel compelled to sit anywear. I passed friends. I even sat at one table but got up and left because it didn't 'feel' right. And then as I passed this one editor's table, I decided to sit. When the meal was over, the editor started around the table asking each of us what we were working on. When it was my turn, I handed over my one-sheet for OUTLAW. She actually read the whole thing, smiling in a couple places. When she finished it, she said it was only 70,000 words and they like 90-100,000. I made the stretching motion and said I could make it longer. She grinned and said good. Then she said it was exactly what they were looking for and to contact her after the conference to request their onesheet/guidelines. Not only was this thrilling, but it sure felt like another 'God-thing'. :)

Anyway, I still have one more session tonight before the Harp and Bowl Worship session so I'm closing off now. God is so good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Denver Update: Thurs

I started working the reg'n desk at 7 am and stayed there most of the day. So many people to greet. It was fantastic putting 3D images to facebook photos.

The highlight of my day was when I finally met Gwen, my critique partner of 2 yrs. :D

We sat for our first large session (540 of us) for supper. Debbie Macomber then gave the keynote address. She's a terrific speaker and yes, I cried when she choked up. Her speech was on her writing journey. It was great! So inspiring.

9 pm saw me at the Steeple Hill chat. Then, I scurried down here to the lobby to post this.

Breakfast tomorrow is with the Steeple Hill authors and on-line friends who go on the Steeple Hill boards.

My agent appt is tomorrow morning at 11:30. Yikes!

Since we must be seated by 7:30 for breakfast, I'm heading up to bed now. More updates when I get the chance.

I'm in Denver, Colorado!

I made it to Denver to attend the ACFW conference.

I'm blogging over at Prairie Chicks Write Romance today and I just uploaded a whole bunch of pictures of my adventure so far.

But in case you don't make it over there, here are a couple more:
Here's a land formation that's possibly broken apart:

There were only a couple hills like this one which looked like it had some kind of formation on top and then it toppled. It may be a small hill, but those are huge, beautifully shaped pieces.

Here's a draw similar to the kind my heroine and her captors will spend the night in so no one can spot their fire:

And that's it for now. Go to if you want to see some more.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Montana and Wyoming

My plan was to leave for Denver Monday morning but by the time I left, it was just after lunch. Then I ticked off my GPS because I headed north instead of south. But I’m sure glad I did because my Sony eReader was sitting at the post office. I headed west to Regina to pick up a couple things then turned south. This is the last photo I took of Saskatchewan looking north just before I crossed the Can/US border.

In this next photo, the border crossing is right in the middle of the photo where those little buildings are and then the hills of Montana.
This next one is Plentywood Montana. Darkness fell soon after. When flashing lights came up behind me, I would've pulled over but there wasn't a shoulder on the road. I was going right on the speed limit so they couldn't have been for me. They weren't. They passed me by. A few mins later another came up behind me and passed. By the time the 3rd one came, I was getting jittery but they passed, too. I saw them turn off to the east. But not ten mins later, another came up behind me and then another one. They passed, too. And so many white crosses on the sides of the road designated fatalities. Not a good place to be driving.

I stopped overnight in Sidney and left at 7:30 to this beautiful sight. The traffic cleared and I'd go miles and miles without seeing another vehicle. Heavenly. Just me and God's masterpiece. No wonder Charlie Russell was so inspired.
The Montana landscape is truly breathtaking. The northeast corner is dinosaur country. Here's a photo of the landscape typical on the west side of Hwy 16:

And here's what it looked like on the east side:

I entered Wyoming after lunch. The landscape here is much flatter without the distance hills. Part of this state is covered by grasslands. There is more traffic here on the roads - very busy in some places unlike the solitude of Montana.

In the late afternoon, clouds were filling the skies. I saw some lightning in the west. Here's the western sky at 5 pm:

It was raining in the south too, although it stopped by the time I reached Douglas which you can't see in this photo. I believe that's Laramie Peak in the distance and although it looms over Douglas, I can't see it from my hotel.

That's it for my adventures so far. I'll try to upload more photos in a day or two.