Thursday, October 11, 2012

#Friday Fictioneers Whitewash

Dear readers and writers,

Time for Friday's 100 word response to a photo posted by Madison Woods ( along with others all over the world.  I always appreciate any input to make the writing better along with reactions to the content.  Cheers, Lorelei


No teenagers live here, so my chances of selling off the whitewash opportunity are nil.  This whole wall has to be done by tonight, Nico said.  I wanted to go to school today too.  We were going to see a movie about pirates but of course, he has to have the back of the inn whitewashed.  And for whom?  Who will ever see it in this narrow street back here, except for old Stefanos and his donkey picking up the trash barrels?  Of course, his daughter Maria sometimes comes along.  Okay, I'm getting to work.  But first, let's see how I can make my hair come to a point.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvest Moon Dreams

Hi readers and writers,

I have always been fascinated with the harvest moon, especially with how big it looks.  I know we're supposed to think the huge size is an optical illusion nowadays, but I must say I am not really convinced that some trick of resonance with golden pumpkins and ripe corn doesn't inflate its image as seen by earthlings during harvest season.  Or warm air cooling, or something.

Every year, I feel a pull from that moon, a need to go outside and look at its shape and whatever I can see of its mottled surface.  I love its yellower-than-usual color and how it seems to hang right over the tops of the trees, brushing them with bright moonlight.   I'm sorry to say Halloween was not a favorite holiday when I was a kid, being too closely associated with Twilight Zone and similar fantasies, but the moon made the season worthwhile.  I kept sketches of its shape every night during October most years.

Today, it's hard to remember there IS a moon, we are so insulated.  But moonlight sneaks around the curtains and stripes the blue bedroom rug, and I have to go and look.  Is it round?  Gibbous?  Waxing or waning?  When does it rise and set each night?  You do realize (or maybe not) that rising/setting times change a lot each day?  If you're not a moon-watcher, give it a try this season.  It will pull you in.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

#FridayFictioneers: Shadowed Kitchen

Hi readers and writers,
Time for a new 100-word fiction piece inspired by #FridayFictioneers challenges. This week's photo is by Raina Ng.  If you go to Madison's website, you can join's fun to write these and even more fun to see all the different responses to the same image.

I would love any input readers have for me on how to make this snippet better, as well as (of course!) any comments of enjoyment.

Shadowed Kitchen

Here I sat every day in the sweet-smelling shadows after school, after the bus dropped me off.  The smell of the cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon from the jars on the wall always made me daydream of food while I solved the math problems or English analogies.  In those days, every teacher gave us 25 short answer items a night.  Their mantra was "homework works."  In today's world, Adam only learns from the focus of his attention: his computer.  He almost doesn't even watch television any more.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Blackbird Sings, Coming Soon

Hi readers and writers,

I enjoy the annual project of Writing Our Way Home authors Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita, the River of Small Stones they collect in January.  Writers all over the world try to observe something with great intensity and write a short description of it, each day for a month.  A few of these "small stones" are collected by Fiona and Kaspalita and made into a book, an ebook and usually a paperback as well.  The collection of small stones, with philosophical musings of Fiona and Kaspalita, will be released soon.  It's called The Blackbird Sings this year, and I really like the cover design, shown above.  It will be for sale on Amazon and its release will be celebrated by a world-wide festival of new Small Stone poetry.  I'm proud to have a poem in the collection, but I bought last year's even though I had not participated in the project.  I'd encourage you to look at it and if you enjoy short poems, to buy it and perhaps to try your hand a small stone writing.  January will be here soon, and you would surely enjoy joining in if you decide to participate.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Exchanging Matter With the Universe

Dear readers and writers,

I watched a commercial on TV by accident today and it showed a man made of money, constantly losing dollars as he steered a boat across a lake.  It reminded me of something we don't think about very often.  When we touch things, we leave some of our molecules behind and pick up some of the molecules of the object we felt.  We exchange matter.  Seeing doesn't do that, but touching does.  You leave a sort of calling card and pick up evidence of where you've been.  You aren't exactly the same person as you were before you ran your hand along that rounded stair banister or shining oak table.

I like that idea a lot because it means we're connected with the things around us.  All we have to do is reach out and touch something and we merge with it in a micro way.  I don't know if you've ever touched a butterfly or moth and had a few scales from its wings come off on your fingers.  I had that experience as a child and thought it was pixie dust.  It does look magical, colors beyond what our clothes dyers can produce, shiny and dusty at the same time.  But you've left something for the moth or butterfly, it's just less gorgeous.  Some DNA, some skin cells, collagen, a bit of lipid.

What it really reminds me of is potlatch, the party given by Native Americans in the Vancouver area at which you bring a gift, give it, and take something away with you.  A sort of gift exchange.  I think it would be good for us to become more conscious that this is the way we interact with the universe.

Some exchanges are not equal over time.  I think of the hollows in old stone steps, where many feet have taken a few molecules each time until there's a bite out of the stone.  If we didn't wear shoes, would our molecules have filled in those gaps?

Photo credit : Wikipedia/Creative Commons with thanks.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Trolls

Hi readers and writers,
It's Friday Fictioneers again.  If you'd like to "play" along then go to, where on the blog you'll find all the details about Friday Fictioneers.  The photo prompt this week is pasted below (Photo by Sandra Crook).  We write a 100 word response between Weds and Friday and link them all to Madison Woods' blog.  I am always amazed at how diverse the responses are, given the same photo!


As soon as I went through the open gate, I felt it.  A menace hung in the air, especially over those rocks.  I passed the red crystal over the one to the left.  The crystal intoned, "Troll."  How had they been turned into stones?  Was it safe to go this way?  Would they reanimate at night and track me down?  Vancu needed the crystal and I had to try to get it to him.  I wrapped my drab cloak tightly around me and walked down the steps between the troll rocks.  As I passed between them I heard a bass "thrum" and creaking noises.  I started to run.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Barbara Abercrombie Interview on Year of Writing Dangerously

Dear readers and writers:

One of the most inspiring writers and writing teachers I know has recently released a new book called A Year of Writing Dangerously.  Barbara Abercrombie, author of many books and UCLA Extension professor, has been on a book tour recently: watch for her near you.  She's so enjoyable to hear in person!  Here is an interview on her most recent work.

1.     LH Your new writing book has an unusual structure, combining memoir, interviews, quotations.  How did you come to this design for the book?

BA I think the design came from a number of sources –  first, I got the title in my head but for a long time I couldn’t figure out the voice, or whether the book’s structure should be monthly or weekly or daily. A writer friend cleared that up for me when he said he’d immediately buy a writing book of inspiration if it had daily entries to read.  I paid attention to that because I wanted the book to be for all writers – experienced/published as well as those just starting out.
I was also influenced by having written a blog for six years – it felt really comfortable to write in short pieces. As for the quotes – I use writer’s quotes all the time when I teach. I’m a real literary groupie, so the fun of the book was discovering and then connecting what favorite writers said to what I was writing about. 

2.     LH One of your blurb writers called this a daybook, a book with a writing inspiration for each day of the year.  It could be that, but is that how you thought of it? 

BA Yes, but I also thought of it having an arc – starting with getting down that first sentence, and then towards the end of the book, sending work out.  My editor wanted each piece to stand on it’s own, so a reader could dip into it anywhere – so I hope reading it that way works too.

3.    LH The word “dangerously” hangs in the air and rings like a bell.  What made you choose that word to characterize the writing year?

BA I love that – ‘rings like a bell’!  That word just came to me out of the blue – and I do think writing feels dangerous most of the time.  Dangerous 'cause we worry what other people, especially what our loved ones (our material!) will think, and to expose our thoughts and feelings, and our imagination just feels dangerous and risky to most people. 

4.     LH Early on, you quote Terry Tempest Williams to the effect that writing is “a bloody risk,” but I know in Writing Out the Storm you portray a different role for writing.  When is writing pushing out to the edge and when is it seeking for that healing level of understanding? 

BA What an interesting question.  I think writing does both – pushes to the edge – reveals and takes risks -  and also heals.  Because it takes courage to write toward understanding.  Writing Out the Storm is more geared for people who don’t want to become writers but use writing as therapy.  (And I’m going back to reread it to see where I contradicted myself!)  I know that when people came to the writing workshop the book was based on, they were really scared and it took weeks and sometimes months of writing in a safe group to get them to be more honest and open in their writing.

5.     LH On the first day (of creation?) you describe going up to Lake Arrowhead and say, “Whenever I arrive up there, I’m grateful that I made it,…”  The road up the mountain is, as you describe it, full of danger.  How important is making the metaphor real in your writing process?

BA (I’m not exactly sure what you mean with this question but I’ll  give it a go.)
Some writers think in metaphor and it helps them, others couldn’t come up with a metaphor if their life depended on it.  So some will not connect with this idea – And perhaps there’s no way to make this metaphor real in your writing practice. But metaphor can act as kind of a lift-off point.
(LH note: driving that highway makes me check for new white hairs and massage my white knuckles until they relax. Maybe she dreads it less.)

6.     LH On day 4, you remind us that “No one will read what you’re writing until you allow them to.”  That’s a very powerful idea, but then you write about rewriting.  Have you experienced long periods of with-holding things you’ve written yourself, or even of burning or tearing apart some dangerous writing?

BA I find that the process can feel dangerous – not usually the writing itself.  In the past I’ve experience dreadful bouts of writer’s block during which I was so judgmental of my own writing that I couldn’t get anything written. It all felt dangerous.  And every time I start a new project it still feels dangerous – the only difference is that now I know this is just how it is, so I start slamming stuff down on the page and with enough rewriting it’s usually okay. 

7.     LH I love the moment when you say, “…if you feel you need permission to write about yourself or whatever you need to write about, I give you permission.”  What has happened in your writing classes when you’ve granted this permission to your students?

BA Amazing things! Essays and memoirs get written!  They also realize in a class how interested other students are in their stories.  That we really want to know about each other’s lives.  That every single person has a story – or many stories to write.

8.     LH You talk about the role of poetry to direct our attention to “feelings, ideas, language.”  You often begin a writing class by reading a poem.  How would you say hearing a poem affects student writing?  Do the pieces resemble each other more?  Are they richer in imagery?

BA  Their writing becomes more free.  Poems can lift us out of a linear rut. (and then this happened and then this…..) Poems make leaps and prose can do the same.  Also a good poem makes you realize the weight of one word – or just a few words.  So it helps them to be more economical with language. 

9.     LH I like the quote from Gordon Lish, “Get into trouble. Go to where the jeopardy is.”  In a sense, he believed in paring down prose to the absolute minimum.  I’ve seen notes on his editing that show him removing over half of a short story.  Do you agree with him that less is more when it comes to showing trouble?

BA I think less is always more when writing.   It’s one of the hardest things to learn as a writer!

10.   LH Having been twice to writing classes at the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Norman’s old, lovely home in Provincetown, MA, right on the water, and going out to eat in some of his favorite restaurants and to his favorite theatres, I had to laugh at your quote from Norman, “Writers don’t have lifestyles.  They just sit in little rooms and write.”  And you yourself have lovely homes to serve as your home bases when you write.  Is there a point where you shut out the world?

BA  Oh, such a good question. And it makes me feel guilty cause that’s what I should be doing, shutting out the world and writing.  But here I am having this wonderful back and forth with you, which is so much more fun.  And I wrote a blog post today and posted on Facebook and have finally been convinced I need to get on Twitter.   Since I have a new book out  (and another coming out next spring) I tell myself I have to do online connecting – but I, and all the writers I know who are publishing, struggle with this and I write about it in AYOWD.  But to answer your question – yes, and often I have to go up to my cabin in Lake Arrowhead where there’s just silence and no internet to reconnect with my writing.

11.   LH You quote Abigail Thomas, “It was a long time before I realized that you don’t have to start right, you just have to start.”  This quote is related to the permission.  What’s the barrier?

BA So many people – at least this is true of my new students - think there’s a right way to write.  That you have to know a lot, or at least know where your story is going, and that you need to be inspired etc.  When in fact to be a writer you just need a notebook, a journal, and you start writing. 

What a fun interview this was. I love tough questions! And thanks for reading the book so thoroughly.  
 Thanks, Barbara!

LH note:  be sure to watch Barbara's book trailer on her web site here:


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Octodancing: Friday Fictioneers

Hi friends,
I've been away from Friday Fictioneers for several weeks while I got my arthritis pain back under control, so this week I picked my favorite photo I've missed to write about.  cheers, Laura


If you only had eight legs yourself, you would understand now much you are missing when you try to dance.  The freedom I have to move fast in any direction is awesome, if I do say so myself.  Of course, I believe in restraint and tradition so you don’t see me driving all over the place like Lulu who took that LSD the other day and made something she called a web.  Excuse me, it was just a mess.  But here you see an example of what I mean.  Isn’t it cool to turn around and make a tiny round web within one space of a bigger one?  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lose your mind, come to your senses

Dear readers and writers,

I saw the headline phrase, "Lose your mind, come to your senses," in a newsletter from Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego.  My Environmental Literature class will be visiting there on a field trip Oct 6, and I'm trying to prepare.  But I couldn't concentrate after noticing this phrase.  It's close to a summary of what we are finding in our readings.  Turn off your city mind, your analytics, your skepticism, irony, cynicism, armor of any kind...lose your mind, that carefully cultivated and trained asset you are so proud to possess.  Instead, simply open your senses (come to your senses), let the world of nature talk with you, spice your air, chime in with insect rhythms, slay you with the red of a single poppy as happened to Ovid in The Imaginary Life, captivate you with leathery skin of a skink or brushy soft bristles of a fuzzy caterpillar, titillate your taste buds with the flavor of turmeric and coriander or just the green grass sap from a freshly plucked off stem.  So many sensory impulses nature would give us if we only could come to our senses.  Yes, this phrase is going to be my new mantra.  I don't really want to permanently lose my mind but it can hibernate for periods while I reconnect to the fibers of nature, its sensory bonanza.  I wish that for you too, and hope you're somewhere that it's possible to get a nature sensory blast every once in a while.  Of course it's trite to say it will blow your mind, so perhaps I'll say it'll blow out the cobwebs of your mind with the wind you let in when you lose your mind in this way.

Enjoy!  Laura
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons, with thanks.  Originally taken by Eric Hill.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ranges and Clouds---Friday Fictioneers

Hi readers and writers,
Here is the photo prompt for the Madison Woods photo challenge this week.  My 100 word response is below.  I welcome any comments or critique.  Join in, and do read all the others.  I am always amazed at the range of responses to one photo.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Not to Have

Hi readers and writers,

Because my arthritis is really bad right now, I'm thinking strange thoughts about whether or not we really need joints.  Have you seen nudibranchs?  Just saying, they don't have joints.  Well, they don't have bones either.  Invertebrates don't worry about arthritis pain.  I'd love to be a gliding marine organism with no joints at all.  I used to like to dance, and when I watch the nudibranchs they look like they're dancing.  Anybody know why it's not a good idea to become a nudibranch?  At least for a story?  I've written as a tree for Friday Fictioneers recently, so being an invertebrate for the Point of View seems quite good to me.

Here, for example, is a photo of two nudibranchs (perhaps on a date arranged by Invert Ecstasy?) eating tunicates.  A cool fact about them is that if they eat something with a shootable stinger, they can just stick that thing into their own skin and use it on another organism later.  I feel a story coming on.

PS Thanks to Nick Hobgood and Creative Commons/Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#FridayFictioneers Fork

Dear readers and writers,

On Friday, people all over will post their responses to Madison Woods' photo prompt, which you can see here. Do write something and join in!  Mine is below the photo, which is copyrighted by Lura Helms.  I'd be interested in any reactions and/or critiques you have of mine.
People eat with forks.  They use forks with two, three tines so they can easily lift or stab their bites.  Humans call a split between two of my branches a fork too.  Well, what about a fork in my trunk where some stupid old man wedged a hose joint twenty years ago, forgot all about it, and now I've grown around it until it's almost a part of my structure?  Almost, but not quite.  The hose is rotting and the metal ions leach off and run up and down my xylem, subtle poisons that make me creak in the wind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This too shall pass.

Dear readers and writers,

I have been feeling a bit panicked about taking up teaching writing at SDSU along with my three MFA courses there and the first year seminar I'm teaching at my home institution.  So, after working on some of my course materials,  I opened a pdf of Writing Your Way Home by Fiona Robyn, hoping to find a little peace and happiness.  Here's the first thing that struck my eye: "Writing is an immediate mirror: it reports back to you. You can't fool anyone, especially yourself. Here you are the doer and the done, the worldly person and the monk. It's an opportunity to unite the inner and the outer, both being the same anyway, only in illusion two. A great challenge, a great practice.” ~Natalie Goldberg"

I took a workshop with Natalie Goldberg in Sedona, AZ two years ago, and it slowed down my "monkey mind" so I could connect with important deeper ideas.  So, as I read on, I looked for more ways Fiona might use Goldberg's ideas.  And, soon enough, I found this: "Acknowledging that we don't always know who we are (or what we're capable of) reminds us of our ultimate transience. Everything is impermanent, including our own selves. The writer and Zen practitioner Natalie Goldberg says this 
very well: “To have an intimate connection with the world …[is]… to know about its passing.” 

Ah, yes.  At times of great joy, accept and soak it in because it won't stay with you forever.  At times of great stress, know too that it's not going to stay.  Someday, you may wish you had so much to think about.  But whatever you have, the moment is precious.  This too shall pass.

That's another memory.  My daughter has that phrase tattooed on her foot where she can look down and see it, but it isn't all that obvious to people she passes each day. When I heard from her why she had it, it made me want to cry, but it's a very Zen idea, I think.  Give up the bad, give up the good, but don't give up the moment without seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, hearing its essence.  If you pass this way again, it will not be the same.  The molecules won't be the same, the people won't be the same, the animals won't be the same, you won't be the same. This "now" is all we have.

Photo credit: Monarch butterfly in May, Wikipedia Commons with thanks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#FridayFictioneers: Cherrystones

Hi readers and writers,

This week I am off to St. Louis on Friday, so I'm posting my #Fridayfictioneers 100 word piece a bit early.  Am I always early or late? No, once or twice I've done it on Friday!  But summer is a time of travel, so dates must bend and sway to accommodate my schedule.  Do visit Madison Woods' blog to read more and join in to Friday Fictioneers. She always welcomes new Friday fictioneer writers!
I would like criticism and/or comments.  Cheers, Laura


On the beach below Nobska Lighthouse we built a fire.  In flat pan with an inch of water and a handful of Fucus seaweed strewn around rested dozens of Cherrystones, small clams in white shells, tightly closed.  We put the pan on the fire.  Mickey and Royce capered around doing cartwheels while Zooey and I melted butter with a squeeze of fresh lemon in it.  As soon as the clams opened into butterflies, we snatched them off the fire, pulled out the meat, dunked it into the butter/lemon mix, and ate a bite of heaven.  The shells went back into the water.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Interview with Kay Murphy on Dogs Who Saved Me

Hi readers and writers,

It gives me great pleasure to post this interview with Kay Murphy on her new book, Lessons I Learned from The Dogs Who Saved Me.  This book is a memoir and it's also a love story to some great dogs in Kay's life.  She is donating all proceeds from the book above expenses to animal rescue efforts.  Best, Laura

The title of this book is very enticing.  How did you choose the title?
The idea for this book came as I was sorting through photographs, putting together an album which included all my dogs.  I placed the photos in chronological order… and as I did so, I began to recall the stories that surrounded these dogs and how, at one time or another, in one way or another, each had been instrumental in saving me from harm in some way.  ‘These are the dogs,’ I thought, ‘who saved me.’

How many dogs did you write about?  Did you include every dog you’ve had, or did you pick and choose?
The book profiles six dogs, but others are mentioned.  Rufus, Sapo, Alex, Ian, Ellie and Osa were the dogs who companioned with me from the time I was 15 until I was 50.  They each have a unique and heroic story to tell.

What are your feelings about cats?  Are they too independent to save people in the same sense?
Actually, two of my cats, Boo and Sugar Plum, have been featured in two separate Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  Due to my current living situation, I cannot have a dog, so I don’t know what I’d do without Sug and Luna, my two current feline friends.  They make me laugh and give me love every day.  And in fact, there is a memoir, Homer’s Odyssey, which recounts how a very valiant blind cat saved his human companion from an assault.  It’s an amazing read!!

I remember your excitement when you first talked about this book, but during the writing process your words about it turned pretty dark.  Was it harder to write than you had expected?  What happened along the way to take the experience to the dark side?
I was wholly unprepared for how difficult it would be to re-live the experiences of my teen years.  My step-father attempted several times to molest me, and I never felt safe once he married my mother.  I have never talked about that, certainly never written about it, and recalling those days of anger and depression brought all those feelings to the surface again.  When my mother and wicked step-father (I’ve always called him that) divorced, they went to court over one item: Rufus, my dog.  His story—and their fight over him—is included in the book.

I know the focus is supposed to be on your relationship with dogs, but did you find yourself writing a memoir about your relationship with other people who were around at the same time?  Did you struggle to keep the focus on the dogs, or did you just let it flow once you were writing?
I tried to keep the focus mainly on my dogs, but it would have been difficult to describe to the reader how important each dog became if I didn’t explain my relationship to the people who wounded or betrayed me (or attempted to assault me).  I could have written much, much more about the men to whom I was married… but that is water under the bridge now, and not unlike the stories of many other women out there who find themselves trying to make a marriage work with no support from the other partner.

Do you outline before you write or do you sit down and let come what will?  How much did you know about the whole shape of your book before you started to write?
Usually I outline in my head.  This time, I walked outside with a notebook, sat down on the front deck in a comfortable chair and started writing the story out longhand.

Do you write in tiny bits of time like Barbara DeMarco Barrett advocates, or do you need bigger blocks to make progress?  Do you write every day?
Boy, this is a tough question.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes.  Often.  When I wrote my previous memoir, Tainted Legacy, I wrote in big blocks, sometimes four or five hours at a stretch with no breaks—but I had been researching that book for several years, so when it was time to write, I completed the entire manuscript in one summer.  With Dogs, I found I could only write for an hour or so a day.  In truth, I wrote until I was crying so hard I could no longer type.  Then I would walk out the door and into the forest, just wandering and crying and taking deep breaths until I regained my composure.

Have you ever faced writers’ block?  If so, do you have strategies that overcome it for you, or do you have to wait it out?
There are times when the writing is stalled, but this never makes me anxious.  It’s all about problem solving.  If I find I can’t go forward, I walk away for a while and let my subconscious mind take over, unraveling the knot and looking for a way through.  Sometimes I brainstorm on a separate sheet of paper if I need to.  Writing nonfiction is much easier (for me) than writing fiction.  I enjoy story-telling, and man do I have some real-life stories to tell (such as those in Tainted Legacy).  Fiction… dang, fiction writers work hard!

What’s your impression of the process of publishing today?  For newbie writers who are considering how to approach publishing a first book, what would you suggest?
I would suggest that anyone who has done the work of completing a manuscript should invest time in finding an agent or conventional publisher.  I know it sounds like heresy coming from a self-published author, but I’ve also published a book through a conventional publisher, and there are parts of that process that are great (instant, national publicity, for one).  But… take each “No, thank you” with a grain of salt.  Simply because someone doesn’t see your vision does not mean you’re not a good writer.  Find a critique group.  If a group of good folks tell you they love your work and would buy it, start looking at your options for independent publishing.  (Oh—that group should not be your immediate family members….)

You’ve decided to donate the entire proceeds from this book to animal rescue.  Have you had personal experience working with them?  How did you decide to do this?
During the time that I was working on Dogs, I was also seeing the business model of some companies who are donating ten and twenty percent of their profit to certain charities.  I liked that.  Then I encountered young Michala Riggle at and my heart just cracked wide open.  She beads bracelets, then sells them to raise money for autism research.  One hundred percent of her profits go to that cause.  (She has a brother who is on the autism spectrum.)  She’s an absolute inspiration.  As I believe that my dogs saved my life and there’s really never enough I can do to repay them, I decided that, since I’m already donating to several rescues, the net profits earned from Dogs will go to help other shelter and rescue dogs.

Please let the blog readers know about your blog and where to buy your book by giving URLs they can look up.
I’m on blogger:  Mostly, I blog about living in the forest, but sometimes I offer book recommendations (and there is the occasional post about professional cycling, a sport I have followed for some thirty years).

The Dogs Who Saved Me is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.  Here is the Amazon link:

Thanks, Kay for sharing your thoughts with the blog readers.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vote for Your Favorite Writing Book

Dear readers and writers,

I've collected writing books for years.  Some have lived on my shelves for a while, then gone to the library for their book sale.  Others have been used over and over and as far as I know may stay with me forever.  I'm curious if you have the same favorites I do.

I wanted to run a poll but I've tried the Poll gadget on Blogger from three different web browsers and it won't work.  I get a message asking me to correct my nonexistent errors, or it won't save it after repeated tries.  So, I'll put my list at the bottom of this note.  Comment with your choice (blog is moderated to exclude Asian smut and drug offers, so it may take a few hours to appear).

If you have others to suggest, please put them in the comments.  I'll probably try them out and someday they may be on my top choices list, but meanwhile you'll share them with a lot of other writers here.  BTW, if you've rejected King's because you don't read horror, give it a try.  I was glad I had stopped avoiding it the minute I began to read.

If you have advice about the Poll function, I'd love to have that too!


Photo credit: Wikipedia, with thanks.

1. Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
2. Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
3. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
4. William Zinsser, On Writing Well
5.  Stephen King, On Writing
6. Barbara Abercrombie, Writing Out the Storm

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Silent Scream #Friday Fictioneers

Hi readers and writers,
This week, Madison Woods' posting is gruesome but surprising. Her photo shows the results of a vertical series of cutbacks of vegetation along her road by a road crew...kill or cure this plant invasion seems to be the message.  Such a painful looking response to a cut of a grapevine!  Anyway, by Friday I had to write 100 words about this. They appear below.  Visit Madison's website to join in the #FridayFictioneers fun.

Silent Scream
I welcome criticism or any kind of suggestions for improvement.

They told me I would understand the animal when I wore this ring.  But this is stranger, more painful, not at all what I bargained for.  Those road workers just wanted to keep the woodsy road clear for vehicles I'm sure.  But the wholesale hacking got these reactions from the plants, especially the grapevines, reactions that felt just like they were screaming with pain.  Can a cut be like a burn?  I don't know, but that's what I'd describe it as, after listening to these agonized vines for two days.

I know I could take off the ring.  But I bargained to get it so I could get a message from the birds, and I don't have it yet.  I'm stuck listening to any being with something to say.  Please, vines, heal yourselves fast.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Self-Publishing Explosion

Dear readers and writers,

I'm blown away by these numbers.  In 2010, there were 133,036 new ISBNs registered for self-published books, according to Bowker.  In 2011, there were 211,269.  It seems inescapable to conclude  that the main stream publishers have been acting as a dam holding back the words of thousands of would-be authors.  The niche market book needs of the US are now probably solved.  If we publish 300,000 next year, can they be sold to anyone?

Maybe.  After all, if you read about magazine markets, there are evergreen types of articles they discuss, ones that more or less can be updated annually and still interest people.

Here are a few more details about what kinds of books are self-published today.  Last year, fiction was 45% and nonfiction 38%.  The average price of self-published fiction is $6.94, but the average for nonfiction titles was $19.32.  E-books were 41% of self-published books but only 11% of sales income because the average e-book sold for only $3.18.

 You may have noticed that there are more ways to get reviews of self-published books now and self-published books have been generating awards systems, since most mainstream awards rule them out.  It looks like a whole parallel structure is growing out there, led by CreateSpace, Lulu, and others, and much larger and more lucrative than the mainstream publishers.  They are still claiming the quality high ground, although they've notably signed a few of the most successful self-publishers recently.  

Food for thought!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Op Ed on Title IX and US Women in Olympics

Hi readers and writers,

Tomorrow, the LA Daily News will carry my Op Ed piece on Title IX's role in producing our stellar group of women going to the Olympics, the first time more women than men are going for the US team.

Check it out here:


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Faucet Fancies

Hi readers and writers,

Here is my 100 word response to Madison Woods' photo prompt of this week.  If you'd like to try writing a response (it's fun!), you could go over to her blog, get inspired, and write your own 100 word piece to share and compare with the Friday Fictioneers.  Cheers, Laura

Ideas for improvement or general comments on Faucet Fancies are welcome!

“Bill, this faucet needs a new washer.  It keeps on dripping.”
“Who cares?  A little more water won’t hurt.  The strawberry plants could use more.”
“But it’s  desert and we’re wasting water and…”
Bill had folded his newspaper and left the room. 
I decided it was time to learn about drips myself, so I went to Home Depot.  A nice young man with a blond brush-cut told me what to do.  I bought a few different sizes just in case, and the wrench he recommended.
“Hey, I thought you said this dripped?”  Bill said the next morning.  
I just smirked.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Author Interview and Favorite Questions

Hi readers and writers,

Fascinating Authors just did an interview with me about Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling that is posted here. (If the link is broken, paste this URL into your browser to see it:  I really enjoyed some of the questions and that made me wonder, either as readers of interviews or as authors being interviewed, what questions have you found most interesting?  I'll share some of mine in the comments in a few days.  If you've always wanted some kind of author insight, this is a chance to help me pick out questions for my next round of author interviews!

Laura Hoopes

Sunday, July 22, 2012

#Friday Fictioneers late, Grape Arbor Danger

Hi readers and writers,
I'm getting back into town from Arkansas and Texas, and so I'm posting my Friday Fictioneers piece late again.  See Madison Woods' blog for details and to see all the other photo responses.
I'd love any suggestions for improvement or responses to this posting.

Grape Arbor Danger

The grapevines climbed over the arbor.  Lucy looked around for Mark but didn’t see him.  It was an odd place to meet. 
Suddenly there were hands over her eyes.  “Guess who?”
“No.” Something hit her over the head.  When she came to, her eyes were covered and her arms and legs were tied up.  The man picked her up and carried her for a few minutes, then dropped her.  She heard sounds of fighting, then crashing through the brush. 
Mark said,  “I’m so sorry, Lucy.  This is not your fight.” He cut the cords and took off the rag from her eyes.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Color of Water and Glaciers

Dear readers and writers,

I wrote about the indescribable color of the water in bays with tidewater glaciers that slowly pour their ice into the water before I went to Alaska to visit Glacier Bay.  I thought I'd post a few of the pictures I took there.  It isn't possible to capture exactly the blue that you see when there, in fact I see when I paste them in that the computer won't even show the same blues I can see on my camera screen, but you can get some indication of how overwhelming the presence of these natural phenomena can be.  What I can't show you at all is the crack and thunder you hear when the new icebergs give way and fall into the water from the face of the glacier.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Libby Grandy Interview Re Desert Soliloquy

Hi readers and writers,
Libby Grandy has recently published a suspense novel, Desert Soliloquy.  Here is an interview with her about this new book, which I highly enjoyed.  Cheers,

LH: How did you become a writer, Libby?

LG: I loved English in school, but most of my writing was in the area of journalism. I didn’t attempt fiction until I was in my forties. I took a creative writing class and began writing short stories. One of those short stories became a novel, because I fell in love with the main character—Lydia, an eighty-year-old woman. 

LH: What is your favorite thing you’ve written?

LG: I have to choose my novel, Lydia, the second book in my women’s fiction trilogy. The character is a compilation of all the wonderful women in my life. I also loved writing the sequel to LydiaTrue Abundance. I plan to publish the first book of the trilogy, Promises to Keep, a ghost story, in the spring of 2013.

LH: You blog about writing a great deal. What kinds of resources will writers find on your blog?

LG: Writers will find suggestions about writing and marketing in my blogs, but I have full-length articles on my website. They cover subjects such as researching agents, critique groups, guidelines for first-time writers, self-publishing, writing tips, etc. Several of the articles have been published in Writers’ Journal, so I have to assume editors found them helpful. 

LH; In your novel, Desert Soliloquy, you keep the story grounded in the characters but at the same time, you weave in a lot of very current ideas about mining, industry, finances. How did you get up to speed on these topics?

LG: My husband and Google. My two best friends. My husband has worked in both law enforcement and aerospace and really helped with the central plot in Desert Soliloquy

LH: Do you outline your novel before you start or do you write in part to find out what’s going to happen in the story line?

LG: I write from “the seat of my pants,” and hope that the next chapter will come. It might not be comfortable for some writers, but I love not knowing for sure what is going to happen next. Sometimes it surprises me, and that’s always exciting. I worry about plot details after I’ve gotten the main story down. My weekly critique group often has invaluable suggestions.

LH: The setting for the story is in the desert, and I wonder if you used specific locales and buildings that you researched in the story?

LG: There is a renovated silver mining “ghost town” in the high desert of California. I fell in love with Calico the first time my husband and I visited the town. I incorporated the historical facts in regard to Calico into the novel. Anyone visiting the ghost town will recognize the locations from Desert Soliloquy.

I remember sitting in the town’s old cemetery around noontime, leaning against a tombstone, typing on my laptop. I suddenly realized a woman was staring down at me. She said, “Are you from LA?” I had to laugh. Apparently if you are sitting in the middle of the desert in a cemetery in the hot sun, on a laptop, you must be from LA. I explained I was from a small town thirty miles east of LA. I believe she was a bit disappointed.

LH: A part of the novel hinges on development of a love triangle involving the heroine. She is not a twenty-something but a mature woman. Did you encounter resistance to using a mature woman in this plot?

LG: Since the main character is a mature woman, the love triangle simply developed naturally. Young readers need to know that mature love can be just as emotionally and physically passionate as young love. The relationships between the two young characters and the older characters provide a window into both worlds.

LH: As in most suspense novels, sophisticated medical knowledge and weapons know-how were required to write the book. How did you learn about these topics?

LG: I wish I could say that I interviewed prominent doctors and military men, but the truth is, again, my resources were basically Google and my husband.

LH: Did you have an agent? Tell us about publishing this book.

LG: I have had two agents over the past few years, one for my ghost story, Promises to Keep, the first book of my women’s fiction trilogy and the other for my mystery, Desert Soliloquy. Both had been agents for many years and were sure that they would have no trouble selling the stories. Unfortunately, it was when the economy began to go downhill, and neither could get anyone to read the manuscripts. My agent for Desert Soliloquy was basically told that the companies she had successfully sold manuscripts to in the past were not reading work from new writers. Both agents have semi-retired, in the sense that they still represent their old clients but are not taking on new ones.

I have to say, however, it was a wonderful experience working with them. They were so helpful and supportive of my writing and my stories. The last agent pointed out a flaw in one part of the Desert Soliloquy plot, which was easily fixable. She also taught me to lose the unnecessary adverbs. I will always be grateful to her for that. I just recently talked to both of them, and they are thrilled that I’ve published Desert Soliloquy

Last year, I began researching self-publishing, using Mark Levine’s book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, as my guide. I finally decided on CreateSpace, and it has been a wonderful experience. I plan to publish one book a year with them for the next four years—my trilogy and the manuscript I’m presently working on.

LH: What tips do you have for the blog readers about marketing?

LG: I believe it is very important for writers to begin building their platform and brand long before their first book is published. Having a website and/or blog is essential. Join Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all social media venues possible. Brand your name, not your book. Who is going to remember the word “soliloquy,” let alone be able to spell it? Hopefully, they will remember Libby Grandy when my other books become available.

Most of all, focus on the word “social” when you begin marketing your book through the social media. Use the venues to support other writers. Enjoy meeting new people through your marketing. 

This is a very exciting time for writers but don’t get so caught up in the marketing process that you forget to do what you love to do best—write!


Book Giveaway on Goodreads

Hi readers and writers,
If you'd love to read my memoir about breaking into science or know a young woman you'd like to inspire to keep trying and know it's possible to balance family and a demanding career, enter the Goodreads giveaway for Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling here:

There are just a few days left, and 10 books will be given away.  Right now, it looks like you have about a 1 in 10 chance of winning one.  Free free free, not even any postage and handling costs!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: The Buzzard

Hi readers and writers,
Madison Woods, on her blog, challenges writers to come up with 100 word responses to a photo prompt each week in Friday Fictioneers.  Here is mine for this week.  I would love any constructive criticism or general reactions to this piece, as usual.  Cheers, Laura
                                                               The Buzzard

Roger said, “C’mon, Susie.  They’re beautiful, how they soar up there with so little effort.  See how they go around in spirals to rise up so high?”

“I know, but they eat carrion.  Not birds of pleasure for me.  Never can see them without a shiver.  If one of us dies out here, they’ll get us, right?”

“In the Australian outback, people put dead bodies on a platform, giving them to the buzzards to eat.  It’s not wrong, it’s part of the whole schema…”

I got up and left.  I’ll just go for a run and let him sit under the tower.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: The Power of Adobe

Hi readers and writers,
I was cruising in Glacier Bay, Alaska last week, so I missed the usual Friday Fictioneers exercise.  But I'm back, and now I can't resist the photo prompt, so I will write it late.  If you enjoy reading the many, various ways people can approach the same stimulus as much as I do, go to Madison Woods' blog here and check out the responses.

To Friday Fictioneers who drop by later than late:  I'd appreciate any constructive criticism on my 100 word piece.  The photo is by Amanda Gray and is called "Outside Pecos."
The Power of Adobe
We barely survived, Ricky and me.  When I drank the last drop of water he shouted, "Lupe, no!"  We believed in the mirage of a tiny rectangle on the endless plains and we dragged ourselves here.  Behind the abandoned adobe hunkered a well with a pump.  Ricky jacked out water into his hat and we drank, laughed, poured it over our heads and down our backs.  And inside the house, the mud bricks sheltered us from the sun with their thick, earthy power.  But now, Ricky wants to go on.  Why can't we stay, make the power of the adobe our own?