Spring has sprung. These pictures came from tiny grape hyacinths and forsythia in my yard. As I was taking the picture of the hyacinths, a bee buzzed me. I was unable to capture his likeness for posterity but it made me feel good that he felt welcome in my garden. The air has turned warms, some days, and sadly tornadoes filled the sky overnight east of our state. Oklahoma is used to being a target and we understand how you feel. I pray for those who were hit.
But the renewal of spring after a long cold winter is always welcome. As I sit and write in the living room, I watch a robin hopping around the yard, probably looking for a nice juicy worm. The thought is so enticing, his little beak waters. The worm doesn’t feel as excited.
I saw the four o’clocks peeking through the soil pushing the old dead leaves aside. I long to take a leisurely walk and see what else blooms in my neighborhood. There are still some Bradford Pear trees looking like a cloud. They will soon leaf out and turn green—and many things will follow.
My husband has already mowed the fescue once this year and it needs it again. With lawns come work. But thankfully, I have a little patch of green.
As the atmosphere warms and the breeze smells sweet, what are you reading/writing this week?
My husband has a new truck and it needed some highway miles, or maybe we did. Yesterday we made a trip to Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma. It is an area still near and dear to my heart. I grew up there on weekends. My family had a boat and my parents loved to fish. The kids just loved to eat the final product. The original mobile home was one bedroom for five people. Mom and Dad got the bedroom and my sisters and I slept on the couch, cots, or the floor. We were young and didn’t mind. It was an adventure.
Yesterday, the water level was low, due to the current drought conditions in that part of the state. Sandy Beach, where we played a children, had buoys laying on the sand. They were supposed to keep the boats and swimmers separate, but I didn’t see a boat on the water. And it was too cold to swim. It would be nice if California could send us some water since they have an overabundance. But Mother Nature has a plan—I guess.
The place in the Canadian Recreational area, where my family had a trailer years ago, has been abandoned. I don’t know what the Corp of Engineers has in mind for this area now, but the neighborhood is gone. There is weekend camping across the road near the water.
One reason for traveling to Canton Lake was to see it again. I am writing a novel set at that location and things have changed. The way I had it in my mind I could sit on our deck and see the ruins of the old Fort Cantonment. That too has been razed and abandoned. The cove we fished and played in is full of weeds, but you can still use the boat ramp.
But it doesn’t matter that Canton has changed in the last 50 years. What matters is the story and the feelings it evokes for me. I love the area even though it is windy and cold one day and muggy and hot the next. My family was drawn closer together on those weekends. My dad did his best to rid the lake of fish, and we ate them. Friends were made and relationships bloomed. Canton made me feel like a part of nature. It was good for all of us to join together with a like goal. Dad could unwind from the week’s work, and maybe some sibling rivalries could be settled. Mom didn’t cook as much since most of that took place outdoors. We all relaxed.
Those were good days. You can’t go back but you can remember what once was. What did your family do when you were young that made a big impression on you?
In 1947 John Steinbeck wrote a very famous novel titled The Pearl that didn’t end well for the people who found a pearl. Our family had such a find too, but we fared better with it than the people in the Steinbeck novel.
Grandad, Herbert Coats, fished and hunted the Black River near his home in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas in the first half of the 1900s, probably before Steinbeck wrote his novel. Grandad often came home with a stringer of catfish to feed his large family. I’m sure he often sat in the sun idly waiting for the bobber to go under so he could pull in the fish. On the banks of the river washed up mollusks or mussel shells and I imagine him prying one open with a pocketknife now and then. I don’t know what he did with the shells or the meat inside, but at least twice he found freshwater pearls in those mussels. He took them home and gave them to my grandmother. She kept them in a tiny Ex-Lax box wrapped in tissue paper in her dresser drawer. As kids we often begged to see them. When she died, my mom, took the box home with her. She had the pearls set in a ring and wore it most of her life. When my mom became ill with Cancer, she gave the ring to me and told me the story though I had heard it many times. I wear that ring often and it will go to my daughter, at my death. The ring and the story will live on.
Yesterday, I gave my daughter her great-grandmother’s bedroom suite. Yes, the same dresser that held the ring when I was a child. It is beautiful furniture built in the 1920s or 1930s. My mother and father bought it used when they were first married and then gave it to my grandparents when they bought something else. They slept on it for many years. My mother then took it home at my grandmother’s death. I inherited it, now my daughter has it.
My cousins and I published a memoir of our grandmother’s recipes, and memories of our time spent at her house. It was a great way for us to keep those memories alive, like the ring and the bedroom suite. My grandparents had little money, but they had love for their friends and family. By passing down rings and furniture we can keep their memory and maybe their love for their fellow man alive.
It’s beginning to get busy. If you are a writer, conference and contest time is here! I’ve been busy with entries in the OWFI Conference Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. (OWFI) here in Oklahoma and also my local contest with the Enid Writers Club Enid Writers Club (wordpress.com). My local club also had a scholarship contest for high school seniors in Garfield County and I’ve been involved in that.
This week my local club hung another plaque at Northwestern Oklahoma State University Enid | Northwestern Oklahoma State University (nwosu.edu), here in Enid and celebrated with a reception. NWOSU has been kind enough to let us meet there for several years. I know you are tired of hearing me say this, but my club is 100 years old this year!
Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. (OWFI) will have their annual conference the first weekend of May and of course I’ll be in attendance. I’ve met all my publishers at this conference, and I will always be a member.
Several conferences will be upcoming, WriterCon Home – WriterCon 2023 will be having their conference the first of September in Oklahoma City and I’ve heard of some smaller groups with conferences this spring and summer. I can’t make all of them, but I will make as many as I can.
I hope you enter contests to see how much your craft has improved, where your weak points are and what could be better. It is always thrilling to attend and meet with like minds. And the contests will give you feedback about your writing. And as Fat Albert used to say, “You just might learn something if you aren’t careful.”
Gabs Saenz (@brushstroke80) • Instagram photos and videos illustrated the inside. The book was released and a year later, the inside artist contacted me. She wanted to convert the book to a graphic novel! I was so excited. Gabs is young and so talented. What’s more, she loved my characters. I was honored. And I had a lot to do to convert the novel to a graphic novel script! I worked hard and sent her the draft. She recently sent me her illustration drafts of the characters I wrote.
Being a writer, I have no idea what all goes into creating the likeness of a character they read about. And I can’t tell you how honored I am to have an artist want to spend this much time with my characters. But her illustrations are wonderful, and she gave me permission to show you what she has done so far.
Teasy patrolled the streets at night wearing her lime green F. U. tee shirt from Flatiron University, a school she wished she could have attended. Like so many people in her neighborhood she’s tired of the criminals like the Gray Wolf gang who have taken over. Gangs killed her family and friends, and she wanted her neighborhood back. She had the tools to put an end to the criminal activity, but the air pollution in the city was getting worse by the minute. And Teasy and her new gang may have found an answer to that.
The Civil Rights Act had once more been amended, and now included all life forms: humans, werewolves, vampires, and the most hideous, zombies. And suddenly the world was full of them. But could they save the world before everyone choked to death on the pollution?
A fun romp through a world where fantasy becomes reality and the answer to the world’s problems could be sitting in an abandoned subway tunnel just waiting to be discovered.
Pick up a copy of Flatiron Death Grip and enjoy the story. Soon you will be able to see it in a graphic novel form.
Several years ago, The Wild Rose Press put out a call for submissions. The Deerbourne Inn series are available on Amazon or at the Wild Rose Press catalog Wild Rose Press Book Catalog These are always fun. Novellas written around a certain theme by different authors in different genres. The authors at The Wild Rose Press are always supportive of each other and this was no different. The last piece has just been released in this project; Love A La Carte by Carol Henry. To celebrate the authors will be discussing their work this week.
I entered a novella, which went on to be a finalist in the Oklahoma Romance Writers Digital Awards Witches’ Cliff. The genre was fantasy about a woman who returns to the town where she was born to discover something about herself.
Each of these stories take place at the Deerbourne Inn at different times and are written in different genres. Check them out and become a fan of the Deerbourne Inn. You’ll want to stay for a weekend and experience the fun.
Erin Shipley grew up on Keystone Lake before moving to Tulsa and becoming an associate attorney. Now, she’s back, representing a client who is concerned about the flooding and property values around the lake. Properties underwater are being bought and sold for pennies on the dollar by someone called T & H Realty. When her friend’s uncle, Jeff, dies mysteriously on the lake, Erin wonders if it has anything to do with the real estate scam and launches an investigation. The dam is old and zebra mussels are clogging it, not allowing enough water to flow out. If the dam breaks, it will flood downtown Tulsa and areas around it. But that’s not the only danger…whoever killed Jeff isn’t finished with their diabolical plan, and Erin and those she loves are at risk from more than just a dam break.
Blooming Greed is she second in the Keystone Lake series. Blooming Justicehttps://books2read.com/u/mggv9D was the first. They are both suspense novels set in Oklahoma on beautiful Keystone Lake.
Erin Sampson always wanted to be an attorney like her aunt. But until she experiences a real taste of injustice, she has no idea what the legal field is all about. After being sexually harassed at the senior prom by a boy she went to school with, she finds out he has escalated from bullying to rape.
Working in her aunt’s law firm while going to college, she has an opportunity to help find justice for all the women who deserve it. It is a long way from her mother’s flower shop to a law office; and a long way from the little town by the lake she grew up in to the Tulsa County Courthouse. But Erin will do whatever it takes to end the terror and protect the women on her campus.
Pick up a copy and curl up with a good book on a cold winter’s day. It will feel like home.
JT: The ability to express and create are driving factors. I don’t do small talk very well, but there is plenty I want to say. Writing provides that opportunity. Having a character say something I might think but not necessarily speak is very freeing. In addition, I love stories. Reading them. Hearing them. Telling them. Stories allow us the opportunity to use our imagination and intellect to fill in the background, setting, appearance, etc. As we read/hear, our minds paint these glorious masterpieces of what the author did not (intentionally) say. For me, a well-written story is something you see.
JT: I am always in the process of writing, preparing to write (study, research, etc.), or thinking of writing, but this mainly pertains to crafting sermons. Most every week, I write two sermons. The Wednesday sermon (500-650 words) and the Sunday sermon (1,300 1,650 words) are always percolating somewhere in my mind. I discovered many years ago that if I wait to “think on it” the day I want to write it… nothing. Zip. Nada. But if I allow it to simmer for several days, I can sit down and communicate the message. My other writing is essentially the same process but over a longer timeframe. I make lots of notes (most of which occur to me while standing in the shower, so I have to shout, “Hey, Siri…,” and then dictate a message to my electronic secretary.) When I sit down to write on one of the novels, I may put down 10,000 words in a week, barely coming up for nourishment. I love that process and the intensity of that time. Nothing else really exists.
PC:Give us a glimpse of the surroundings where you write. Separate room? In the kitchen? At the dining room table?
JT: I have my writing desk in my bedroom, but when I write, the desk and the computer screen are all I can see. The black-out shades are drawn, and the only light emanates from the monitor and a desk lamp, so I am blind to the other surroundings. The desk itself is a clutter of papers, rosaries, books, watercolors (mostly bad), small notebooks with notes, pens, pencils (I found some ‘Black Beauties’ similar to those used by Thad Beaumont—The Dark Half by Stephen King), empty coffee cups, and a glass with the remnants of some scotch. It may sound depressing, but it is glorious. When writing, all I see is the blinking cursor and the words that trail behind.
JT: I’m working on something a little different, both new and old. I grew up in Springhill, Louisiana, on the border of Louisiana and Arkansas (throw a rock hard enough, and you’ll hit Hope, Arkansas—and maybe even Bill.) The project, Five Hours in Springhill, is a novella (40,000 words) that I originally wrote in 1993. I wanted to do something a little different than the Father Savel mysteries, so I pulled this one out of the box—thank goodness for OCR because there was no surviving digital copy, but the printing shop was able to provide a great Word file. Where did the idea come from… I’ve honestly no idea. I do remember that The Bridges of Madison County was popular at the time, and I had read it. Something in the back of my mind connects Springhill with reading it. Heaven forbid that a priest read such things!
PC: Tell us one unusual thing about yourself – not related to writing!
JT: They are not related to writing, but they are intimately connected: I love to cook and make wine. Both, like writing, involve creating, and the result is as unique (Q: Do you know how you catch a unique rabbit? A: You-nique up on him.) as one author to the next. Perhaps it is not true with all writers, but I never know exactly how a story will unfold—characters do and say what they want with little input from me!—and the same is true with food and wine. Add garlic salt instead of salt, and you’ve got something new (and probably better). If the wine’s fermentation occurs at 72° instead of 68°, you’ve got an entirely different wine. I enjoy the process of creating in all its many forms.
Thank you, John, for answering my questions and letting us get to know you.
You’ve heard me talking about my writing club’s 100th anniversary lately. We’re very proud. But this week was the unveiling of the original plaque made by Nancy Russell for Northern Oklahoma College.
We had a celebration on the NOC campus this week to unveil and hang the plaque in a place of honor. The Enid Writers Club was started by Professor Roy J. Wolfinger of Phillips University in 1923. The campus has since been taken over by Northern Oklahoma College and they have kept upgrades to the campus as original as possible. I wondered what Professor Wolfinger thought of us and all the celebration. Hopefully he would have been proud.
We were so thrilled to be recognized and to have Ms. Russell’s art hung in our honor.
There will be more celebrations coming up in the near future. But in the meantime, my club continues with monthly meetings and critique groups, and we continue to keep Professor Wolfinger’s idea alive. Hopefully for another 100 years!
One hundred years ago, on January 6, 1923, Professor Roy J. Wolfinger held the first meeting of the Enid Writers Club. Professor Wolfinger, on the Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, had a vision. He knew that writers needed the company of like minds. So, the students met and began to help each other become better writers. That vison is still present today as evidenced by this proclamation from the City of Enid naming January 23, 2023, as Enid Writers Club Day.
When I first began writing, I learned that there was a local writers club and I wanted to check them out. To join, they required that you read them a three page original piece so they could see your genre and interests. I was terrified. But I was not the first and will not be the last. I’ve been a member for 14 years and now I’m lucky enough to be president on this historical year. It has been my honor to serve the club, grow it exponentially, and let the public know about our centennial. We have writers of all ages from all walks of life and our one goal is to become the best writers we can.
When I think of the 1923 students of Phillips University and their writing club I think of Robin Williams and The Dead Poet Society movie. The year of 1923 was still in the Roaring 20s, time of speakeasies and flapper dancers. Phillips University was a Christian university, and I don’t know how much Razmataz and bootleg whisky there was, but I love to think of them reading the classics and helping each other write better. We still do that today.
This Thursday we will present an original plaque to Northern Oklahoma College, the former Phillips University, and it will hang in a place of honor in the Marshall Building. I’ll show you that celebration next week.
I’ve made some great friends in the last 14 years and one of the things I like best is our critique meetings. We share up to three pages of our latest work in progress and they take a red pen to it! They see things I would never have noticed, and it’s made me a better writer. Thank you Enid Writers Club.
Here’s to another 100 years and happy anniversary!