Keeping It All in the Family — guest post by Linden Berry

Today, we welcome our friend and neighbor Linden Berry, celebrating the publication this March of Dances with Wolf, her first novel, a collaboration with her son, Josh, written as Farrah Taylor. Welcome, Linden, and congratulations! 

Dances with WolfRomancing the Story: Keeping It All in the Family

by Linden Berry

Last spring, when my son asked me to help him write a book for Entangled’s Bliss line, I was flattered and excited about the opportunity to work together. And overwhelmed. I’d never had a novel accepted for publication. Short stories in obscure journals, a handful of poems and three manuscripts gathering dust under my bed: that was my entire publishing history. Like Josh, I teach in public school, and editing three anthologies of middle school poetry comprised the work I was proudest of.

The novel would be set, like his first romance, Love Songs for the Road, in our favorite little town of Bigfork, Montana. Our work was cut out for us when we decided on our main characters, a horse-whispering woman and a leather-thumping rodeo cowboy. Our search for authentic Western names turned up Wolf Olsen for the guy and Abdabadun Maccready for the girl.

Before he dumped her at the Prom, Wolf was the leading man in Abby’s thoughts (though he’d scarcely noticed her in high school and thought of her as his younger sister’s sidekick.) When Wolf returns for Doc Macready’s birthday after eight rough years on the rodeo circuit, and Abby moves back from Seattle with her horse-healing trailer in tow,  the two are poised to fall in love against the dramatic backdrop of the Continental Divide. Though I was ready by page 25 to have Abby and Wolf ride off into the sunset on matched palominos, Josh warned me that we’d have to create one conflict after another to keep them apart until they (and the readers) were good and ready.

My son and I live three thousand miles apart, so getting the manuscript off the ground was our first challenge. One snowy February afternoon, we traveled to a cross-country ski retreat and outlined the book. By the time I got back on the plane, my fingers were itching to write. If a metaphor for our process exists, it involves an untrained horse running around a ring (that would be me) with a disciplined rider in the center, flicking a whip at the horse’s heels (Josh). I quickly evolved into the writer of first drafts while he edited and made sense of nonsequitur scenes and characters. I watched You-Tubes of rodeo events and talked to a horse whisperer several times to give our manuscript authenticity.

We finished the book in eight months with Josh “super-editing” the sections about a day or two after I’d emailed them. I use the term “super-edit,” because I literally had no argument with any of the changes he suggested; he listened to our characters and got them just right. I hid out from friends and family dogs at our local library where I knew at least three books were being created around me; Josh wrote on the run between other writing projects and family.

The high energy level, the excitement of seeing the story progress, the awareness that this was a rare form of collaboration between mother and child: all of this creativity exacted a price. I was hungry ALL the time. And I wanted chocolate. Not good, expensive chocolate, metered out at an ounce per hour. But Safeway-ready chocolate. Cadbury’s 32-ounce Fruit and Nut Bar on the second aisle, on special 2/$3.00 with a Safeway card.

Thank you. That will do nicely. No, I don’t need help carrying my groceries to my car.

Seven pounds later, I arrived at the ultimate challenge: to write the important love scene on page 110, the one that would determine the future of the Entire Human Race.

I wrote a few smoking paragraphs, trying to offset my premonition that Josh would be shocked by their intensity with a genuine memory of myself as a young girl, falling in love with someone who loved horses as much as he loved me. He returned these pages without comment; my chocolate consumption dropped back to an ounce per day, and we finished the book on schedule.

Writing a romance with my son was a wonderful invitation to combine our talents and see what happened. Postpartum, I returned to a normal life of literary seclusion last summer in a cabin with my laptop, a Nespresso machine, and the eternally Unpublished Literary Manuscript.

My writing life is much duller without my writing partner. His editing skills – from the ruthless red-penciling of characters to his deft sequencing of scenes – were skills I lacked. My research on a sport new to both of us, rodeo, and a profession that was gaining credence among horse people, horse-healing and gentle training, proved essential to keep the story, and the romance, moving.

I learned a lot. And I came to value Josh’s literary skills more than ever.

LindenNo longer the hovering mother helping her child pound out draft after draft of the personal essay for college entrance: a role reversal had taken place.

If the opportunity arises, I’d partner again with him in a Montana minute.

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Dances with Wolf, by Farrah Taylor, was released by Entangled Press on March 10th. You can order it as an e-book or print book on Entangled, Goodreads, Amazon, B&N.com, and other sources. Ordering info and an excerpt here. 

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Keep Your Peeps

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Unlike my older brother, Gary, who can grow anything anywhere, I knew from an early age that my ability to nurture and grow any sort of flower, vegetable, or anything else that had to be planted was severely limited. So growing up, it seemed natural for our family of four to be divided into two separate but equal camps. Mom and Gary were the gardening duo, while my father and I were caretakers of all critters with paws, claws, and hooves.

There was some cross over. Gary loved feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, and although I never gave a second thought to climbing on the bare back of a 1000 pound quarter horse, I knew his two-pound Bantam rooster was a demon chicken waiting to peck me to pieces. (I readily admit that in my youth, I was traumatized by the Hitchcock movie, The Birds) Even colorful Peeps, which are everywhere this time of the year, creep me out. Chocolate bunnies are fine. It is chocolate after all. But marshmallows chicks? No thanks. Who wants a little yellow chick’s head bobbing up and down in their hot chocolate?

Over the years, I’ve had horses, cats, cows, rabbits, dogs, more dogs, and more dogs. I raised a baby armadillo whose mother had been run over by a car. Once, I rescued a snake before a guy who didn’t care that it was a harmless grass snake chopped it into pieces. Hubby and I even adopted three wild ducks who decided to homestead our four-year-old daughter’s blow up swimming pool. Sorry Tara.

As a lover of omelets, I am grateful to all who do raise chickens and gather the eggs. Every species of animal, reptile, fish, and fowl must have its champions. Still, I have never had the urge to raise chickens. Come to think of it, Tara doesn’t have a great fondness for ducks either.

Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah

Deborah Epperson

Deborah Epperson

Breaking TWIG Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook

Breaking TWIG
Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook

 

 

Spring near Ratham Creek

Ratham Creek

Ratham Creek

The following excerpt is from my new release Ratham Creek.  Arianne has spent her first winter in a cosy cabin tucked away in a  mountian chain in western Montana.  She is checking Tumble Creek which runs along her property.  It is  filled to overflowing with spring run off.

Was someone watching?  Arianne spun from looking at the creek swollen with spring snow melt.  She surveyed down the tree line—both ways.  Nothing.  No one.  She shivered, yet didn’t feel chilly.  “I’m going nuts,” she whispered and turned back to her problem.  Tumble Creek raced downstream and spilled over its bank just before forking into Ratham Creek.  The runoff filled the meadow.

Arianne stepped onto the bridge.  She stomped and jiggled the boards.  It seemed to be holding.  She didn’t know why she worried.  The meadow probably floods every April.  The name of the month brought a smile to her lips.  Her first winter in the cabin had been a challenge, but she’d met each problem the snow and ice brought.  She now knew how to put chains on the pickup tires, how to use a blowtorch to thaw a frozen pipe and how to survive the long nights with a good book and deep sleep.  Another fear had been driving to work on the dark snow-packed mountain road at five o’clock in the morning.  Only thing to do was to do it, so she had.  Today, life seemed renewed and she looked forward to summer.

Her forehead creased as the uneasy feeling returned.  Shading her eyes, she retraced the tree line.  Still, nothing.  She couldn’t help hurrying back to the Chevy.  She locked the doors and headed for town.

Marie F Martin

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Seventy Springs

Tomorrow I turn seventy.  Scaling the heights or heading downhill? It depends on one’s circumstances and attitude. I’m one of the lucky septuagenarians, unlike my favorite poet Robinson Jeffers who wrote when he aged, “I cannot walk the mountains as I used to do.” That and the loss of his beloved wife Una just about did him in. I still have my beloved Jerry, and if no longer able to reach the top of my mountains, I can still walk them in grateful awe.

I can appreciate the arrival of spring when winter melts away, and ice doesn’t render a pratfall no longer funny, but potential disaster. Contemplating seasons in life and nature, I’m more sharply aware than ever of how I appreciate each of the four as they appear and slip away. I love the blue sky of spring, but in late summer I watch for its paling into Faulkner’s Light in August.

So, keen to remind myself how boundless life can be in any season, I resolve to do seventy fabulous things in my seventieth year starting tomorrow.

Sblog photoee you in the mountains.

March Book News

Ah, March in the mountains! Spring one day and hard-core winter the next. We’re taking advantage of the snow days and the energy that comes with the longer, brighter days to write and share our work. And we love sharing it with you.

Assault and PepperLESLIE BUDEWITZ is delighted to launch ASSAULT AND PEPPER, the first book in her new Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, to be published March 3 by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House. Suspense Magazine calls it “the perfect recipe for a few hours of pure enjoyment … a first-rate story.”

She’ll be at Fact & Fiction in Missoula on launch day, Tuesday, March 3, at 7 pm for a book talk and signing. Once again, Frame of Reference Gallery in Bigfork will host her launch party, on Friday, March 6, from 5-8 pm. She’ll be in Seattle and Portland the week of March 9—details of events there can be found on her newly redesigned website. Back in Montana, she’ll be at Barnes and Noble in Billings on Saturday, March 21 at 2 pm for a book talk and reading, with mystery author Tracy Weber.

She’s also pleased to report that Thorndike Press will publish a large-print edition of ASSAULT AND PEPPER in June 2015.