Volume XIII, Issue Two | June 2018
My 15th novel, The Patchwork Bride, is scheduled for publication on June 5. I wrote about the book in the last issue of Piecework. It’s the story of Nell, who runs away from marriage three different times, from three different men. And it’s bookended with the tale of another runaway bride.
The main story takes place in New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas over a period of several years, starting in the late 1890s, but the secondary story is set in the 1950s, during the Korean War.
Kirkus writes, “Skilled writing and pacing propel the story which is warm and heartfelt” and calls it “gently entertaining.”
My Life As A Writer
Why do you write?
It’s a question readers never ask. Why wouldn’t you write? They think.
I ran into a college friend once who asked me, “Do you live a glamorous life?” “What, washing the dishes?” I replied. Glamor is one of the misconceptions about writers’ lives.
So is income. I once had an email from a reader beginning, “Would a member of Miss Dallas’s staff…” Staff? You mean the cleaning lady.
Of course, there are a few glitzy, rich, successful writers out there to ruin it for the rest of us. Most of us have day jobs. That’s why so many novels are about teachers. I’m a retired reporter. Thank God for Social Security.
Glamor and wealth then are the main misunderstandings of a writer’s life. There are others. One is that you don’t really do anything. You just have to sit at your computer and take dictation from on high. Nice work if you can get it.
So readers rarely ask why you write. Writers, on the other hand, ask it all the time. Why am I a writer? It is a question I’ve heard over and over again from frustrated writers. Why do we do this? You’ve spent years on a manuscript. You’ve bared your soul on paper. But you can’t get an editor or an agent to read it. If out of frustration, you self-publish, you get no reviews, no signings, no sales. Even with an established publisher, writers are often disappointed with sales and promotion.
So why do we write? I’m not sure about the others, but I know I never wanted to do anything else. From the time I learned to read, I wanted to be a writer. (Well, there was this brief flirtation with being a movie star, but the less said about that, the better.) I love the process of writing. Writers are often asked if they like writing. The standard answer is, “No, but I like having written.” Well, I actually like sitting down at my computer and seeing what happens. I love the sense of holding the first copy of a book in my hand, of reading a review that finds something worthwhile in the book. I love my agents and editors, who make my writing better and buck me up when I feel depressed. And perhaps most of all, I love the readers who come to signings and send letters and emails telling me something I’ve written has changed their lives or even that they felt reading my book was not a waste of time. I love the idea that something I produced has value. I can’t imagine not being a writer.
I have to stop here because it’s time to do the laundry.
FT. COLLINS, CO
Tuesday, June 5, 6:00 pm
OLD FIREHOUSE BOOKS
232 Walnut St.
Tuesday, June 12, 7:00 pm
TATTERED COVER BOOKSTORE
2526 E Colfax Ave.
Thursday, June 14, 6:00 pm
1254 Bergen Parkway
CASTLE ROCK, CO
Saturday, June 16, 6:30 pm
PHILIP S. MILLER DOUGLAS
100 S. Wilcox St.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT
Thursday, June 21, 7:00 pm
THE KING’S ENGLISH BOOKSHOP
1511 South 1500 East
Sunday, June 24, 2:00–4:00 pm
ROCKY MOUNTAIN QUILT MUSEUM
200 Violet St. #140
Thursday, July 19, 5:00–8:00 pm
COVERED TREASURES BOOKSTORE
105 Second St.
Nice Words for Hardscrabble
Hardscrabble, my third mid-grade book, came out in March. Since these are such cool reviews, I’m including them here.
Belle is a young eastern Colorado pioneer enthralled by her new home. Her older sister Carrie is not quite as happy—she loved their old home in green, heavily-settled Iowa. The life of dry-earth farmers in the early 1900s was exceedingly tough, and the family of nine struggles. When illness claims the girls’ mother and younger sister, the future seems precarious, especially Carrie’s hope to go to college and become a teacher. Plucky Belle, though, won’t give up and a community of disparate settlers—a lonely hermit, a generous ranching family, a lively bachelorette homesteader—come together to help. Perseverance, that eternal ethos of settlers, is personified in Belle, who even schemes at matchmaking. The standard plot points of many pioneer stories are touched on: plagues of locusts, blizzards, and even a solitary bad guy scared off by intrepid heroines. Dallas, a prolific author of adult westerns and a Spur Award winner, has written a story young readers drawn to historical fiction like the Little House series will find satisfying.
From School Library Journal:
Hardscrabble: In the early 1900s, the Martins move to Colorado, where Father plans to earn free land by farming government acreage for five years. Twelve-year-old Belle and her family endure a series of harrowing events: baby Sage survives an encounter with a rattlesnake; Belle’s sibling Becky dies, as does Mama; a blizzard threatens the entire family: and an invasion of grasshoppers must be fought off. Later lighter moments, such as Belle playing matchmaker for her widowed father, lessen the tension. The author’s careful attention to historical detail can be found in her vivid description of the Martins’s “soddy” home. A cast of believable characters with distinct personalities brings this slice of U.S. history to life; particular attention is given to how the difficulties of frontier life impact the children. The Martins’ neighbor Lizzie, an independent woman who homesteads alone and offers the Martins valuable support, is a strong and memorable character. VERDICT: Dallas’s latest work of historical fiction (Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky; The Quilt Walk) conveys the importance of family and the value of neighbors helping one another. A fine selection where fiction about white U.S. frontier life is in demand.
Santa Fe: The Chief Way.
By Robert Strein, John Vaughan and C. Fenton Richards Jr.
University of New Mexico Press.
My grandfather and two of my great-grandfathers worked for the Rock Island, and I was brought up with a love of trains. Everybody my age remembers riding on passenger trains—the porters, dining cars, the seats that had more leg room than first class on today’s airlines. Of all the different trains, the Santa Fe seemed the most romantic.
Santa Fe: The Chief Way is not a history of the railroad but rather a collection of promotional materials about the Chiefs and the Super Chiefs. The Santa Fe introduced the first Chief in 1926, when it converted to all-Pullman accommodations. The Super Chiefs came a decade later. The trains were designed with a Southwest motif. The red and yellow engine colors were chosen to resemble a war bonnet. There were sand paintings on the walls, etched Kachinas on glass dividers. The menus displayed sand paintings on their covers, and there were Hopi mudhead paintings on the wine list. The elegant dining car, which could be reserved for private parties, was called the Turquoise Room. Trains even employed Native Americans to roam the cars and entertain travelers.
Railway advertising featured the Southwest theme, too, and often showed Chico, the Navajo boy, writing “Santa Fe All the Way” in the desert sand. Even stationery on the train featured Indians and Indian symbols. Several years ago at a street sale in Leadville, I picked up a box of Santa Fe stationery that somebody had filched from a train. I use it sparingly and only for correspondence with special people.