Tag Archives: writing

Finding Proper Viewpoints

Describing how to explore an Ozark ravine isn’t hard, or is it? I’ve explored ravines many times and now have the Carduans exploring theirs. But I need to find the proper viewpoints.

As I ramble down the ravine, I see far up the way. The streambed shifts from one side to the other. Side ravines enter, some folds in a hill, others coming between two hills.

Proper viewpoints of a ravine from my height

From my vantage point, my Ozark ravine is easy walking. Most fallen trees are small and easy to step over. I can see far ahead of myself.

Is this what a Carduan would see? No. Why not?

The Carduans are a little smaller than a blue jay. Finding the proper viewpoints for these explorers entails sitting and lying down. I settle for putting the camera down near the ground and taking pictures.

proper viewpoints for a small animal or a Carduan

From the viewpoint of my imaginary Carduan or any small animal, that easy to step over log is a major obstacle. The leaves mire progress down. An Ozark ravine walk becomes a struggle.

As I walk along, I step over fallen trees and branches. The Carduans will have to climb over these. If they are lucky, the trunk is crooked or lies on a soil hump leaving room to walk underneath.

When I cross over the stream bed, I look up the way and find a sloping way down and up. Most of these do have a foot drop on both sides. No Carduan will risk falling three times their height onto rocks.

proper viewpoints to see how a Carduan would spot a honey locust

The Carduans discovered the honey locust and its thorns. These thorns vary in length. The longest I’ve found was 16 inches. They are tough enough to stab through a tractor or truck tire. That distant tree is a honey locust. What would tip a Carduan off that this is the tree they seek?

Luckily for the Carduans trees fall across the streambed. Some are giants a foot or more in diameter. Others are six inches in diameter.

For me, I’d choose the big trunks. The smaller ones are adequate, but I’m not much of a tightrope walker.

The Carduans would prefer the smaller trunks. These would be wide roads to them and much easier to get onto.

Adam and Eve Orchid leaf

An Adam and Eve or Putty Root Orchid puts up a leaf in the fall. it lasts until late spring when the orchid blooms.

I may be interested in the proper viewpoints to use on my ravine exploration, however I have other things to see. One is an orchid. I’m sure there are more growing in the ravine, but I’ve only found the one.

Called Adam-and-Eve or Putty Root, this orchid puts up a leaf in the fall. It stays green through the winter, then withers away. This is when the flower stalk rises up a foot or more lined with half inch flowers.

Adam and Eve Orchid seed pods

The seed pods of an Adam and Eve Orchid are still hanging on last year’s flower stalk.

I found the leaf last winter. I couldn’t find the place to see the flowers. Now I’ve found this fall’s leaves and marked the place well for next spring.

Interestingly, the proper viewpoints to use when photographing smaller plants near the ground are the same as the ones I need for the Carduans.

Find more views of my Ozark hills and ravines in “My Ozark Home.”

Chicks Grow Up Fast

My chicks arrived two weeks ago. They were little balls of fluff. Chicks grow fast.

Now those balls of fluff have tiny tails and wings. They love to race across the floor flapping their wings. They can’t get off the ground yet.

These pullets are a tough bunch. My chick house has no insulation. The walls are wood covered with metal. There are plenty of air leaks. The outside temperature is the inside temperature.

chicks grow and need less heat

Different breeds of chickens look very different. I like lots of them and have several breeds in my flock. There are four kinds of pullets.
The black ones are barred rocks. The plain buff feathers are buff Orpingtons. The brown with black bars feathers are New Hampshire. The chicks with cheek puffs are Easter Eggers who grow up to lay blue and green eggs. By three weeks of age almost all of the fluff will be gone and the pullets will become gangling adolescents.

The chicks huddled under their light when the temperatures plunged. Even with blankets wrapped around the cage, they were cool.

Well, one night I put an extra blanket on and they got too hot.

Chicks grow up fast. They don’t need a hot heat lamp now. Their feathers keep them warm. And they have doubled in size. Besides, the temperatures are approaching normal spring ranges.

Hazel is raising chicks in Mistaken Promises. Grandfather talked about chickens and fresh eggs until she thought it would be fun. After committing herself by talking Lily into joining the 4-H Poultry Project with her, she discovered the work.

Chickens are one of the easier ways to be a country person. Depending on the breed and standard or bantam, chickens can be kept in a small area. With handling many breeds can become pets.

chicks grow feathers fast

Ball of fluff chicks are cute. Larger chicks feathering out look disheveled. This is when they produce lots of dust. This is a Buff Orpington pullet chick like those Hazel Whitmore is raising in Mistaken Promises.

Hazel and Lily have Buff Orpingtons. These are one of the breeds easy to make into pets. The hens are a golden buff color. Their feathers are fluffy. They are docile and calm.

Grandfather built Hazel’s chicken house years before for his wife Helen. He built a sturdy building. He had a nice brooder hood. Hazel’s chicks lived in style.

I’m jealous.

County fairs in rural Missouri are the place for 4-H members to exhibit their livestock and crafts. Hazel will show her pullets at the county fair. But Hazel is being stalked by one who hates her and all around her. And that person is at the fair too.

Mistaken Promises is the third in the Hazel Whitmore middle grade series. It will be release this fall. The first two, Broken Promises and Old Promises, are available now.

Writing Prompts Challenges

The last time I remember working with writing prompts was fourth grade. Mrs. Adams would put a line of pictures along the blackboard. Each student chose one to write a story about.

My books now trace themselves back to an idea about a plot or a character. I don’t think of these as writing prompts, but suppose they are. That is what a prompt is: a topic idea to build a story around.

goat show writing prompts

This is a good writing prompt for me, being at a goat show. Rural topics are a big challenge for city dwellers.

A writing buddy likes writing from these prompts and talked me into trying a weekly prompt. We trade off weeks coming up with an idea.

My writing prompts are usually some happening like picking up a coin. Hers are one word. The latest was Cursed. We tend to drive each other mad as the prompts force us to approach our writing from a new angle, get out of our comfort zones.

writing prompts fawn

Could you use this picture as a writing prompt? This fawn is old enough to start losing its spots and be on its own, but young enough to not race away when come across by a vehicle.

Cursed was such a word for me. I’m not much interested in the horror, occult or similar topics. I like much more practical, everyday topics. What could I do with this one?

The thing about a writing prompt piece is its rough draft quality. Many times the piece is written in a short time with no editing review. I came up with this one:


I stand assessing the enemy. I am bigger than the enemy. The enemy has vastly more members. I have weapons to attack my enemies. They have only their roots.

And, in the end, the enemy will win.

I know before beginning, the enemy will win. The enemy always wins this war. Still I get ready and go out to do battle hoping to delay the inevitable.

Smart people are supposed to learn from their mistakes. I fight this battle every year refusing to learn, or accept, my defeat.

Every fall I put up barriers to stop the enemy. Every spring I put up more barriers. The enemy’s numbers are reduced, but the army still comes.

Every spring I plow up the legions of tiny enemies. Every summer I dig and pull hundreds of my enemies. The enemy regroups and launches a new assault.

Why don’t I admit defeat? Why don’t I give up and surrender?

Each winter I consider quitting. I tabulate the costs in time and money. Both are precious commodities.

Spring wafts into view. The land greens. The air lightens. The birds sing. The seed racks and transplants arrive in the stores.

I am doomed, cursed, fated to fight the war another year.

Why? Why can’t I admit defeat? Why can’t I resist spring?

That first sun-ripened, sun-warmed tomato is why.


Yes, it is gardening season here. My spinach and turnips are sprouting. Flood cleanup has delayed putting the Buttercrunch lettuce in.

writing prompts floods

Nothing like ending a drought with six inches of rain and a flood. This might make a good writing prompt, but not until cleaning up is a distant memory.

I wanted to see the ravines in flood for the Carduan Chronicles. Wading through the water wasn’t an option.

Designing Carduan Ravines

Ravines abound in the Ozark hills around me. Small ones are merely folds coming down hills. Narrow ones are where two hills are close together. Large ones can broaden into wide shelves of land adjoining a deep graveled creek bed.

For the Carduans, their ravine will be their world for a long time. The distance they can go exploring will be limited.

At a bit over five feet tall, a mile is 2,100 steps for me. That makes each step about two and a half feet long or half my height.

Since my Carduans average four inches tall, their steps would be two inches long. A mile is 63,360 inches long or 31,680 Carduan steps long, about a 15 mile equivalent.

Admittedly Ozark ravines aren’t that long. The longest one nearby is a mere half mile. This would still be a seven mile Carduan hike.

Carduan combined ravines

Creating a world for a novel is always a challenge whether the world is our own or on an alien planet. No Ozark ravine is the same as any other Ozark ravine. That made designing one for The Carduan Chronicles easy and hard. This is the rough draft. Next it needs a distance scale and detailed drawings. I wish I could just take a picture.

The immediate Carduan ravine therefore will need to have everything they will need within a short distance. What will they need?

First is their landing ledge. This almost level rock ledge juts out of a hillside and overhangs the ravine.

Second is a water source. Springs and seeps are a common Ozark feature. adding one to the Carduan ravine is reasonable.

Third is level ground suitable for agriculture. The Carduans are an agricultural people raising livestock and crops for food and fiber.

Fourth is a safe place to build homes. Ozark ravines are prone to flooding so this must be high enough to stay out of the flood waters. It must be defensible from coyotes, bobcats, owls, snakes and other predators who would consider the Carduans tasty snacks.

I went exploring nearby ravines. One yielded the perfect ledge rocks. First criterion met.

Another had two ravines joining, one with a spring and the other larger one with the possibility of level land. Another had a wonderful series of rock ledges for the spring water to descend in a series of small waterfalls. The second criterion met.

The level land came from another section of ravine. This has several ravines feeding into a main one creating deltas. These are high enough to avoid small high water events, but will flood once or twice a year. The Nile River would do this and provide wonderful soil for the Egyptians. Third criterion met.

The fourth criterion solution was found on the sides of a ravine. It will be noted as solved here as it is a part of the story.

So now I get to draw out the map.

The first of The Carduan Chronicles is schedules for release in October, 2018.

New Writing Year Starting

This past year has been a disappointment for my writing plans. Numerous reasons come to mind but all have the sound of excuse. But a new writing year is about to begin.

For me the new writing year begins on November 1 when NaNo begins. It’s that time when I play with a new novel idea, put my writing head back in order, my writing schedule back in place.

For those unfamiliar with NaNo, this is National Novel Writing Month, 30 days of insanity out of which sanity comes. The NaNo challenge is to write 50,000 words – a short 200 page navel – in 30 days.

Participating in NaNo isn’t necessary for me to write. I love to write. I love starting new projects and drag myself to finishing old ones.

Old writing projects abound on my computer. At the moment I am continuing the saga of Hazel Whitmore in the third book in the series.

Broken Promises

In Broken Promises Hazel began as a twelve-year-old living in New York City. After the death of her father in Iraq, life disintegrated only to force a new beginning in Crooked Creek, Missouri.

Old Promises

Old Promises lets Hazel try to adjust to a rural lifestyle. It is complicated by an old family feud between her two grandfathers.

The third book in the series doesn’t have a title yet. It revolves around the aftermath of the terrible consequences of the feud in Old Promises.

I had hoped to complete this novel last summer. Obviously it did not get done.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Ridge and his love of road rally. That draft is done and has been sitting for months. This is part of the writing process for me.

road rally car

The rally car fishtails down a hill, slides around a turn then speeds off down the road exciting rally fans and inspiring those like Ridge who aspire to one day be behind the wheel of such a car.

I write a draft. It is full of loose ends, extra plots, confusions, timing errors and more. With Ridge there are two plot lines converging. Each has a different time frame that must somehow be melded together. The story after the two merge is done.

The draft is set aside for a time. It is not forgotten but simmering on a back burner. This lets me catch up on research and sift through the problems in the draft. It lets me distance myself from the writing a little.

Then I go back to the draft to rewrite it. This solves the problems or tries to. An edit fixes grammar and spelling along with any other loose ends I missed the first time.

At times there are several rewrites and edits. I do not enjoy reading a novel full of errors and assume my readers feel the same.

My target release time for this novel also still without a title, one of the last things I do usually, is March, 2017. Perhaps the third Hazel novel will be done then too.

But both of these hinge on something my new writing year needs: structure. Over a busy summer my writing schedule falls apart.

NaNo lets me put my schedule back together again. Yes, I will start another draft maybe even complete it. Yes, I do have character ideas, plot ideas, a theme and am planning my short outline out.

By the end of November my new writing year will have me back on track. Hopefully it will last until my writing year ends next November.

New Year Plans

No year ever goes according to plan. Opportunities, problems, life happens pushing plans out of the way.

Even so, it’s nice to have some tentative plans. They set goals. They pull you forward into the future.

Another word for plan might be resolution. I prefer plan because resolution makes the objective seem set in stone. You accomplish it or you fail miserably.

Plans give some leeway. They are a goal to work toward without a set timetable. If complications arise, plans can be postponed or reworked.

I set these plans up for various areas of my life.


Of course, as a struggling author, writing plans come first. My goal is to complete five books this year and drafts for three more.

This is ambitious but I am willing to give it a try.

The Pumpkin Project

The Pumpkin Project will be a book of pumpkin trivia, puzzles, investigations, projects, recipes and more.

The books are three novels: Capri Capers; the third Hazel Whitmore; and Introduction to Autumn. The one science book is The Pumpkin Project. And the fifth is a picture book presently called Watching for Fairies.

I would like to complete drafts for three books. Two are novels. One is The Mounzz of Autumn. Another is a boy’s adventure novel for which I am researching road rallies. The third draft is for another science book called The Water Project.

Just to make sure I have plenty of writing planned I can complete a book on pet poetry, a goat alphabet book and a fourth Hazel Whitmore book.


I will continue to write the weekly commentaries and post a weekly science project. The chemistry unit continues to May. Perhaps the summer projects will be on botany based on The Pumpkin Project.

The book blogs will appear once a month. As there are several, one will show up each Saturday.

I will again open comments in the hopes of hearing from some of you who are interested in or have questions about what I’ve written. Although thousands of SPAM comments still show up, the filter seems to stop most of them.

The number of people visiting the website is slowly growing. I would like to visit with more people so I will try to get the word out. Perhaps you can help with this.


My garden will be another work in progress this year. So far the gardener’s wish books are arriving. My list of wishes is long. My list of seeds will be much shorter.

For now I am mulching and clearing and setting up for spring. After all, the raised bed will be ready for spinach next month.


raised garden bed

Winter’s cold has seeped into the raised garden bed. It waits for Valentine’s Day when spinach seeds will get planted.

My plan list keeps growing. That is the thing about making plans, they make nice goals. Time will weed them out to the most important and necessary. These are the ones that will get done over the year.

I hope your list of plans will make your year more focused and productive too.

Happy New Year