The boss speaks. And I listen.

Last week, my husband and I stopped by his work place for a quick look at some gardening materials. While there, my husband made a point to stop and talk to his co-worker, Tonya.

She has the weekend off so she was buying supplies for the snow storm we are expecting in Spokane. Tonya said she planned to reread Celebration House this weekend. I was surprised at this. Reread it? Huh?

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I want to read it a second time so when the sequel comes out, I’ll be ready. You are working on the next book, right? When will it be done? Shouldn’t you be at home writing now?”

I felt a little taken aback because to be honest, Celebration House hasn’t sold well. While I write this, the book is 616,310 in the Amazon ratings. If I am reading my royalty statements correctly, and there’s no guarantee I am, about fifty people have purchased the book since it debuted in August. So here’s the math:

The royalties I have received minus my expenses of promoting it equals  -$5.

But you wouldn’t know that to see Tonya’s enthusiasm, which I can sum up with one word: hungry. She is hungry for Celebration House to resume and for the characters she met on those pages to once again share their struggles and triumphs with her. One of Tonya’s comments hit home for me. She said she liked the book so much because she related to these characters. Yes! (Fist pump).

Indie authors only have one boss: our readers. Tonya reminded me of this. Thank you.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: A man’s point of view. Specifically, Geno’s point of view.

Letting go

After two and a half years, hundreds of hours spent staring at a computer screen, countless Wednesday nights reading pages aloud to my critique group, after all this time, it’s done. Bone Girl is finished and made available to anybody with $2.99 and an e-reader.

I began writing this book in 2011. From the beginning, the beauty of this story took my breath away. I don’t know where on earth the main character came from, what corner of my imagination gave her breath, but wow. If any author ever loved a character, I love Josey Miller.

I have so many doubts about this book. I think that’s probably a common feeling for writers. I wonder if anybody will read it, and if they do, will it inspire or offend?

I’m currently listing it as a book for readers ages 9-12, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. Because to be honest with you, I don’t have anyone in my life that fits in that age group. All of my readers have been adults. And does the fact that the main character is 11 years old necessarily make it a kids book? I don’t know. I find myself using those words a lot: I don’t know.

This book takes place in small-town Missouri, a fictional town I created called Bennett Springs. Ah, yes, the Missourians among you say, Bennett Springs is real. It’s a state park and one of my favorite places on this earth. I love Bennett Springs State Park. I often watch their web cam while I write. Yes, they have a webcam, or to be more accurate, a trout cam. Here’s the link: http://mostateparks.com/content/trout-cam

Horses play a huge role in this book. I named the leading horse, Chief, after an American Saddlebred gelding my grandparents owned. I was afraid of this horse and with good reason. He injured my grandmother, who was an experienced horsewoman, and she spent a night or two in the local hospital because of him.

Some of the scenes I wrote, including the first time the farrier trims Chief’s hooves, were based on experiences with my own horse, Lacy. She struggles with the farrier too. Her front legs are deformed, and she has difficulty balancing her weight. The patience and kindness shown to her by my farrier, Jay Healy, is recounted in my book. And like Chief, she loves peppermint candies and eats an apple one bite at a time.

There’s no story without conflict, and I’ve included two bullies, both an adult and a child version. The child, Andy Barton, gets his comeuppance in one of the latter scenes of the book. The adult bully is the banker who owns Chief and holds the note to the family farm. I don’t tell the reader exactly what happens with this character. I leave that hanging, but by the end of the book, Josey’s father find himself in a place where he can tell the banker to please go away now.

On Thursday, I received an audition snippet from a voice actor who may narrate Bone Girl. He is reviewing the manuscript now. As I sat listening to him read my words, I was struck by how this small dream of mine is growing wings and wants a life of its own. Without me.

Meanwhile, I rise at 5 a.m., make a cup of coffee and sit here at the computer, writing and revising A Year with Geno, my next novel. After this book is finished, I return to Celebration House to write the sequels. But I can’t move forward with these projects until I let go of the book that’s occupied my imagination for so long. I’m ready to do that today. I’m letting go.

This is Bone Girl.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: a reminder why pleasing the reader is all that matters.

Formatting for Dummies

In three days, I will self-publish my second book, Bone Girl.

Unlike Celebration House, this novel required much more of me than just writing and editing. Because it’s self-published and I have a budget of, oh, let’s see, NOTHING, I did all of the work myself. When I say work, I mean writing, editing, revising, proofreading and my least favorite activity of all time, formatting. In fact, I’ve spent nearly every free minute of the last week learning to format my book. (Note – the amazing cover art was the work of Jason Gurley. Wouldn’t it make a great movie poster? I think so too).

Because I am naive. I believed all of the websites when they said how simple it is to self-publish an e-book. Easy! Just download your manuscript in a .doc or .docx format. Yeah. Well, no.

You start with Smashwords because they will distribute your e-book to many of the major retailers, such as Apple, Kobo, iBook and Nook. But Smashwords’ “meat grinder” as they call their computer program and no, I’m not making this up – forbids any extraneous formatting in the document. Thus, the first thing you must do is copy and paste your manuscript to a Notepad document, then copy and paste it back to a word document. The nearest I can figure, and I read those instructions many, many times, this “nuclear” treatment removes any underlining and thus problematic formatting. But it removes a few other things too like indents, italics, chapter breaks, line spacing, etc.

Then there’s Kindle. Be sure any words you want centered do not have an indent or they will look, well, weird, and, uh, off-center. Also, pages must be separated by a hard return, a page break.

Not so on Nook Press, which is Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform. Nook requires a section break, so kindly delete all of the page breaks from the manuscript for Kindle and insert section breaks for the manuscript for Nook. My Aunt Mary Rose is waiting for this book to be available on Nook, so by golly, I’m gonna make sure it’s there.

Oh, and then there’s the print version. That manuscript must be in a .pdf file. I haven’t even started on that project yet. You see, creating a print version takes money and I’m rubbing two nickels together. Because honestly, I could have paid someone to do much of the work for me. But, no. I’m too cheap.

Or perhaps, to be brutally honest, I’m too broke. Three days ago, I tiptoed into my bedroom and as my husband was just starting to wake, I whispered in his ear, “Honey, I just spent $275 on our ISBNs.” His response: “What’s an ISBN?”

An ISBN is a number assigned to every book, fiction or nonfiction, to help booksellers keep track of inventory.To clarify, Bone Girl requires three ISBNs: one for the e-book, one for the print version and one for the audio book. Oh, yes, it’s going to be available in audio format also. Exciting, isn’t it?

I know I sound whiny as I relate the ugly albeit boring details of how I’ve spent the last week, but I take this treasure away: I can do this. With patience and perseverance, I can learn to format an e-book. Maybe you can too…

Bone Girl is not going to be perfect. At least, not this first edition. There may be too much white space or a chapter heading that looks a little drunk, but my hope is that readers will be too engrossed in the story to say, “Holy buckets! She’s got an extra return on this page.”

And this sense of accomplishment, wow! It’s like a drug. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but every time I learn one more technical step, even if it’s a basic one like composing a page on my blog with one column rather than two, well, I just glow. I’m so proud that this 45-year-old dog learned a new trick. I hope you feel this way when you overcome a tech challenge.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon templates that authors can purchase to help format their e-books and print versions. I plan on using one for the print version of Bone Girl. They’re fairly inexpensive – about $30-$40. Sounds like a real timesaver. Ah, heck, where’s the fun in that?

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Letting it go.

Tonight, on the Stephen Colbert show…

My last two blog entries have been way too too serious. I thought I’d have a little fun. Here, then, is my appearance on the Stephen Colbert show. Please enjoy!

Stephen: “My guest tonight is Annette Drake, author of Celebration House, Bone Girl and A Year with Geno. She’ll tell us exactly what kind of bone Geno is celebrating.”

(Twenty minutes into the broadcast, Stephen Colbert jogs over to the small circular table and sits down. We shake hands. I smile broadly at him. Inside, I’m quivering. I just hope I don’t vomit.)

Stephen: “Okay, everybody, settle down. Settle down. Let’s get started. Annette, you’re the author of Celebration House, Bone Girl and A Year with Geno. All three have been optioned by Peter Jackson for development into motion pictures. What’s the deal, Annette? Can’t you write a book that doesn’t need to be made into a movie?”

Me: Laughter. “I don’t know. I wish I could. My problem is,” and here I take out Stephen’s book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, “my books don’t come with 3-D glasses like yours do.”

Stephen: “Well, you’re no Stephen Colbert.”

Me: I lower my head in shame and mumble, “I know. I know.”

Stephen: “But seriously, I’ve got a beef with you. In Bone Girl, you make unflattering comments about Wal-Mart. How dare you. They’re an American institution.”

Me: “I don’t say those things, Stephen. The character, May Ellen Jones, says those things.”

Stephen: “Oh, c’mon. Are you saying your characters say and do things you don’t tell them to do?”

Me: “As hard as it is to believe, yes. Characters do and say things the author doesn’t intend. May Ellen has some caustic opinions about Wal-Mart. I would never say anything bad about Wal-Mart, like how they built a store in my hometown of Brookfield, Missouri, and killed off all of the small businesses, including my father’s lumberyard. I would never say anything like that.”

Stephen: “Do you shop at Wal-Mart?”

Me: “I spend as much time there as you do, Stephen.”

Stephen: “Another bone to pick: your books are so sad. Frankly, they’re downers. Why can’t you write a happy book? For example, in Bone Girl, the main character’s father is laid off and he can’t afford groceries. Now. C’mon. Why do you need to be so melodramatic? Do you work for the pharmaceutical companies, marketing anti-depressants?”

Me:  Laughter. “I don’t, although I think that would be a great-paying gig. I suspect there are many Americans who have been laid off from their jobs and struggle to afford groceries. That’s why the food pantries are so vocal in asking for donations. I don’t think being unable to afford groceries is melodramatic. It’s a reality.”

Stephen: “Now, what’s next for you? What are you going to celebrate next?”

Me: “My hope is for the sequels to Celebration House to premier in 2015. These two books will finish the trilogy. Then, I’d like to write a cozy mystery novel, and I love time-travel fiction. Who knows?”

Stephen: “Not bad for a high-school dropout.”

Me: “It’s amazing what we high school drop-outs can achieve.”

Stephen: “But in fact, you’re not just a drop-out. You were terminated from your nursing job at a hospital in Spokane, Washington. After that, you finished your debut novel, Celebration House, which was published by Tirgearr Publishing in 2013. You blogged that if you hadn’t lost your job, you may have never finished your first book.”

Annette: “That’s all true. I owe that nursing manager a great debt. Thank you, Kim.”

Stephen: “Well, Annette, thank you for coming on. I wish you every success. Annette Drake, everybody. Oh, and one more thing, Annette, enjoy the Colbert bump.” He reaches over and we bump fists.

The episode ends with Colbert reading a printed version of Celebration House and crying, dabbing at his eyes with Kleenex.

Hey, I can dream. Hands and arms inside the cart. Next:  I disappear…

Breathe…breathe…breathe…

Pardon me while I have my anxiety attack.

I just opened the returned manuscript for Bone Girl from one of my beta readers. I’m overwhelmed with all of the notes he made on it, written in red type, and all in CAPITAL LETTERS. My heart is racing. My fingers are shaking. Holy buckets! I’m totally freaking out.

Here’s what happened: after I finished the first draft of Bone Girl, which by the way, was originally titled Phat Girl, I sent it off to my beta readers. These are friends and acquaintances who critique the first draft of a manuscript and provide feedback, which is used by an author to revise the work.

I had about five beta readers for Bone Girl. Let me tell you about them.

To begin with, there’s Maudeen Wachsmith. Maudeen is a professional editor who worked on Celebration House. She gave birth to the idea that the book should be a trilogy. When Maudeen first approached me with the idea of not one but two sequels, I said “Nooooo.” Then, after applying tincture of time, and hearing from other readers, I realized the answer was, well, maybe. Now, I can’t stop thinking about these next two books, especially Melanie’s.

For those of you who have bought and read Celebration House, well, first, THANK YOU! Secondly, you know who Melanie is and how unlikeable her character is. But, you’ve got to admit, she’s a tough cookie. Man! You should try living with her in your head all the time. I mean, really. C’mon! Stop already.

My second beta reader is Edith Poole. Edith, stand up and wave to the audience. Oh, you are standing. My bad. Edith is my petite mother-in-law and an experienced horsewoman. She’s five feet of red-headed fury. Say that fast three times.

I gave her Bone Girl last summer, and she called me and told me to come to her house. Alone. She wanted to talk to me. Eeek! Boy, that was a long one-mile drive. But I listened, and she was right. The book wasn’t finished. I hope it’s more finished now. I say that because I agree with George Lucas: no creative work is ever finished, just abandoned.

Aarene Storms was my third reader. She’s a published author herself. She wrote Endurance 101: A Gentle Guide to the Sport of Long-distance Riding, which I used when I wrote the manuscript. Aarene pointed out some of my more glaring mistakes, i.e. any horse expected to trot fifty miles would likely be shod. Also, the main character in Bone Girl, an 11-year-old girl named Josey, wouldn’t be wandering alone in an endurance camp. There’s too many mama bears amongst horse people.

Because of Aarene’s comments, I created two new characters: Earl Keck, the farrier, and Opal Meyers, an older woman who watches over Josey on the day of the endurance ride. I grew fond of Opal quickly because I’ve known women like her who have shown me amazing kindness. I only wish Opal would invite me into her 1968 Oasis travel trailer for breakfast.

I also sent the manuscript to Dennis and Sue Summers. I know I’ve blogged this before but it bears repeating. The Summers are the real deal: experienced endurance riders who’ve taken horses to competitions around the world, including the Middle East. Dennis penned a book for advanced endurance riders: 4th Gear – Power Up Your Endurance Horse.

The Summers too agreed Chief should be shod. Alas, they didn’t like one of my plot points: PETA protests the endurance ride Josey’s father competes in. My apologies, Sue and Dennis, but I needed to get a television crew to the ride and that’s how I did it. I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation, when Bone Girl is made into a film, I intend to send the producers your way so my mistakes won’t be replicated in the film.

Last night, I received the manuscript back from my final beta reader, Les Dunseith. He was a journalism professor at my alma mater, Truman State University, and, I like to brag, a former editor at The Los Angeles Time. I met Les in 1985 in my first journalism class, and I’ve been annoying him ever since. Les read Celebration House before I finished it, and I asked him to read Bone Girl. If this continues, I’ll probably have to start paying him.

Les gave me my first inkling that maybe I had something special with Carrie, the main character in Celebration House. A few days after he returned the printed manuscript back in the mail, Les emailed me to tell me he was still thinking about Carrie. She lingered with him. She was not easily forgotten.  

Last night, Les returned Bone Girl to me, and he must know me and my neuroses well enough because in his email he wrote, “I think you’ve seen enough of my editing suggestions by now not to be surprised when you open the document and see lots of red type (much of which is positive by the way).”

Yeah, but you didn’t tell me it was going to be in ALL CAPS!

Relax, I tell myself as I scan the first page and see as much red ink on it as my original text. Relax. Deep breath. This is all part of the novelist’s experience. It’s like a practice test. Les has given me the answers before I actually step into the classroom, i.e. publish Bone Girl. I can use his feedback to make the book better. To make you, the reader, my boss, fall in love with Bone Girl the way I did. Okay. Let’s get started.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next, I’m interviewed by Stephen Colbert. (Please note: this interview takes place in my imagination)  

Shhh! Can you keep a secret? Yeah. Me neither.

Everyone who knows me knows this about me: I can’t keep a secret to save my life.

On New Year’s Eve, I received an amazing gift, but it came with one caveat: don’t tell anybody. Eeek! I could feel the tug of war begin inside me: how can I not tell everyone?

Here’s what happened. During the last days of December, I was reading a blog post by Hugh Howey. He’s a self-published author whose book, Wool, has broken records. New York Times bestseller. All that jazz. Hugh has done well for himself, and one of the results of his success, is reaching out to help other self-publishing authors. Indie authors, we’re called.

On this blog post, he talked about the sequel to Wool, a book called Sand. He also mentioned how thrilled he was with the cover art. Cover art is an author’s first and sometimes best means to convince readers to buy the book. It’s the way we first grab a reader’s attention.

I looked at the cover art for Sand, and it was perfect. I saw the author’s name, Jason Gurley, and I thought, wow. What I wouldn’t give to have a cover that nice. And I thought, heck, I’m going to write to the guy. Sending an email is free. I’ll ask him what he would charge and if he would work on a book like Bone Girl, which isn’t his usual science-fiction genre.

I did this. I sent an email to this stranger, thinking I would probably not hear back. I’m a new author with only one title, Celebration House, which isn’t really selling. But, the next day, there was a response. He said he wouId consider it. So we corresponded some more, and he agreed to do my cover at a price I could afford. I couldn’t believe this news. But it gets better.

On New Year’s Eve, I filled out the form he requests of all authors, talking about the characters in the book, the setting, what I thought were the most visually important elements. And I thought, maybe I’ll hear back in a month or so. Meanwhile, I got busy and drafted the blurb, the short paragraph on the back of the book readers scan to see if they want to buy it.

Excuse me. Could you hand me a Kleenex? I get teary-eyed when I relate this next part.

I woke on New Year’s Day and at 8:25 a.m., there in my email inbox was the first draft of cover art for Bone Girl. Not just one version, but three I could choose from. Holy. Buckets!

For the first time, it felt like someone besides me and my family believed in Bone Girl. Someone saw my vision and added to it. I felt empowered. I felt like I’d grown wings and could fly. After hearing so many no’s, I heard a loud yes.

And I know the marketing department – if I had one – would say, let’s keep this under wraps for now. Show no one. Tell no one. We’ll plan a cover-release event.

But as I’ve already explained, I can’t keep a secret.

So then, here, dear reader, is my cover art for Bone Girl. All credit to Jason Gurley. Stand back. This. Is. Huge!

Huge!

Image

 

 

Saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming 2014

Happy New Year’s Eve!

When I was a child, tonight was a big deal. I’d listen to Casey Kasem count down the top 100 hits of the year, and I’d sort through my closet, cleaning out old clothes and making room for new. It was a chance to shed off the person I was and make big plans to be the person I wanted to be.

2013 has been an exciting year, but I will be glad to see it end.

Here are the high points:

  • I published my first novel, Celebration House. Thank you, Tirgearr Publishing.
  • I started a blog, a professional Facebook page and a Twitter account.
  • I made the journey home to the Midwest and spent time with family dear to me.

But there were a few low points too.

  • I learned there’s no such creature as job security. It’s a false promise. Forgive me if this sounds dark, but I now question if the road to financial security is paved by an employer with an hourly wage. Perhaps there’s another way.
  • Those closest to me were not always supportive of me. This begs the question, why make room for them in my life? Perhaps it’s time to stop.

 The best-learned lesson:

 I’m the creator of my own universe. I’m the fulfiller of my own daydreams. I didn’t know this until 2013. Now, I do.

 

Welcoming 2014

I will nurture the writer within. I will make time and a place for her.

I will self-publish my first book.

I will clean out my emotions closest of all naysayers, skeptics, pouters. I will neatly package up these people and send them away from me with no return address on the brown box. Goodbye, I will tell them. Good luck.

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a hell of a year.

Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next: Finishing the book. Again.   

The dream

Last night, I dreamt I was at a children’s writers convention. Much to my surprise, I received an honorable mention for something I penned, and I was invited to join a panel of writers at the front of the room.

I took my seat with the others, but when I opened the manila envelope, I saw that the manuscript which was being honored was not mine. When the speaker reached me, after briefly interviewing all of the authors to my right, I stood up and called out the name of the author/illustrator whose work had been mistakenly filed in the folder with my name on it. He jumped up and ran to the table, a bevy of excitement and joyful noise. I sat back down.

I’m amazed at two things: 1) the degree of complexity of my dreams. I remember the vibrant colors and complex storyline of the picture-book manuscript that was misplaced in my folder, and 2) how quickly my mind works to make sense of the events that happen when I’m awake.

You see, yesterday, I received my first royalties statement. No money yet, but I know how much to expect. Dare I share it with you? Probably not. That would be crass. But let me say I was correct when I joked that I could expect “tens of dollars” from my first novel. Here’s another hint: I make in one hour at my current profession the same amount that Celebration House garnered in two months of sales. Succinctly put: writing is a financial waste of time.

My publisher tells me I need to promote, promote, promote! That’s done by sending emails to bloggers and asking them to review my book and/or feature me. I call it blog begging. And I did that. A lot of that back in August. 

My publisher tells me to write a second novel. But I did that. Bone Girl was finished last summer. The problem is, my publisher doesn’t buy children’s fiction. Bone Girl is meant for kids age 8-12.

Yet, here I sit at 6:20 in the morning, writing a blog post. When I’m done with this, I’m going to read over the last scene I was polishing in “A Year with Geno.”

I think, for now, writing must remain a time-consuming hobby. And the idea of writing full-time, supporting my family with my storytelling, well, that’s just a dream.

Hands and arms inside the cart: Next: please meet Elaine Dodge, author of Harcourt’s Mountain.

Treasures from the long road trip

Last month, my family and I drove from our home in eastern Washington to Lexington, Missouri, to give a presentation at the library there about my debut novel, Celebration House. Roundtrip, we traveled about 3,900 miles to speak to an audience of two.

At first glance, this might seem like a whole lot of trip for little reward. But I try to think of it as an investment. Because along the way, I gained some experiences that I know will show up in my books.

A few days after the library presentation, my family and I attended the Iowa State Fair. I’ve talked up this fair since my son was old enough to understand human speech. When he didn’t want to go to bed and needed a reason to stall, he’d say to me, “Mama, tell me about Iowa.”

He was pretty excited that we actually made it to the Iowa State Fair. I was too. We spent a long day, gawking at the butter cow, touring the horse and cattle barns, riding the roller coaster and flying down the 6-story Giant Slide. But it was when we returned to our tent that the fun really began.

Because unbeknownst to me, while we were at the fair, the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo moved in. Right next to us. We came back to our modest campsite about 9:30 p.m. We were all exhausted. Beyond tired. We had survived the Iowa State Fair death march.

Teeth brushed, we climbed into sleeping bags. Along with the cicadas and the crickets, we heard other noises of the night like, “Isaiah! You git in bed right now. You hear me!” and “Brenda! Brenda! Where’s my bra? I cain’t find it!” I think you get the idea. Our fellow fairgoers were not at their best. They screeched at their kids. They squawked about their cellphone plans. And what was Vicki gonna do about her cheatin’ husband. I’m not making this stuff up. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but only a little.

Trust me when I say, I didn’t want to hear these conversations. Unfortunately, our tent just happened to be within a mile of their tents. Yes. Plural. There were multiple tents because these people breed.

And this wasn’t the worst part: the floor show started all over again the next day at 5:45 a.m. I’m not kidding. “Vicki, where’s my bra?” “Isasiah, you need a shower. You git up right now, you hear?” I don’t know if this woman’s son woke, but my son, age 6, sure did. At 5:45 a.m. This is why I hate camping.    

Later that morning, you know, about 7, the matriarch of this verbose group saw us pack up our tent and stow our gear in our car. She said innocently, “Oh, were we very loud?” And thank God the medications I take have finally started working because I said, “Yes, you were very loud.” I didn’t jump down her throat as I wanted to do. I simply repeated her words back to her.

Trust me when I say: these people will be in my next book.

Because the next book I’m dying to write is a cozy murder mystery, which takes place at a county fair. My heroine is going to camp right next to people just like this. She’s going to hear these same conversations at 10 o’clock at night and yes, 5 in the morning. These obnoxious people will be immortalized on the pages of my fiction. It’s too rich of material not to use. And it gives another obstacle for my character to overcome: sleep deprivation. 

Over the next two days, as we drove from Iowa to Washington, we stopped at a couple of places I hope to use as setting for my fiction writing. In western Nebraska, we visited Chimney Rock, a natural stone formation where the pioneers would stop and carve their names. Of the many displays in the museum was a slab of rock with the pioneers’ names and the dates carved in. I felt a connection to those brave pioneers, or at least, the place they tread.

One of our last stops was at Fort Laramie, Wyoming. This fort, used from 1840s to 1890s, has been restored by the National Park Service. The buildings are decorated as they would have been in the 1860s. The cavalry barracks, with the rows of cots covered with dark blue woolen blankets, are ready for the troops to return. The post store is stocked with shelves of goods the soldiers and civilians would buy. My words don’t do justice to this amazing place. You need to see it.

But standing there at Fort Laramie, I felt my mind whirl with the idea of a time-travel novel. The tall prairie grass waved in the wind. The August sun beat down. With my mind’s eye, I heard the shrill fife play the haunting tune of Garry Owen, which according to legend, is the last tune played for the men of the 7th Cavalry Regiment before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Yes. This place will be in my fiction writing.  

Hands and arms inside the cart, please: Next: I’m heading to Las Vegas! Sort of.