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What To Do, What To Do, What To Do

What To Do, What To Do, What To Do

I've been pondering what to do with See Jane Run! Here's what I've come up with, as well as a few things you can do to increase its publication chances.

What to do? What to do? What to do?

I’ve been pondering that question since my agent emailed to say the 4 Christian market publishers who had looked at See Jane Run! this summer had passed on the manuscript. This has happened before so I’ve had plenty of practice generating answers. They always boil down to these four options.

  1. Abandon the project. In many ways this is the easiest option as it would remove something from my crowded plate. But every time I try to walk away from See Jane Run! and the rest of my ideas for The Tipperary County Mystery Series, I have no peace. An internal motivation compels me to keep at it. Until that motivation goes away, option #1 isn’t going to happen
  2. Pitch to general market publishers. My daughter, who is a book coach and the proprietor of Novel Spirits Books, thinks this is a viable option. Mainly because See Jane Run! doesn’t quite fit into Christian publishing’s cozy mystery box. The problem is that my agent is not familiar with general market publishers and pitching to them without an agent is almost impossible.
  3. Pitch to independent publishers. My daughter thinks this path is also viable, especially since we both know some indie authors whose brains we can pick. The problem is that my schedule is tight right now, which leaves little time to research and pitch to independent publishers.
  4. Self-publish. If the most recent rejections had come before COVID, this would be my next step. But self-publishing requires cash up front, all my speaking engagements have been canceled due to COVID so I have no income. Once speaking engagements pick up again, this option will be more attractive because I’ll be able to afford to self-publish and sell See Jane Run! at speaking events.

So here’s what I’m going to do for now.

What do you think of the plan? What am I missing? I’d love to hear your thoughts about what to do, what to do, what to do.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

If You’re Wondering Why Jane Is a School Teacher…

If You’re Wondering Why Jane Is a School Teacher…

If you’re wondering why Jane is a school teacher–and the Jane being referred to here is the protagonist of See Jane Run!, the picture above holds the explanation.

See the woman in the second row, far left, standing by the little girl with the pixie hair cut? That’s my mother. She taught school for 39 years.
Do you know how many students were in her third grade classroom during the 1963-64 school year? 32

That’s 32.

In a time when
classrooms weren’t air conditioned,
special education classes were few and far between,
men were paid more than women for doing the same job,
and women had to wear dresses and hose every day, even during recess duty in the winter.

While Mom was in charge of the education of 32 eight and nine-year-olds, she was also

furthering her education by completing her 4 year degree and a master’s degree,
caring for a husband who had multiple sclerosis,
raising three kids, who were 10, 7, and 4 in 1963-63,
and raising a ruckus with the school board which resulted in women’s salaries being raised to the same level as their male counterparts.

My mom was living proof that an elementary school teacher are tough enough to be the protagonist of a cozy mystery series. The country school and the town where Jane teaches are based upon my teaching experience, not Mom’s. As a result, Jane’s

biggest class consisted of 15 students in three grades (1st-3rd),
she earns the same salary as men,
she wears pants in fall, winter, and spring,
and her classroom isn’t air conditioned.


Jane can afford to go to the cafe for supper,
she can spend less time correcting papers and more time looking for clues,
and she can run around the short grass prairie in blue jeans in all kinds of weather.

All of which make the story move along faster,
make me grateful for my tough elementary school teacher mom,
and even more grateful never to have had a class of 32 students!

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

When in a Pinch Write about Pie

When in a Pinch Write about Pie

When in a pinch write about pie. That’s my best authorly advice for wannabe writers when unusual life events blast their routines to smithereens.

A plethora of unusual life events also explains why this post features pie instead of an update about See Jane Run! Here’s what made the short list

  1. The Iowa derecho. It did a number on our yard. Everything but the giant cottonwood in the east pasture has been cleaned up. The tree’s our late-summer-into-fall project that we’ll keep chipping away at.
  2. Grieving friends. A text came from friends during the weekend just passed about the unexpected and devastating loss of a family member. To preserve their privacy, I won’t go into details other than to say it wasn’t COVID-related. They’ve been texting updates, and each one leads to fresh tears.
  3. House construction. A crew arrived this past Monday before 7 AM. By noon they had constructed the forms for the foundation walls . At 5:30 they had emptied the contents of 4 cement trucks into the forms. Tuesday morning they were back at 6:30 AM to disassemble the forms. It was great entertainment for the whole family, but not conducive to writing. This modern process for building foundations is also not conducive for the hiding of dead bodies. I’ve rebranded the time lost to writing as research because it makes me feel better.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s move on to pie. My recent Instagram post about taking a pie to neighbors who helped us out during the derecho was pretty popular on Instagram and Facebook. It came to mind when I didn’t have time or energy to blog about what I’d hoped to tell you about See Jane Run! this week.

A little voice in my head said when you’re in a pinch blog about pie because people love pie. So here’s what I have to tell you about pie.

  1. The crumb top apple pies I made, one for our neighbor and one for our family, were delicious.
  2. You can pulverize rolled oats into flour in the blender and use it instead of regular flour in the crumb topping to make gluten free apple crisp that’s almost as good as pie.
  3. To make the pie dairy free and soy free, replace butter with half Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks and half lard.
  4. Homemade pie crust made from Grandma Conrad’s Never Fail Pie Crust recipe is the absolute best. If you want to go vegan, you can use Crisco, but it’s not the same. Sorry about that.

Finally, here’s the connection between a post about pie to a cozy mystery blog. In one of the final chapters of See Jane Run!, Jane makes an apple pie and uses Grandma Conrad’s recipe for the crust. Because as Jane and I both know, it’s worth writing about when we’re in a pinch and when we’re not.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

They Say Derecho, I Say Firewood

They Say Derecho, I Say Firewood

Weather experts call the storm that devastated much of Iowa on August 10 a derecho. Every time they say derecho I saw firewood. Here's why.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

That’s the tune I’ve been humming since weather experts christened the August 10 windstorm that blew through Iowa as a derecho. Also known to the citizenry of our state as #iowaderecho2020. If you don’t know what I’m talking about google those three words, watch a couple You Tube videos, and you’ll never forget the meaning of derecho.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

Living in northwest South Dakota for seven years has that effect on a person. Especially if you lived in an area where almost every home owner installs a wood stove to help with heating bills. Where chainsaw ownership is close to 100%. And where, from August through October, more people gather by the river to cut firewood than to be baptized.

Now you understand why when they say derecho, I say firewood.

Long time readers of this blog may remember how I affectionately referred to my husband as the man of steel. In the wake of the derecho he’s been cranking up the chainsaw so often, I’ve altered the spelling of his nickname to man of Stihl. He’s applying everything he learned in South Dakota about how to weld a chainsaw to the broken limbs, wooden yard light pole, and an entire cottonwood tree.

They say derecho, I say firewood.

I mutter those words every time my husband fills our clunker pick up with another load of branches. I watch him drives away toward the wood chipping station outside of town, and I calculate how long it would have taken to burn in our wood stove. Living for seven years in northwest South Dakota has that effect, too. It gives a person a different perspective, a sense of resourcefulness, and an appreciation for the gifts scattered throughout creation.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

Where Can Jane Find a Good Cup of Coffee?

Where Can Jane Find a Good Cup of Coffee?

Where can Jane find a good cup of coffee? Java is important to fiction readers if the response to my recent Instagram post about our home espresso machine is any indication. As a result, I’ve been thinking about where Jane would find a good cup of coffee if she wants one in a future scene. So far, I haven’t come up with a decent answer, and here’s why.

For starters, the first Tipperary County mystery, See Jane Run! is set in 1977. That was at least a decade before coffee roasting and quality coffee became a thing in the United States. I’m not sure it was possible to make a good cup of coffee in the days when the big cans of ground Maxwell House, Folgers, and Hills Brothers were the only choice. Quality food requires quality ingredients and all that.

Furthermore, much of See Jane Run! and subsequent books in the series are based on the years when our young family lived in northwest South Dakota. I was not a fan of Maxwell House, Folgers, and Hill Brothers coffee and only drank tea back then. I have no idea how coffee served in homes and cafes tasted.

On the other hand, I grew up hearing my parents, as well as aunts and uncles, rave about the egg coffee my maternal grandmother made for large family gatherings. Mom’s family was from southern Minnesota, and while Grandma wasn’t Scandinavian, she learned how to make it from neighbors who were. Since the population of northwestern South Dakota was heavily Scandinavian, I assumed the Camp Crook Centennial cookbook would have a recipe for egg coffee. It did not.

The only people who can help with this conundrum are the good citizens Harding County. If you ever lived or now live in Camp Crook, Buffalo, or on a ranch in Harding County, I’d love to hear from you. First, where could Jane have found a good cup of coffee? Second, did you or your parents or grandparents make egg coffee? Third, if they did what was their recipe?

Thanks in advance for your comments. Unlike me, Jane prefers coffee over tea. She’s going to be very cranky until she gets her hands on a good cup of brew, and her bad mood will make writing about her a challenge!

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.