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A West River Mystery Progress Report

A West River Mystery Progress Report

A West River Mystery progress report is in order, so that’s what you’re getting today. Check out these small things about See Jane Dig! (Book 5) and See Jane Ride! (Book 6) that are making my heart go pitter pat.

  • My editor reported that she’s read most of the See Jane Dig! manuscript. She said it’s not terrible. Whew!
  • See Jane Dig! should be released in October of 2024.
  • The See Jane Ride! plotting workshop with my editor has been moved up to January 29. I had to cancel a vacation and several speaking engagements while waiting for my hip/leg/back issues to resolve. As a result I’m ahead of schedule on research and brainstorming and want to turn recovery time into writing time as well.
  • I started my research by reading Rally Rewind: 75 Years of Sturgis and paying special attention to accounts of details about the 1978 rally. That’s the year when See Jane Ride! takes place, and I want it to be as authentic as possible.
  • Next up was an interview with my cousin who started attending the rally in 1977, an event he and his wife still participate in. He contributed several colorful memories that I can’t wait for Jane to experience too.
  • Monthly calendars for June, July, and August of 1978 have been printed. The rally dates for that year, along with those for the Tipperary County Fair and Jane’s teacher inservice are on the calendar and ready to be consulted during the plotting workshop.
  • Last but not least, you all came through with biker name suggestions. Here’s the complete list: Gunner, Rooster, Sweetie Pie, Tiny, Mouse, Crankshaft, Knucklehead, Loser, Skid, Smoke, Lifter, Flywheel, Flathead, Wanderer, Spoke, Burnout, and last but not least, Stryker the Biker and his sidecar sidekick, Hitch the Hiker.

Which one (or two) do you like best? Leave your favorites in the comment box. That’ll make my heart go pitter pat too.

Do You Want to Help Name a Few Characters?

Do You Want to Help Name a Few Characters?

Do you want to help name a few characters who will appear in an upcoming West River Mystery? To be clear, I’m not talking about See Jane Dig!, the next book in the series which will be released in October of 2024. The characters in Dig! already have names and the first draft of the manuscript is with the editor. What I am talking about is the fifth in the series, See Jane Ride!

I know, it’s confusing. Thank goodness I like working ahead. Here’s the scoop on progress so far:

  • Brainstorming for Book 5, See Jane Ride!, is underway.
  • When brainstorming, ideas matter more than spelling. Be gentle regarding the brainstorming clip above.
  • See Jane Ride! takes place in July of 1978.
  • The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will be woven into the plot. So will a few bikers.
  • Sturgis rallies from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties were in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands the event now boasts. Tens of thousands are still a lot of people in a town of under 10,000. Believe it or not, rallies were wilder and crazier back then than they are now.
  • Some of those tens of thousands meandered into Harding County when we lived there. A few will wander through Tipperary County in See Jane Ride! also.

You’re invited to suggest names for the bikers who show up in the story. They’ll be big, beefy people (perhaps two men, though a man and a woman would be more interesting.) They’ll wear leathers and bandanas. That’s as far as my imagination will go until the two bikers are named. It’s hard for me to fully envision them until then.

They need names soon so I can write their character studies before meeting with my editor on February 14 to workshop the plot. (In honor of Valentine’s Day, a cherry pie will be in the oven. Dessert is good motivation for any task and the best way to celebrate a holiday.)

So I ask you again, do you want to help name a few characters for Book 5 in the series? If so, you can leave them in the comment section or click the contact button at the top of the page and send your ideas via email by February 1. I can’t wait to read your suggestions!

Bud and Rachel Have to Be in Your Book

Bud and Rachel Have to Be in Your Book

“Bud and Rachel have to be in your book,” my Harding County friend said as we sat down to coffee several years ago.

“But they sold their company to the West River Telephone Co-op the year before we moved to town,” I said.

“That’s a minor detail,” she said. “Besides, you’re writing fiction, right?”

“Okay,” I agreed, “tell me how their phone system worked.”

She didn’t need to describe Bud and Rachel because they and their mule lived in Camp Crook when we did. We saw them from time to time, the most notable being the night before we moved to Iowa in 1985 to be closer to hospitals where our son could be treated for his rare medical condition.

Hiram answered the door and invited Rachel inside.

“Me and Bud wanted to tell you goodbye and to give you this.” She handed us a back issue of the county paper, Nation’s Center News. “There’s an article about me and Bud in there. So you don’t forget us.”

“Thank you,” I said, noticing that she had written “Please look on page 3” above the masthead in spidery letters.

Next she gave Hiram an envelope. “It’s a little traveling money. For emergencies.” She smiled at our son, who’d had lots of medical emergencies since his birth three years ago.

Rachel and Bud were no strangers to childhood medical emergencies. Rachel was born with a cleft lip and palette in 1910 and was spoon fed Carnation canned milk during her early months. Eventually the people in the small Montana community where her family lived raised money so her mother could take her by train to Mayo Clinic for surgery. Bud lost his vision in a 1928 dynamite explosion when he was eleven.

Rachel’s surgery was successful but not elegant. Her speech was difficult to decipher, especially on the phone, but she never stopped talking or connecting calls. Bud’s decades-old scars were visible, but he climbed telephone poles and installed phones confidently.

I can’t imagine the West River Mysteries without Gus and Betty Yarborough, for whom Rachel and Bud were the prototypes. Betty is a vital communication (and gossip) hub in a time before cell phones. Gus and Betty exemplify the essential roles people with disabilities can play when given the opportunity to use their abilities.

As for the $35 Rachel and Bud gave us, it was the exact amount needed to pay for a new prescription medication our son needed on the trip to Iowa.

As for the newspaper article, it lives in a file in my office along with my most prized South Dakota memorabilia from our years there.

As for Rachel and Bud, you are remembered.

Introducing the See Jane Advisory Board

Introducing the See Jane Advisory Board

Introducing the See Jane Run Advisory Board gives me great pleasure. The board’s formation came about when the 7 and 4-year-old grandchildren were back seat passengers in our car a few days after Christmas, 2022. Hiram was driving so I directed all my attention to the following conversation. It began when the 7-year-old became curious about the box on the seat between him and his sister. It contained copies of See Jane Run! and See Jane Sing!. The 7-year-old opened the box and used his burgeoning reading skills to read the titles, emphasis on burgeoning as you’ll see below.

“Is Seejane the girl on the front of these books?” he asked.

“Yes, but since there’s a space between ‘See’ and ‘Jane’ it’s pronounced ‘See Jane.'” I explained.

“Oh, I see. Jane is the girl. Why are there different covers?”

“Because they’re two different stories. The first is See Jane Run! and the second is See Jane Sing!”

“What kind of books are they?”

“They’re mysteries. Jane catches bad guys.” I added a bunch more, but all of you have heard the spiel, so there’s no need to subject you to it again.

The 4-year-old piped up. “Are you going to write more of these books?”

I told them about the upcoming titles, See Jane Dance! and See Jane Dig! With that the floodgates of their imaginations burst wide open.

“Grammy, you should write See Jane Christmas!” said the 7-year-old.

“That’s a great idea, and there’s actually a Christmas program in See Jane Sing!

Back to the 4-year-old. “How about See Jane Halloween! instead?”

“I have a better idea,” said the 7-year-old. “See Jane Underground! where they go to London and catch bad guys in the underground subway.”

“Or See Jane Invisible Hole! where they dig a hole and it’s invisible and Jane jumps in and the bad guys don’t see it and they fall in…”

The 4-year-old went on and on, but I missed the gist of her plot line because my mind was on how anyone would see Jane do anything in an invisible hole.

“Grammy,” interrupted the 7-year-old. “You could make Jane statues to sell. And tee-shirts.”

“And earrings,” added the 4-year-old. “And you could give Jane a sword and a shield and a gun to shoot bad guys,”

“Jane doesn’t like guns. She doesn’t own one.”

The 4-year-old gasped and after a dramatic pause proclaimed. “You could write See Jane Freeze! and Elsa from Frozen could freeze the bad guys.”

“How would you two like to be members of the See Jane Advisory Board? I’ll serve treats at meetings.”

“Yes,” they shouted as my husband pulled into the garage.

That, dear reader, is the humble beginning of the See Jane Advisory Board. Leave a comment if you’d like to join the team. I’m not sure how much we’ll get done at our meetings. However, I can assure you that our gatherings will be entertaining and there will be treats!


See Jane Run! Is Gaining Steam

See Jane Run! Is Gaining Steam

Jane is gaining steamSee Jane Run! is gaining steam, and today’s post provides an update of what’s heating things up, what’s going on behind the scenes, and fun stuff to come.

Amazon reviews and ratings. Look at those numbers––25 Amazon reviews! That means Jane is halfway to 50, the magic number that will make Amazon algorithms sit up, take notice, and promote the book to a wider audience. See Jane Run! also has 52 ratings. While ratings don’t influence the algorithms like reviews do, they show that the book’s being read. That’s good news!

If everyone who rated See Jane Run! could be persuaded to write and post a review, it would reach the magic number in no time. And if there were reviews from everyone who’s read the book, imagine what that would do. I’ll tell you one thing that would happen. I’d record myself doing a happy dance and post it on social media. You heard it here first.

See Jane Run! audiobook is in production. How cool is that? I met with the voice artist a few weeks ago to discuss pronunciations, dialects, and such. She happens to be my niece who has speech communication and drama training. She teaches drama and directs plays in a large high school in the Des Moines Metro. Not only does she have the same midwestern speech patterns as Jane, she also has the teacher voice. I can’t wait to hear what she does with the narration.

The Harding County Fair. In a previous post, I wrote about our plans to attend the Harding County Fair this summer. (See Jane Run!’s Tipperary County is modeled after Harding County.) Those plans are complete, and we are looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and showing off See Jane Run!. We’ll take oodles of pictures to show off the amazing beauty of the place where we once lived. I’ll be  recording audio of people in the area to share with the voice artist and doing research for future books. It’s gonna be so much fun!

See Jane Run! is gaining steam and so is the entire West River Mystery Series. Stay tuned for updates about what’s happening with future books in the series.

Welcome to the Harding County Fair!

Welcome to the Harding County Fair!

This float appeared in the Harding County Fair Parade in the early 1980s. The little guy in the white cowboy hat was one of my students. I don’t recognize the boy on the barrel horse.

Welcome to the Harding County Fair!

That’s what we’ll be saying come August 19-21, 2022 when Hiram and I go to the fair for the first time in almost 40 years. We’ve wanted to do it for years. Make that decades. But the timing never worked out. This summer is a different story now that Hiram is retired.

A few weeks ago, I sent a Facebook message to Darwin Latham. We got to know one another when we were cast members in the Harding County Players production of Bye Bye Birdie, and we are now Facebook friends. Darwin’s wife Kay is on the Harding County Fair Board, a fact I gleaned from the county’s newspaper, The Nation’s Center News, to which I subscribe. I sent Darwin a message asking him to please ask Kay about the possibility of promoting The West River Mystery Series during the fair.*

Keep in mind that Darwin and I haven’t seen each other since the early 1980s, and we didn’t know one another all that well. Even so, he passed the message onto his wife. She presented the request at the next Fair Board meeting, at which it was immediately approved. Since then Kay, whom I’ve never met in person, has sent a schedule and a list of best places for a book table for maximum visibility throughout the fair.

This kind of hospitality and cooperation was typical of Harding County when we lived there decades ago. It warms my heart that it remains so today. It is also why we are eager to join in the fun next August and greet fairgoers by saying, “Welcome to the Harding County Fair!”

The Harding County Fair Building as it looked during a visit in September of 2013.

*Much of the action in See Jane Run!, the first book in the West River Mystery Series, unfolds during the Tipperary County Fair. The county and the fair building bear a striking resemblance to Harding County and its fairs during the late 1970s and early 1980s.