Hold On

Hold on I say, don’t ever let go,
of that ember of hope waning in the night.
You can’t let it grow cold and … die
simply because you’ve grown too tired to fight.

Though you may be wounded, broken, defeated,
hold on I say, don’t ever let go.
And when the fear of losing grows
close to taking your freedom—say no.

Hold on I say, don’t ever let go,
though it’s hard to see happiness in sight.
It’s waiting to shine out the lies of the darkness.
The truth … a sputtering ember … a hopeful ray of light.

—Barbara Hartzler

I wrote this poem back in college and stumbled across it recently. Enjoy the throwback from my beatnik days.

Fun Friday: From Rescue Dog to Reading Pal

Touching story of Brittany the 9/11 rescue dog who retires to life as a reading companion for children. I love the idea of taking children who are scared to read aloud and teaching them to read to dogs. They truly are great listeners.  Makes me want to train my own writing-buddy dog for the job.

If you could train your dog to do anything, what would it be?

Interstellar Outta This World!

I can’t believe how much I loved this movie! I’m not one to post movie reviews for fear of spoilers, but man Interstellar was too good not to rave about. Seriously, outta this world mind-blowing. Especially for a science-dodo like me. I kept asking myself one question.

Interstellar MemeTruth be told, the trailer doesn’t do this movie justice. By trying NOT to reveal the key plot twist, the trailer makes it look like a bunch of hype. But trust me, it isn’t! It’s just really hard to explain in 1 minute or less. So I’ll try 5 minutes instead.

Basically, the people of planet Earth have used up all their resources and the plants they have left are dying off. No shocker there, right? Matthew McConaughey’s character here is a former NASA engineer when what the world needs is more farmers. So you see where this is going. Secret government project to explore space and figure out a way for humanity to survive. Sorry if that’s a spoiler alert, but there are tons more surprises coming.

These government people convince Matt to leave his kids on Earth and go up into space to find the solution. Only he can pilot their ship. But what he finds up there is WAY more than he bargained for. SPOILER ALERT: Black holes to new galaxies bring in this theory of Einstein’s on relativity. Anne Hathaway’s character best explains it as time slippage the closer you get to a black hole. (I think, anyway.) And yet it’s the black hole that opens the window to new life, if they can just make it back to Earth before everyone dies out.

Those are just glimpses of the surprising twists and turns throughout this beautifully crafted movie. Thankfully, Intersellar doesn’t make that too-obvious jump into horror movie. It’s thrilling, it’s suspenseful. But no horror like every other space movie. Bet you’re wondering what those twists are now. I will mention there are some random cameos from other awesome actors.

Just watching this movie makes you think for hours, even days afterwards. But the best part, it was also completely inspiring. All those out-of-the-box thoughts led to new ideas about the plot of my own book. Not to mention a renewed energy to write my dystopian piece with similar where’d-that-come-from plot twists, even though my story is completely different.

So Interstellar I salute you! Thank you for inspiring me to think crazy new thoughts.

love Movies that Make you Think? seen Interstellar? I’d Love to know your Thoughts. :)

Fun Friday: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Steps to a Great Book Cover

CoverModel CollageWith more and more authors turning to Indie publishing, there’s so many things an author has to do herself. Cover designing is one of them. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make a great book cover, and how indie author Lora Young tackled the process for her debut novel, Malicious Mischief.

  1. Book a great cover model, or just ask a friend to help out. When author Lora Young asked her friend Kinsey Parker to model for her cover, I bet she never dreamed the pictures would turn out this great.
  2. Rent or borrow some historical costumes. Yes, finally a reason to dress up! Since it’s so hard to find great historical photos, sometimes you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and DIY.
  3. Book a great photographer. Luckily for Lora, her daughter Rebekah Young is a fabulous photographer. I think the railroad track pic is my fav!
  4. Find the perfect location. Need railroad tracks? Go find some. Want a historical building as the backdrop? Find one in your area. Some people are stingy about permission, so always ask if it’s private property. But if it’s a public place and you’re taking the pic, it’s usually fair game.
  5. Hire a fabulous cover designer. Lora found another indie author who is also a great cover designer, Lynette Bonner. Find the right graphic designer for your book genre, or you can try to DIY this, too. Lynnette has a great video tutorial on YouTube you could check out, Indie Cover Design with Photoshop CS6

Those are just a few tips from a (maybe) future book cover designer. You can always use stock photos for book covers, but you lose some originality. That’s why I love Lora’s idea of organizing her own photo shoot with family and friends. Now she’s got original cover models to add flair to the stock photos Lynnette used in her background. Totally brilliant!

Bonus Feature – The Crash at Crush

Here’s a clip about a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong on the MKT Railway, the setting for Lora Young’s Malicious Mischief. Not the best way to dispose of old trains. Though Mr. Crush was the first to try it, unfortunately he wasn’t the last.

Want to Read More about the MKT Railway?

Check out Lora Young’s debut historical romantic suspense/mystery for a story that’s just as dramatic, but not quite so tragic as the Crash at Crush.

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Malicious Mischief
Lora Young

Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most.

Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.

Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.

As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.

Fun Facts Along the Katy Trail

Please welcome back guest blogger, author Lora Young, as she tours the Katy Trail and reports the interesting tidbits that she learned researching for her novel, Malicious Mischief. about-loraThe great state of Missouri is rich in history. From Native American artifacts to the modern-day railroad, signs of the past are everywhere. Since the Katy Trail bisects Missouri, it’s a perfect place from which to see many signs of days gone by. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway (later changed to ‘railroad.’) was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as K-T, hence the nickname “Katy.” If you were to travel from St. Charles to Clinton on the Katy, here are a few things you’d see along the way.

  • Femme Osage Creek was supposedly named by a French settler who encountered a dead Osage woman in the creek.
  • Defiance was given its name after the town prevented Matson from having the only nearby rail stop.
  • It was in the area of Matson that Daniel Boone and sons platted the town of Missouriton. Across the river is Tavern Cave.
  • Auxanvanse BridgeOne of the most impressive bridges along the Katy Trail crosses the Auxvasse River (French for swamps and morasses).
  • Cote Sans Dessien (hill without design) was a small settlement established in 1808. Geographically it is a lost hill (one not eroded by the Missouri River). Members of the Sac and Fox tribes waged a major attack on the settlement in 1815.
  • South of mile marker 122.1, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark described the woodrat, a species new to science.
  • On June 4, 1804, Lewis and Clark camped somewhere in the vicinity of mile marker 151.0.
  • The wreck of steamboat Plowboy occurred near mile marker 163.7.
  • There is a pictograph above Lewis and Clark’s cave. Hidden up the creek drainage at mile marker 174.9 is the once popular Boone Cave. Once open for tours, it’s now owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
  • The trail’s only remaining railroad stone-arched tunnel near Rocheport is 243 feet long.
  • The Rivercene Bed and Breakfast in Boonville was the 1869 home of riverboat Captain Joseph Kinney. (It’s also the model for Delia’s home in Malicious Mischief.)Rivercene
  • Boonville (founded in the early 1800s) was a frontier river port and later a rail station. More than 400 structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Boonville was the site of the first Civil War battle west of the Mississippi on June 17, 1861.
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered curious paintings and carvings on the bluffs of the Missouri River.
  • Diana Bend Conservation Area is named for the steamboat Diana that sank here c. 1836.
  • The Santa Fe Trail began in Franklin, and it was here that Kit Carson learned the saddle-making trade before departing for the Rockies.
  • Sedalia (1857) remains an important railroad town as Amtrak maintains a station here. The Department of Natural Resources restored the Katy Depot which dates from 1896. (The depot is also the setting for Malicious Intent – Katy Railway Mysteries Book 2.)Sedalia_Depot
  • Sedalia is best known for the Missouri State Fair and the one-time home of Scott Joplin, famous composer of ragtime piano music (Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer)
  • Calhoun, founded in 1835, is the oldest town in Henry County. Pottery factories once operated here, hence the nickname “Jugtown.”
  • Clinton is the Henry County seat and home to the largest town square in Missouri.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tune in tomorrow for a Fun Friday behind-the-scenes look at Lora’s cover model photo shoot and setting photos. Many of these facts were taken from the MO Parks website. All photos courtesy Lora Young

Take your own tour of Historical Missouri

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Malicious Mischief Lora Young

Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most. Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads. Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father. As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last. Available On Amazon for Kindle Available On Amazon in Print

What I’m Reading: Malicious Mischief

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Who knew that back in the day “Malicious Mischief” was a serious charge you could be arrested for? Lora Young knew, and she wrote her railway romantic suspense/mystery around this very concept. So here’s my take on Malicious Mischief by Lora Young.

Malicious Mischief is an interesting mix of suspense and mystery, with a bud of romance that grows organically throughout the story. (Don’t be too disappointed like I was at the beginning. Just wait for it, the romantic suspense comes later.)

Delia is not like most heroines, she’s awkward with men and doesn’t wait for them to come to her rescue. She’s perfectly happy to rescue herself, which you’ve got to love about her.

I confess it now—I LOVED the railroad setting. Trains have always fascinated me.

This is story about two worlds colliding, Delia’s dad owns steamer ships and Endy runs the local railroad depot. You also get a feel for the steamer ships that the railway eventually phased out. But the collision of these two worlds is messy, leading from pranks to full on mystery, unfolding with greater and greater suspense.

Somehow the author captures the intrigue of a railroad mystery, couching it in the confines of the everyday lifestyle of the time period. I found the book fascinating, unexpected, and chock-full of twists and realistic characters.

This book is not your typical romantic suspense/mystery. It’s a beautiful hybrid, growing in depth, complexity, and sprinkled with a bit of grit when necessary.

Lora Young

What started out as a secret pastime morphed into a desire to see her creations published. So she studied the writing craft, joined American Chrisitan Fiction Writers (ACFW), went to conferences, entered contests, and sent proposals. And got rejections.The reasons for those rejections were encouraging though. Every one of them said the editor liked the story and liked her writing, but the book market was tight and the publishing house was re-structuring or cutting their fiction line entirely.

So Lora decided to publish independently. Scared but determined, she produced her first indie pubbed book—a devotional entitled. Abiding: 30 Steps Closer. When she’s not writing, Lora enjoys reading, hiking, and ballroom dancing. Most of all she delights in drinking chai tea lattes, and spending time with friends and family.

For more on Lora Young and her books, you can visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Or check out her blog, LoraYoung.com.

Exploring Missouri’s Katy Trail with Author Lora Young

This week I’m honored to host indie author Lora Young as she shares the inspiration behind her debut historical novel, Malicious Mischief.  Her love for Missouri’s Katy Trail led Lora to write a suspensful mystery with a dash of romance centered around the old MKT railway. Lora and her husband Bill love to ride their bikes and have traversed every part of the Katy Trail. Here’s your chance to explore with them.

“Look, another turtle.” Bill slowed his recumbent and moved the turtle off the trail. Sunlight filtered through the canopy as the sound of bicycle tires on chat thrummed in their ears.

“It must be The Day of the Turtle.” Lora laughed at their recurring joke. Every time they rode the Katy Trail in central Missouri, a different species of wildlife came out to welcome them.

“Ready for a break?”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s ride to the next bench.”

They stopped by the bench, Lora reading the marker about the Native American petroglyphs on the bluff behind her. Part of her brain absorbed the information, while another part listened to the “heebie-jeebie” of the tufted titmouse in the tree above, the hum of insect noise, and the rustle of a rabbit as it scurried into the bushes.

Bill seemed fascinated by the fast-moving Missouri River as it rushed past the trail near Rocheport. Two people in a canoe waved as they floated downstream. Wildflowers bloomed purple and yellow between the former rail bed and the river. They reveled in the sights and sounds of summer in Missouri.

The Katy Trail State Park made the list of Best of Rural Missouri’s category for best trail in four out of five regions of rural Missouri. Named after the M-K-T Railway, the Katy Trail is one of 51 state parks in Missouri.

Part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy project, it once bore the weight of many of tons of steel as the trains flew past the bluffs and fields. After the last train finished its run on the Katy in 1986 the work began to join this rail bed to the growing number that were being transformed into hiking and biking trails.

Officially dedicated in 1996, the Katy has seen thousands of visitors of all ages and from all over the country and the world. The flat, wide surface makes it easy for young and old alike to negotiate the trail with few problems.

Like any state park, there are plenty of areas for picnicking, getting some exercise and just enjoying nature. The eastern half of the trail follows state highway 94, making the trailheads especially convenient. Most have running water, places to purchase food and drink and rest areas. All the trailheads have historic information as well as pictures of flora and fauna to watch for along the way.

One of the most common ways to travel the Katy Trail is by bicycle. A few avid cyclists make the 237.6 mile journey, from Clinton to St. Charles, in a single day. Most do not. Others take 6-8 days to ride end-to-end at a more leisurely pace. They either camp along the way or stay in the many wonderful and hospitable bed and breakfasts.

A popular way to accomplish the end-to-end run is to take day-trip-sized bites out of the trail. With the Katy’s flat trail it isn’t difficult to chew through 10-30 miles a day. Several stops on the Not-To-Be-Missed list include:

  • Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast in Rocheport – a schoolhouse turned B&B that retains its charm and grade-school décor. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, the garden area relaxing, and the breakfast is amazing.
  • Iron Horse Hotel and Restaurant in Blackwater – This hotel is not on the Katy Trail, but close enough and fun enough to warrant a place on the list. This is a hotel turned doctor’s office turned hotel. It has a number of comfortable rooms named after rail lines of the past. The restaurant on the lower level of the hotel serves, among other delightful items, the most incredible sweet potato chips.
  • Trailside Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport –Located at the trailhead, they serve burgers and fries as well as other items including an extensive breakfast menu. Right next door bicycles of all kinds are available for rent, from recumbents to tandems.
  • Katfish Katy’s in Huntsdale – Katfish Katy’s is a campground with a camp store that is right on the trail. Be sure to stop here for a cold soda or ice cream.
  • Central Dairy in Jefferson City – Ice cream is always a favorite on a hot summer day, especially after a long ride on the Katy Trail. The prices at the Central Dairy shop can’t be beat; neither can the smooth, rich coolness of their delicious ice cream.
  • Katy Bike Rental in Defiance – Bike repair and accessories as well as rentals are available here. They also have a selection of ice cream and other treats.

The Katy Trail offers a destination that encompasses everything a good vacation needs: outdoor activities, shopping, good food, and relaxation. As an added bonus, it displays Missouri in all her glory.

Read more about the historical MKT Railway in Lora Young’s novel, Malicious Mischief.

Only $3.99 on Amazon

MaliciousMischiefFrontFinal6x9Her most annoying trait is the one she needs the most.

Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.

Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.

As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.

Lora Young

What started out as a secret pastime morphed into a desire to see her creations published. So she studied the writing craft, joined American Chrisitan Fiction Writers (ACFW), went to conferences, entered contests, and sent proposals. And got rejections.The reasons for those rejections were encouraging though. Every one of them said the editor liked the story and liked her writing, but the book market was tight and the publishing house was re-structuring or cutting their fiction line entirely.

So Lora decided to publish independently. Scared but determined, she produced her first indie pubbed book—a devotional entitled. Abiding: 30 Steps Closer. When she’s not writing, Lora enjoys reading, hiking, and ballroom dancing. Most of all she delights in drinking chai tea lattes, and spending time with friends and family.

For more on Lora Young, her books, and her blog visit LoraYoung.com.