My award-winning and chillingly fun ghost romance for all ages GHOSTLY ACTS is now available on Amazon.com. This is my favorite YA novel that I’ve written–so far. There might be a bit of Mmmmmmmm “experience” in the book that I put the crazy O’Neill family through. My favorite character may be the rotten little brother Eugene, though the cowboy ghost boyfriend is to die for. Don’t think the heroine, Ele O’Neill, the Seattle teen queen I move to ghost town hell Montana, is anyone I know but is a composite character. However, the situation may be kinda reflective of moving a kid I do know in the middle of his junior year to a new high school. Eeeeeek. I shall ever endeavor to atone for that one. Do have a read of GHOSTLY ACTS because I laughed and loved that family all the way through the story. Hope you do too!
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Now that I was off the Naughty List, however temporarily, there was lots of holiday stuff to do and Mother was in charge.
She was an absolute magician at providing a great Christmas for us year after year on a limited budget. Because she was busy raising three kids, working a part time job and running a household, she had to start her Christmas planning months before December. If what she wanted and could afford wasn’t available in the few local stores, and it usually wasn’t, she would have to travel 100 miles north to Las Vegas or south 165 miles to Phoenix. Consequently, catalogs were her shopping go-to.
The Sears Christmas Catalog, known affectionately as the Wishbook, was our hotline to Santa Claus’ workshop.
It never occurred to me to write a letter to the jolly old elf, because I didn’t know what I wanted for Christmas until I opened that glorious book with glossy pictures of every toy and joy imaginable. Mother loved the hours we kids spent dreaming through that catalog. She encouraged us to choose and compare. Turn down the page corners, scribble crayon circles around favorite toys. But that was just to keep us busy, I realized rather late, like when I was in my twenties.
Mother had already decided what we were each going to get for Christmas. It was with the arrival of the Sears Catalog that she craftily began her campaign to convince us we’d really wanted what Santa brought. And it went something like this:
“Oh, look, Melinda! There’s that beautiful, big nurse doll you like,” Mother exclaimed, pointing to a row of boxed dolls lined up on top of the long produce case at Table Supply Market. “She even has a white uniform and a cap just like Granny’s.”
I dearly loved my maternal grandmother. She was a grand, magical and mysterious woman who delivered babies at midnight and slept in the day. She wore a white dress, a strange hat and a short blue cape that gave her the power to help people, save them, even. I didn’t see my grandmother nearly often enough. And that two-foot tall doll with blue eyes and short honey blond hair didn’t look a thing like her.
But the doll stood inside a blue steamer trunk with Cunard Line stickers on the sides that promised exotic adventure.
Nurse doll, Kathy Kay showed up under the tree one Christmas morning, though I didn’t remember asking for her or any other doll. But Santa Claus always knows what often-good little girls want, Mother explained.
He sure did! My eyes locked on that exciting blue steamer truck full of beautiful clothes on little pink hangers—velvet bodice on a plaid taffeta long formal gown, a dotted Swiss nightie with robe, a red, white and blue checked coat with bonnet that went with a navy blue pleated shirt and white top, a yellow corduroy three piece travel suit, and a pink and white dress with matching tam.
Mother said that my Auntie Evelyn had sewn all the pretty clothes for Nurse Kathy because Santa didn’t have time. I briefly pondered the logistics of that arrangement, but soon got lost in packing and unpacking that magnificent steamer trunk in imaginary glamorous ports of call, while the barefoot doll shivered in her white underpants in the closet
So began my lifelong love affair with luggage.
Christmas tree hunting in the Arizona high desert was hungry work. The six Hershey bars in Dad’s chuck box tormented me with the naughty question: Who gets chocolate bar number six in a family of five?
There would be no answer to that until we stopped for lunch, which wouldn’t happen until Dad found the right spot. He was very choosy about picnic location—there had to be water. Since he didn’t carry any water on our outings that meant we’d be lunching at some stock tank with a screeching windmill again. Babbling brooks or golden ponds ideal for picnicking were not to be found in the Mohave Desert.
I once asked Dad why we didn’t have a canvas water bag hanging from our car like the tourists flowing through Kingman on Route 66.
“Don’t need it,” he said and gave me a big wink. “Besides, big boys don’t carry water.”
Years later when I asked the question again, Dad remembered when he was a little boy growing up on the Rucker ranch on the Colorado River, that his father, big brother, and men used to ride out for the work day without canteens. Hence, a little cowboy, longing to be a big one, believed that big boys don’t carry water. Because a Rucker can find it in the desert or learn to do without. About noon, Sputnik rolled into a small clearing with a big round, three foot high, metal stock tank. A tall windmill’s blades squawked leisurely around in the light breeze, pumping a trickle of water through a pipe into the top of the open tank.
Eureka! Dad’s perfect picnic spot. He let down Sputnik’s tailgate and Mother unpacked the lunch on it while we kids milled around the clearing.
“Rhonda, don’t climb on the tank,” Mother called and handed Dad a tuna sandwich. She opened the Fig Newtons and poured him a paper cup of iced tea.
“Don’t touch that!” Mother yelled at my little brother. He dropped the cow pie.
Dad set his food on the tailgate. He picked up my brother and held him over the water tank. “Wash,” he ordered. Gary splashed his little hands in the cold water.
My sister came running, “I want to wash my hands, too.” She got her turn as I stalked the Hershey bars in the open chuck box.
Everything in that box was Dad’s property, which we did not touch unless invited. Had he forgotten them? Would he share? I chewed it over as I munched my tuna sandwich.
Even in winter, when the food came out yellow jacket wasps zoomed around us, making touch and go landings on our sandwiches. Everyone knows yellow jackets prefer Chicken of the Sea, but they will just as happily take a bite out of soft, young kidskin. And they scared us kids badly.
We ran around the tank, flapping arms, screaming and dodging wasps, while Dad and Mother lunched together, chatting and laughing, on Sputnik’s front seat. Finally, Dad reached into the back and pulled out the machete. “Kids, it’s time to get your tree.” He handed me the long, sharp knife and nodded toward the biggest hill. “Head up there and pick out a tree. If you need help chopping it down, yell.”
Wooooohoooo! I got to pick out our Christmas tree and chop it down, too! I loped up the hill with the little kids running to catch up with me.
“Let’s get this one. It’s just my size,” Rhonda said, putting one hand on top of the short bush and the other on her own head.
“That’s not a Christmas tree. It’s a baby juniper,” I chided. “It’s too little, anyway. We need a really big tree.”
Higher and higher we climbed into the piñon pines and IT there stood all by itself—tall, fat, and kind of pointy at the top. The perfect Christmas tree.
For such a big tree, not much of the trunk showed beneath the low branches. I circled it, looking for the right place to start chopping. I couldn’t wait to yell, “TIMBER!”
“Stand back!” I ordered the little kids and grabbed the black electric tape-wrapped handle with both hands. I swung hard.
Bong! The blade bounced off the bark, and my stinging hands almost dropped it. The machete had barely made a mark on the trunk. I backed up and reconsidered my attack.
“Let me do it,” my sister demanded. “I know how.”
“No! I’m supposed to do it.” I swung again. And again. And again. All the machete did was make the tree mad. It shook off short needles and pinecones. And threw sticky pitch at me. I was covered with it.
“Daaaad,” I yelled down the hill.
He was leaning back, feet up on Sputnik’s dash, his tan stockman’s Stetson pulled down over his eyes. Dad sat up and jumped out. He jogged up the hill and inspected my tree. “What’s the problem?”
“I don’t think I know how to cut a tree,” I confessed and handed him the machete. Even though he hadn’t really told me how I felt like I should have been able to cut that tree down. And I was pretty sure he did, too.
He made several quick chops. The tree bent over. One more chop and it separated from the stump. Dad grabbed the tree by the thickest branch and dragged it off the hill. We ran along behind our beautiful tree and tried to help him load it in the back of Sputnik. The job got done with some crushing and cracking, especially when my sister and I sat on it for the ride back to the pickup.
When we got home, Mother herded her three pitch-covered, grimy children into the bathroom to clean up. Dad fit the tree to the stand he’d made from the steel front wheel of an old tractor. It wasn’t painted or finished, just wiped of grease and dirt, and, most important, functional, which bothered me even then. Dad and I would have discussions over the years about my “concern for appearance”, he called it. Then he would repeat his personal mantra, “Shine she may run she must.”
Of course, my perfect tree was anything but. In and out of the house it went; Dad whacking off trunk and limbs until it fit not only through the front door but in the small living room. The huge hole was turned to the back, which unfortunately was to the picture window.
Once cleaned up and in our jammies, we kids decorated the tree and each other with tinsel. Yes, we threw it. Mother was very allowing of our Christmas decorating. We made paper chains and hung them around the room and on the tree along with anything else we thought pretty enough.
Every night we’d turn on the tree lights, turn off the lamps and put a record on the hi-fi stereo. Mother and Dad loved music, big band, pop and popular singers. We sat around the glittering tree, listening to Johnny Mathis sing Chances Are, and sorted our wrapped gifts into appropriate piles. We nearly wore them out by Christmas Eve, the most magical day of the year when all wishes can come true, even in Kingman, Arizona.
On Veterans Day I always think of my dad, an Arizona cowboy the US Navy sent to the South Pacific. The nineteen-year-old went from rounding up cattle in the wide open spaces of the northwestern Arizona desert to riding herd on two big diesel engines in the claustrophobic confines of a submarine. Dad always preferred horsepower to horses, so when he was discharged from the Navy at the end of WWII he didn’t go back to the ranch on the banks of the Colorado River. Instead he married his childhood sweetheart and moved to town to make three Baby Boomer children and his fortune in the automotive business.
Dad loved to tell his submarine stories and reminisce with other vets at the monthly American Legion Post meetings. On November 11, Veterans Day, before sunrise, Dad got out of bed, put on his blue and gold Legion garrison cap with Squawjame Post 14 in gold embroidery, and hurried from the house. With me usually begging to go along.
“Please, please, Dad. I wanna watch you blow down the tombstones.”
“Sorry, honey, no girls allowed. Reveille Club members only.” Dad gave me a wink and a smile, jumped in his pickup and drove away into the cold, windy dark.
About an hour later, just at official sunrise, eleven huge booms, one after another, rocked the entire town. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the Legionnaire’s weren’t at the cemetery giving the dead an eleven cannon salute. Dad and the Reveille Club boys were launching mortar rounds from the courthouse steps. No tombstones or honored dead were ever in danger during the Kingman Veterans Day proceedings. That can’t be said of the Reveille Club members who always gathered in the Legion Post bar for after-salute drinks and war stories, while the Legion Auxiliary women prepared their annual pancake breakfast in Post’s kitchen.
When I was eight or nine my parents volunteered me to serve at the Legion breakfast, carrying juice, coffee, cooked to order eggs, bacon and stacks of pancakes to hungry Legionnaires and townspeople crowding into long tables covered with white butcher paper. Usually, the first to weave in direct from the Post bar was an elderly man in a very tight wool navy blue sailor’s uniform. His white t-shirt covered belly squished out from the bottom of his jumper as his old-fashioned dark wool flat hat sporting a navy ribbon around the crown slipped down over one ear. The timeworn sailor had a sweet smile and friendly bloodshot eyes. He grabbed the back of the folding chair, squared up with it and lowered himself. Once he was anchored on the seat, his eyelids drifted shut and the slow listing began — to starboard, back to midship and over to port. I set his plate and coffee down in front of him and lightly touched his shoulder to wake him. His eyelids rose to half-mast and he grinned, reaching for his cup.
“Down the hatch,” he slurred and fell face first into his short stack and scrambled eggs.
The well-oiled veteran in a doughboy uniform sitting next to him reached over with his left hand, pulled the old sailor out of his pancakes and held him back in his chair with one arm. The doughboy continued to shovel eggs into his own mouth while the sailor had a catnap behind his fellow veteran’s protective arm. No one seemed to mind or be offended by the public though usually quite polite drunkenness of the old warriors. Instead, they were treated with respect and affection on their one day to be honored for their service—Veterans Day in northwestern Arizona.
I have six traditionally published novels in the genres of romance, paranormal thriller, and young adult paranormal. My books have won sixteen writing/literary awards. Yet, often when I meet someone new and say I’m a novelist, I get this silly question: “Have you written anything important that I’ve read?” On a tour bus in Hawaii last February, I answered that question with—“Yes, War and Peace!” That felt good. Of course, no one mentioned that I didn’t look like a dead Russian aristocrat, which just goes to show no one on the bus had read the book, or perhaps hadn’t even heard of it. When I got that silly question from my new neighbor last week, I cocked my head and asked my usual, “How would I know that?” She answered with a sly smile, “You know what I mean.” Yes, unfortunately, I do. My name isn’t J.K. Rowling or Nora Roberts or Scott Pratt. So if “important” book translates to “best seller” for you, I haven’t written anything you’ve read.
But hang on, I have two new books coming soon, Contest Smarts: Writing Contest Winning Strategies, a non-fiction how-to, and a fun women’s fable entitled Bitten: Confessions of a Menopausal Vampire. With these two sure best-sellers, maybe I’ll have a new answer for that silly question, “Have you written anything important that I’ve read?” Or I could just keep on with a superior quizzical look and “How would I know that?” comeback because it’s so much darn fun.
Heigh ho! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmelinda
I’m always hatching fabulous ideas, usually about how a group of like-minded individuals can accomplish, create, achieve so much more together than individually. Rocking that theme, I decided that writers I’ve met here in Tucson could extend their promotional reach by cooperatively promoting each others’ work. I believe now is the best time in history for an author with stories to tell and sell directly to the readers. Reaching readers via the internet and social media seems to be the best or debatably the easiest place to connect with readers who’ll buy your book. Or so social media would have us believe.
Promoting a book used to be a matter of bookmarks, book signings and developing a mailing list for communicating with readers. Now there seem to be endless online promotional options singing a siren song of “You Can, and Really Should, Do It All”. If you believe that, the learning curve and time sink can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Our Promotional CoOp has sixteen members with varying social media/internet skills. They’re eager to expand their skills while they figure out how much promoting they can and want to do.
I’ve just put up a MelindaRuckerHaynesBooks page on FaceBook. Sounded easy enough, but people couldn’t access the page. I spent way too much time developing the content and then trying to wring out the Settings to publish. Finally got that accomplished–by myself, which put me behind on production of my Contest Smarts book. And during this busy time, the Contest Smarts website has gone live and I’m working on helpful and inspiring content. Seemed important to get a Twitter account for Contest Smarts and figuring that out has been growth-promoting. And put me further behind on book production. I still haven’t completed my Author’s Page on Amazon.com, but I’m working on it. Promoting is always time away from writing, from book production.
Internet and social media book promoting often may be the way of whoa, as in, “Stop, horsey!” as well as the usual meaning of woe, but it’s what we’ve got right now. I continue to say and pray, “There must be a better way!.” And I’ll keep looking or maybe form a cooperative to find it.
Heigh ho! Mmmmmmmmmmmelinda
The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, PNWA, has sponsored an annual literary contest for over sixty years. There are twelve fiction and nonfiction categories for unpublished work and a separate category for published books. The last few years contest entries have numbered over a 1000. Last summer my experimental Boomer Lit paranormal romance, BITTEN, about a menopausal vampire was a finalist in the romance category.
In the 2016 PNWA Literary Contest I entered a western historical romance novel, REMITTANCE, Book I, a sweeping saga of a Bostonian blue stocking businesswoman running from her past after a Spanish remittance man who flees with her nephew down the dangerous Santa Fe Trail to his noble family’s land grant in New Mexico. I previously entered the first three chapters in Romance Writers of America’s Hearts Through History chapter’s literary contest and the story came second in Best Short Historical. I can’t wait to see how REMITTANCE does at the PNWA Awards banquet on Saturday night, July 30 in Seattle.
Before the Awards banquet on Saturday, I’ll be giving a ninety minute workshop, CONTEST SMARTS: Make Writing Contests Work for You, at 5:00-6:30. I’ve been called a contest guru because I’ve won sixteen writing contest awards. (There are editing and website content awards in the list, too.) I have over twenty years experience entering writing contests, developing contests, and judging entries and have learned much that I hope will inspire and help writers make writing contests work for their particular career goals and maybe win some, too!
CONTEST SMARTS Kindle eBook
I’ve always treasured librarians. My mother-in-law is a retired librarian, who trained her son in the dark art of cataloguing and organizing data. That’s what brought us together. I needed help organizing data for an adult education research project I was directing at UNLV and Bob stepped into my office with exactly the skillset the project (and I) required. Then and now. He’s ever my beloved patron and currently serving as a roady for my book tour of Arizona libraries.
Last Saturday Bob the Roady and I toured to the Tempe Library for their Book Festival. What a wonderful venue for booklovers and authors to meet each other in a beautiful setting. The Arizona State Library hosted me and my OneBookAZ 2016 literary contest winning book, The Haunting of Josh Weston, at a great table downstairs outside the Teen Room. I also served on a Teen Reviewer panel and got updated on their favorite reads, as well as what they saw as the new hotness in YA books. Dystopian fantasy is still of interest, but super heroes are the next big thing for some. I say how about a cool ghost story set on a hidden ranch in northwestern Arizona?
We’re at the Yuma Library on Saturday, April 23, at 2:00. I’ll be giving a workshop on the Power of Place in Your Story, as well as signing books. See you there, I hope!
The Arizona State Library’s OneBookAZ 2016 literary contest named my young adult novel, The Haunting of Josh Weston, the winner! The eBook is live today at OneBookAZ and it looks great on the website! There’s also a free downloadable Curriculum/Study Guide for use in the classroom. The ebook is available on the OneBookAZ site and maybe read for free by Arizona readers. The paperback is available at Amazon.com and coming soon to Kindle.
Please click on the BOOKs link above for more information.
I found my bio on the OneBookAZ page a complete surprise! Race right on up there and have a look. And a laugh. Don’t really know where that version came from. Sounds like me, but it sure isn’t the one I sent them for publication and tweaked and resubmitted. I’m thinking of asking them to take it down and put up the one I sent, because it’s very different in tone and content from the other two ladies’ very professional bios. We three winners are all retired teachers and we are the last winners, as this is the last year of the OneBookAZ literary contest.