Spock & Kirk Would be so Proud

I love a challenge and the new frontier looks pretty exciting for Ozarks Writers League! Thanks for summing up the issues that are resulting in this transition, Ruth!

Truths by Ruth

spock and kirk

Change can be scary.

The older I get, the more this becomes true. I’m comfortable doing it the old way. I’m a firm believer in, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But there are times when change must occur. The recent happenings with the Ozark Writers League in Branson, Missouri is a prime example of this. In case you haven’t heard, after 30 years of meeting every quarter at the College of the Ozarks, OWL (Ozark Writers League) got kicked off campus. Two weeks before our meeting for February.

The campus at the College of the Ozarks is beautiful. A large pond complete with fountains and swans meet visitors as they come through the gate. A peaceful atmosphere settles over you as you drive the quiet streets. College of the Ozarks is a private-funded, Christian-base school.

Just what does Christian-based mean? I suppose everyone who attends must believe in…

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Removing Our Masks

Blog-a-thon day 4 and Jan Morrill stimulates the writing brain on the issue of masks. We all have them. What mask do you wear?

Jan Morrill Writes

For years, I tried to decide on what my “brand” should be. Finally, as I re-designed my website a few months ago, it came to me:

Author of stories that unmask…

In thinking about past blog posts and many of the stories I’ve written, I realized that my goal in writing is to “unmask” my characters–bring them to a realization of who they really are. Sometimes I give them courage to remove their masks, and sometimes I show the consequences of leaving them on.

It’s the story of me.

nepoOne of my favorite books is The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo. A book of daily meditations, I read it almost every night before I go to sleep. Today’s meditation talks about our “inner doors.” I believe it’s the same thing as what I call our masks:

There exists for each life on Earth a set of inner doors that no…

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Proof I May Be a Robot (or Meet KBNelson 2.0)

Day 3 of the Blog-a-thon from Oghma writers. Here’s a great writer Karen Nelson. I liked it so much I just signed up to follow her blog! Enjoy the read.

Karen B. Nelson

I love my blog. I love talking to interesting people and sharing helpful articles. I dig the occasional blog hop or writer’s group challenge. But the truth is, I have a whole professional identity that I’ve worked hard on, gone to school for, and would just really like you to know about.

I talk about books because I’m a writer. I talk about education because I’m a teacher. But I’m not just talk – I’m here to help anyone who needs assistance with editing their manuscript, meeting a publisher, starting a class, or looking for a little encouragement. If you’d like to comment here, that would be great – but please take a moment first to check out my website, KarenBNelson.com to see what I do when I’m not hanging out with you wonderful people.

It still seems weird to think of myself as “new and improved”, but that may…

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Oghmaniacal Blogathon: Twenty Sentences

Day 2 of the Blogathon! This one’s from Jan Morill.

Jan Morrill Writes

This post is part of a collaborative blogathon by authors of Oghma Creative Media during the month of February. Knowing many of these authors and their writing, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that will make you laugh and learn. We’d love for you to visit, and if you so desire, comment, like or share!  


Steve and I did a fun and interesting writing exercise together some time ago. I meant to write a post about it then, but as often happens, life got in the way. I forgot.

But lucky for me, while searching my computer for another file, I came across these sentences and now I have a post idea for this sunny, but frigid Monday morning!

Our little writing project began after listening to a few of the twelve hours (yes, twelve hours) of The Great Courses audio program on “Building Great Sentences” :


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Real Life to Fiction

This is a synopsis of how I came up with idea for my novel A Lovely County and the real life news stories that generated the idea for the book. I’ve included this as author’s note at the end of the novel.

A Lovely County Front

Cover design by Casey Cowan, Oghma Creative Media

The idea for A Lovely County started churning in my brain in the early 1990s when I first began writing newspaper articles about Arkansas 309, a state program that places inmates in local jails to be used as labor. Those articles detailed problems with the program in a Northwest Arkansas county jail, but there was no serial murderer involved in the real-life controversy, and no accusations of any money being exchanged between county officials and the inmates participating in the program.

The story was about an Act 309 inmate, D. Holt, who worked in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office rather than in the jail as kitchen or laundry help like most other state inmates. Holt was allowed access to the computer system and after his release in 1994 was hired for a three-month period as a computer programmer for the sheriff’s office. Once other county officials realized the sheriff had hired this former inmate to handle what they considered a sensitive information system, Holt was let go. The sheriff and some of his staff members allegedly helped Holt obtain a position in a local medical office. Several months later, he was accused of raping an eight-year-old boy, the son of a co-worker he had befriended. The sheriff was quoted stating that Holt “snowed” him, but called him a one-time model prisoner at the jail.

When Holt was arrested, it was discovered that he had stolen numerous items from the jail’s evidence room and had printouts in his home of official police documents detailing child molestation and rape cases from throughout Arkansas.

The local prosecutor eventually dropped the rape charge, claiming the witness was not credible and there was no physical evidence of the alleged rape. At his arraignment, Holt admitted stealing from the county during his confinement as a 309 inmate, stating that he wanted items to sell after his release. He pleaded guilty to theft by receiving and was sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary.

In a diary that became part of the prosecutor’s file, Holt provided details of trips he made away from the jail during his incarceration. He alleged that he programmed the computer of a sheriff’s captain at the captain’s home, was taken out for Thanksgiving dinner by a deputy, and to another department employee’s home to help build a fence over a weekend period, all while a 309 inmate at the county jail.

In a twelve-page letter to the mother of the eight-year-old boy he allegedly raped, Holt said he knew he was a pedophile and had made a point over the years to study the issue and read about crimes by other pedophiles. He claimed to be an expert on the issue of how to entice children into his confidence, and suggested that she join with him to form an organization to help victims using his expertise on pedophilia.

“I knew I wasn’t violent because I never could hurt anyone physically. I was just the opposite, I ‘loved’ too much and too openly,” he wrote in the letter to his victim’s mother.

Holt’s charges for sex crimes with children dated back to 1951, and included sodomy, indecent molestation, soliciting a child for sex, rape, and carnal abuse in several states from California to Arkansas.

Among the Arkansas 309 inmates housed in that same jail in the 1990s was a John Huffman, convicted of first-degree murder in 1982 and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. During his stay in Washington County, he made leather goods for sheriff’s deputies, including holsters. Deputies complained that the hip holsters didn’t provide any type of safety features and were flimsy. However, upon accepting employment with the department, deputies were reportedly told to see Huffman to purchase their belts and hip holsters. The homemade leather goods became a big issue in November 1995 when an inmate who’d taken a gun from the deputy’s hip holster used it to kill the deputy and a private citizen. The deputy had transported the inmate to a local clinic for medical treatment when the inmate overpowered him, took his .357 revolver and shot the deputy in the chest. The inmate then shot a man in the clinic’s parking lot, stole his truck, and later used the gun to kill himself after wrecking the truck in a police chase.

I wrote in 1996 in a Northwest Arkansas daily newspaper, that Washington County was then housing twenty-six of the Act 309 inmates and several of them were the worst kind of hardened criminals. Two were serving time for first-degree carnal abuse, one for rape, and three for murder. The program at one time allowed more hardened criminals to participate, but now excludes those convicted of sex crimes, first degree or capital murder, and those with a history of escape attempts. Inmates eligible for the program also have to be within thirty months of their release date, which wasn’t always the case.

I’ve taken some liberties in A Lovely County with the way the Arkansas 309 program is administered in present day. Act 936 of 1997 brought about some needed changes. No longer can Arkansas sheriffs request specific inmates to be assigned to specific jail facilities, and inmates have to be supervised at all times. The changes require inmates to have the job skills to meet the needs of the facility requesting participation in the program. The changes also require that victims and prosecuting attorneys be given ample notice of the pending transfer of an inmate from the Department of Corrections facilities to a local jail.

The Arkansas Act 309 program has been good for the most part for the Arkansas Department of Corrections and many of the inmates and counties that participate. However, problems still plague the program occasionally. Most of the controversies have centered on the misuse of inmates for personal gain by local officials. The program has been suspended in a number of county and city jails for that very reason. It’s still being used in Washington County, but the present day sheriff and his staff seem to understand its restrictions and its benefits.

One of the most flagrant abuses to the system was discovered in 2006 in the city of Lonoke. The police chief there and his wife were arrested on a number of charges regarding the use of 309 inmates for not only work around their home, but also what was described as their own sexual gratification. The chief’s wife allegedly provided some of the inmates with drugs and alcohol, and at least one with a cell phone. The mayor of Lonoke was also implicated for using 309 inmates for numerous repairs, yard work, and even hanging Christmas lights at his home.

Although the idea for this book was based on a true abuse of the Arkansas 309 program, all characters and events described in A Lovely County are fictitious.

Check out my author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/loriericson

How to Be Creative in 5 Steps with John Cleese

Creativity is hard to grasp sometimes and other times it flows like hot lava. This is a good post on the issue of trying to keep it flowing. The blog is by Jamie Lee Wallace, an inspiring blogger on writing and marketing.

Live to Write - Write to Live

creativity fun By charity elise on etsy

What is the secret to being creative?

Is it something you can learn? Is it something you are born with? Is it something you can practice? Is it something you can do on demand?

These are questions that plague artists of all kinds. We worry that we’ll never be creative, or – if we’ve had a creative breakthrough – that we’ll never be creative again.

I worry. You worry. Famous writers and artists worry. We all worry.

BUT … we don’t have to.

I spent part of this morning watching a video of John Cleese presenting on the topic of creativity. (Hat tip to @anna_elliott for her post on Writer Unboxed featuring a link to the video.) Cleese’s presentation is nearly forty minutes long, but SO worth the time. I really (really) would love for each of you to watch it because…

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Winter Wonder

A silent shroud of snow falls over everything in a white fluffy layer like a freshly washed linen sheet that billows high above the bed and slowly descends to the mattress in a flat plane stretching from corner to corner to be tucked neatly beneath each edge.

photo-21The glittering mantle offers a kind of innocence in its wake, a renewal as most of life comes to a standstill, muffling the bustle and rush of the holiday season just as it had switched gears from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s as if God is saying, stop, breathe in for just a moment, think of what this holiday season truly means.

Most hoard up in their dens, light their fires, bake cookies and watch from their windows as the piles deepen. Children soon frolic in it, shriek in joy as they glide down hills until their fingers and toes are numb, and mother calls offering hot chocolate and dry socks.

Others are forced out into the tumult. They forge a trail through the drifts and pray for footing on the ice below. Holding tight to the armrest, passengers watch as the snow flicks off the tires, and wonder how deep the ditch might be.

If no more falls to mask the trails, the snow eventually loses its innocent luster. Footprints from man and beast scar the virginal blanket. The snowplow and sand dispensers darken the passages.

Ultimately, the temperatures will rise, the sun will peek through the clouds, and the white shawls hugging the trees will drip away, as the layer below fades and seeps into the earth. The sleds and snow shovels will be stowed in the garage, and the rush to Christmas will gain momentum once again.

Another snow may come and go, and before we know it, the crocuses and tulips will be pushing through the newly green lawns to start the process once again.

A Spoiled Worklife

The boss hollers at me, but I ignore him. He thinks that if he provides a few benefits, which I more than deserve, I should trot my ass right on over when he yells.

He calls again. I turn my head and glance over my shoulder. He’s not even looking my way but appears to be scanning the sky, checking out the clouds. I’ll stay right here where I please, enjoying the breeze and watching a squirrel run up and down the big tree just beyond the fence.

I’ve about had it with his demands. I should just walk out and see what other opportunities there are for a guy like me. I know how to contribute. I’m good at security patrol in a place like this. I’m big and can push my weight around if I want something.

The boss mistakenly thinks he’s got me under his thumb. What a joke. He doesn’t even seem to know how much I’ve helped myself to around here. If it’s something I want and it’s within reach, I take it. Screw the rules. They aren’t for me and never have been.

I do have to give my boss some credit. He comes to my defense with this new cook he’s hired. She can sure put some good grub on the table. But damn, she’s bossy, doesn’t like me in the kitchen, and won’t let me have any of the leftovers I used to get. On top of that, she bitches all the time about the messes I make.

I have my rights. I know where I rank in this organization. Granted, my standing was much more stable before she came on board, but I still have seniority.

Even the old man that works with me, knows deep down that I was here first. He doesn’t always act like it and treats me like he’s my supervisor just because he’s older. I try to remind him now and then that I was here long before him.

The boss thought I needed some help, so he brought him in. That hasn’t worked out so well though. He’s not much of an assistant, and they all go easy on him because of his age. Just recently they gave him an official uniform. Of course, he was injured on the job and the uniform keeps him from hurting himself. But still, I didn’t get one.

Yeah, things might be a little better down the road a ways. I’ll keep stewing on that, but I doubt I make a move any time soon. I kind of like the boss, even if he doesn’t always give me the credit I deserve. It’s still nice working for such a pushover. I doubt I could ever get away with as much as I do here. He sometimes talks big and hollers at me, yet rarely does much of anything when I don’t comply.

BigBaileyThere’s a delicious aroma coming from the kitchen, and the boss is hollering at me again. I guess I better quit barking at the darn squirrel and go inside to see if that bitchy cook might have a pork chop I can steal.

Working Through the Novel

As I read over my novel and get it as polished and perfect as possible, my characters are getting stronger and my resolve to finally be done with this thing is ringing in my ears. To push myself a little more and give you a taste of what I’m up to, I thought I’d share just a very small snippet here.

Girl With Pencil WavingSo, from Chapter 1:

“I got a good enough look to know he was dead for sure. It looked like a little boy from what I seen.” She spoke next in a muffled rush, staring at the lake below. “I saw legs and tennis shoes. Those sneakers was the saddest thing, sticking up there in the brush. They were red with no shoestrings.”

“Could you see anything else?” Danni blew at a strand of hair tickling her cheek as she took notes.

“He was wearing jeans, but I didn’t see much more’n that. The smell. That’s something I probably ain’t gonna ever forget. It was horrible, just horrible.” Elizabeth fanned herself a little faster. “And the quiet. Like the animals, birds, bugs and all, had gone off and left him alone there in the woods. That was the quietest I ever heard it out here this time of year.”