Tag Archives: tween fiction

If an Ellipsis Ran for President . . .


Vote for Me!

Vote for Me!

If ever an Ellipsis were to run for President, what would be the platform? No more dot-to-space-ratio lawlessness, of course! Yet, enforcing the Ellipses Laws may be trickier than a politician practicing magic tricks.

The underground world of ellipses

Ellipses on the Fringes of Society

Ellipses on the Fringes of Society

No punctuation mark is more misunderstood or misused (might I suggest “abused?”) than the humble ellipsis.

What’s this all about?

The underground of confused ellipses began with the complicated principles of using ellipses with quoted material at the beginning of a quotation.

Or in the Middle of quoted material.

Or at the end of quoted material.

The chaos of Styles and Style Manuals

The voices are loud and contradictory, whether discussing formal or informal writing. There are sticklers who tout perfection via the noble Legal style. Others proclaim the MLA style is the only way to go. The Chicago style versus AP style, which to use? The differences are remarkable and have been known to cause yawns disturbances on college campuses.

*All right you OCD-ers out there. If you must torture yourself, click into the following styles*

 Legal Style ~ MLA Style ~ Chicago Style ~ AP Style

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, there are style manuals with set-in-concrete goop rules.

  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 
  • The Chicago Manual of Style,
  • and theTexas Law Review Manual on Usage, Style & Editing
Ouch,  my head hurts.

Ouch, my head hurts.

It’s enough to give a person a splitting headache.

Here’s what happened to me . . .

My first two novels contain ellipses with no spaces before, after, or in between. That’s kind of AP Style, but not really. What happened? It seems that editors/editor assistants were changing the final manuscript ellipses to what they believed to be correct, back and forth, until it finally went to print with no ellipses spaces at all (…).

Were they wrong?

Frankly, I think they should have at least put a space before or after the three dots ( … ) ala AP Style in honor of my journalism background.

Going forward, it seems to depend on the views of each particular publisher, the editors, or the high-school grammar teacher speaking through someone’s wetware (brain). In other words, there aren’t any absolutes out there except in the aforementioned Legal, Chicago, MLA, and AP styles, and in those pompous sounding style manuals, of course.

Hmm. We’re dealing with a Theory of Ellipses Relativity. I think I get it. All Absolutists exit the side doors in an orderly fashion, please.

Where I stand

This blog dares to suggest that more people agree that the space before and after and between the dots is not only Chicago Style, but also the more accepted means of indicating that a sentence (or thought) trails off in informal writing, fiction novels, or in designing our contemporary homes.

Well, okay. I just threw in the designing part so you would stay with me. One has to do that with grammar crud discussions or minds tend to tune out.

Here are examples of the style I recommend taken from my third novel, Valley of Shadows, due to hit the shelves sometime this summer.

  1. And these . . .” she said, touching the ruffle-edged shells, “. . . are Hawaiian clam shells. (indicates self-interrupted speech with an action)
  2. I can’t understand how the Ghost Herd came in here a few minutes before me and disappeared into, well . . . air.” (indicates hesitation)
  3. I couldn’t believe it. She-she told me about Smiles and . . .” Birdie fell into a heap at my feet, her face disfigured in silent agony. (indicates an unfinished sentence)

Keep it simple. Add the spaces and move on. I, for one, will be happy.

Back to the Ellipsis running for President (Why? Because it’s fun!)

A campaigning Ellipsis must make it perfectly clear that, if elected, it will hire more grammar cops to ensure alleged perpetrators of chaotic dots will be rounded up and thrown into a summer-time English class taught by Ferris Bueller’s economic teacher.

And arbitrators? Gosh yes! The Ellipsis campaign must assure the public that there will always be a forum, a safe place if you will, for debate and compromise when it comes to ellipsis use. For commas . . . not so much!

Imagine that: A world run by dots.

      Dots Rule!

Dots Rule!

Can we count on your vote?

 

 

 

You know I love to hear from you. What have ellipses done for you lately? Spill and share!

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Summer/Fall 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Christmas in a Sock


*(All grammatical errors intentional)*

1936. December 24. 7:30 p.m.

If I wanted Doodles to sleep warm as buttered biscuits, I’d have to do some more quilt tucking.

I pressed it in good and tight all along her side and under her chin. There. Now she wouldn’t shiver in her sleep or roll off to the floor. It wouldn’t hurt her any if she did cause our mattress was only four inches of feathers and cloth and it was laid right on the floor just on top of an old blanket that had a few moth holes.

Doodles was eight years younger than me and my responsibility. Truth is, I was so glad to get another girl in this family, I didn’t mind doing anything for that skinny little baby. I had two older sisters, but they was already married by the time I got any sense.

I’d been stuck with seven brothers and me the only girl for miles around for so long, shoot, Doodles was like getting a tiny angel to take care of. Ole heaven sure waited a long time to give her to me, though, cause I’m ‘most growed upl now. Twelve years old next month, and that’s the truth.

I put my ear on top of the wood floor and tried like crazy to understand what the soft talking was saying in the room down below me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make out the words. Something was scooted here and yonder. Something big.

Yep. That’s the right sounds for shore. Same as every year. It meant Mama and Dad were getting things ready for us kids to have Christmas in the morning. My ole raccoon grin broke out so big on my face, you couldn’t erase it with a mop!

I yelled straight into my squashy pillow until my eyes watered. I did that sometimes when I was excited and didn’t know what else to do. I got that over with and flipped on my back. I cracked every one of my fingers one at time. I learned how to do that from PeeWee—one of my brothers. Those boys were good for nothing at all, except learning me how to do things like fistfight and how to get in trouble. Only thing I was glad about was how Tadpole taught me how to spit acrost the room and make it land in a can. That was useful.

Shush now, I told myself. None of that mattered tonight. Not with the magic dust swirling all around me so hard my stomach felt like a jar full of cow cream about to turn into curdled butter.

Nothing no how could ever be as fun as Christmas at the Woodsons’ house, even if it wasn’t much more than a shack. It had us in it, didn’t it? That was enough, even if we were as poor as dirt and too dumb to stop laughing about it.

Us kids had to go to bed extra early on the night before Christmas so special things could happen. I didn’t know how Mom and Dad did anything special for us with us having just about no money in the world. I sure loved it when they did, though. Loved it more than running home barefooted the last day of school.

I stared into the dark with my hands folded over each other and whistled for a little while until those sweet banana pies Mom was making after breakfast tomorrow just rastled my mind down to the ground. She never made such a thing as that except on Christmas day. Those pies tasted so dang good, you felt rich as Solomon when you ate them. She made enough for us kids to have two whole slices if we cut them kinda skinny.

After the pies, Mama’d stir together the best thing anyone ever made—her Christmas cake! She’d take that pretty thing out of the stove with the marain icing sitting up on it like stiff snow. Shiny patches of melted red, green, and white candies sparkled from the top. Whoo-ee man! Us kids about lost our eyeballs right out of their sockets just looking at it. Wouldn’t have been surprising at all to see our eyes just rolling acrost that wood floor after Mom whisked her cake over to the griddle to cool down.

Thinking about it now almost made me throw up since I wanted a piece of it so bad. How could I ever fall asleep? Dang near stupid to try.

Next thing I knew about is when one of those no-good brothers threw a pair of overalls on my head. I flung it off madder than a bee with three stingers and couldn’t believe it was light outside. Morning? I leaped off of that mattress and grabbed Doodles up tight and barreled down those creaky steps two at a time. I ran quick into the big room, which was anything but big but that’s what we called it anyway.

Had it happened? The magic?

The glow in my mama’s eyes was as loud as a hollered out bunch of words. I couldn’t hardly take my eyes off of hers, they were so bright. I put Doodles down and skipped around the room twice just to get my nerves settled down.

Can we? Can we look now? Huh?

Mom counted our heads to see if we were all there. After the last head, her usual serious face broke out in a smile bigger than the whole of Oklahoma. She stepped away from the iron-post bed where her and Dad, and sometimes a few young’uns, slept. I tell you, us kids scampered under that bed like rabbits running from a pack of slobbery hound dogs! When we came back out, we were holding on to one of Dad’s long, gray and white wintertime socks. They looked like they had the mumps, they were so full. Doodles laughed right out loud at us holding our fat socks with both hands like someone was gonna steal them.

We clawed them open and dumped everything out in our own special spots. Hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts and pecans poured out first. Then came an apple and an orange. My mouth went dry to bite into that shiny red apple, so I did and ate it all up. That was all the winter fruit we’d ever get, so us kids always gobbled it up quicker than you could say shut up.

The bottom of our socks sagged with every kind of hard candy. Oh, the colors and shapes just made us crazy happy. Some of the candies was square with dimples all in them. Other kinds were round with flat ends and little drawings like Christmas trees and holly on them. Best of all were the big hunks of folded over ribbon candy. That was our mama’s favorite, too.

I finished eating my orange and was looking for a dishrag to wipe my hands on when my brother Snipe threw an orange peeling at the side of my face. My hands turned into fists, but then something kind of strange took me over and dusted the mad feeling right off me. I just felt like smiling at him instead. I tossed him a piece of my own candy. He looked plenty surprised, I’ll tell you that for sure.

After a breakfast of mama’s special red-hot pork sausage, eggs, biscuits, milk gravy, and sorghum, we started in eating our candy. Only time all year we’d get any.

Two of those no-account boys had to help me with all the stacks of breakfast dishes. Most the time, I had to do it all by myself and I hated it. While we worked, we had a contest to see who could put the most ribbon candy in their mouths.

I don’t know who won cause we sucked and slurped on it with our mouths gapped open and our eyes bugging out just like a dog when you pulled his ears way back. After a while, we busted out laughing and about choked to death on candy juice.

Dad said, “Hey,” at us in a low, gruff voice. We knew that meant stop right now or get your rear ends whooped, so we hid and did it one more time.

After making her banana pies, Mama got out a hammer and put a big peppermint stick and a handful of ribbon candies inside a dishtowel. We all gathered around her to watch. Every time she swung that hammer in the air and brought it down to crush the candy, we made Big Eyes at each other. I can’t swear if it’s true or not, but I think God Himself must have

I can’t swear if it’s true or not, but I think God Himself must have gave my mom that recipe for the Christmas cake.

I mean, why not?

Don’t you think He’d want a Christmas cake like that for His son’s birthday?

— Biddy*

*From the life and times of Biddy—a sharecropper’s daughter in the the 1930s. Look for it in 2018. Photography: Elizabeth Cerza

Want the recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake? Look in Chuckwagons & Campfires.

What holiday stories and recipes have been passed down in your family?

I love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Professor Dolphin Knew Best


A journalism and corporate writing background conditioned me into thinking I was ready to swim out to the Island of Non-Fiction and string up a nice hammock between two palms.

I’d drop a lobster trap off the rocky side of the island, carefully keep my matches dry and write thought-provoking, interesting non-fiction forevermore.

I would pen magazine articles, essays, editorials.

I’d turn out how-to’s, recipe books, child-rearing booklets, and sundry other juicy projects. *Don’t you just love the sound of sundry?*

Dip into family genealogy.

Try my hand at middle-grade articles about camping or friendship or about believing in yourself.

Case closed.

Alas!

You might say I experienced a curve “wave.”

While splashing my way to the Island of Non-Fiction about seven years ago, a peculiar, mystical creature emerged from my turquoise tropical dream like a tenured professor wearing a dolphin suit and a tutorial expression.

I attempted to swim around him to get to my island, but the aquatic grampus was too swift and blocked my every move.

Sensing he would not speak to me until I stopped flailing, I quietly dog paddled and waited. He seemed pleased.

“Jodi, you won’t be going to the Island of Non-Fiction,” Professor Dolphin said, fixing me with a solemn mien.

“What! You have to be joking! I love shells and pretty sunsets over the waves.”

“That’s the problem,” he said. “From now on, fiction is the new non-fiction for you.”

“But I don’t know anything about writing fiction,” I whined.

“Exactly,” the slick, grey mammal smiled. “Happy plotting, Jodi. May all your dreams be themes. May your characters ever be fleshy and your mid-book chapters sodden with thrills.”

I remember swallowing a lot of brine when he said that.

With a wink, Professor Dolphin dove head first into the majestic azure and white waves … towing my safe and comfortable Island of Non-Fiction behind him.

I stared until he and the island became as tiny as fly specs. Then I turned and swam into my future.


Are you doing something you never dreamed you would do? Did you once think you would never live in a place you live now? Have you made any bold claims about your life that you had to “eat” later on?

I’d love to hear about it.

Just for fun . . .

Borrowing unatuthorized media? We're coming to your town.

Borrowing unatuthorized media? We’re coming to your town.

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches Spring 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Why Farm Wives Prefer Romance Novels (a theory)


Right off the bat, I need to let you know that I haven’t conducted a Gallup Poll about who does and doesn’t read romance novels.

A Harlequin Heartwarming romance.

A Harlequin Heartwarming romance.

I’m not basing my opinion on any audience measurement, or public-opinion tallies or anything else quite so snooty-wooty.

My theory evolved accidently. I truly didn’t expect it.

Flashback:  Long ago. Arizona. Small, satellite office. Boxes of Harlequin Romance paperbacks everywhere – packed, unpacked, being mailed somewhere. Typewriters clacking away in another room.

I was super young and working for a temp agency before a major move to California.

Have to admit I was a bit of a clerical snob back then. I was a shorthand whiz (130 wpm) and typed at least 80 wpm on a bad day. So when I was told my temp job for the next two weeks involved reading mail, highlighting the main points, and handing the letters off to someone else to type a response, I scoffed.

Say what? Read letters? In a romance novel office? Embarrassing!

Basically, I needed the job, but my attitude stunk. It got stinkier when they wheeled in a huge mail-room cart full of handwritten letters.

We’re talking back when people wrote to publishers, and their letters were actually read and answered. Wow.

Now run outside and scream.

I know.

It’s that strange.

Ancient times.

With a heavy spirit, I started reading. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. Then it was time to go home. Next morning, I was back and eager to continue. I read and read, highlighted and highlighted. *personal habit . . . isn’t everything important?*

Women poured out their hearts about what those books meant to them, and how they managed to squeeze water out of a rock – that is, find time to read. The largest percentage of letters I read were from farm wives in the Midwest and the South. Coming from a country/ranch background, I identified with them.

Somewhere into my umpty-umpth letter, I began to like the ladies who wrote to Harlequin. A lot. I learned all about their lives.

They cooked huge country breakfasts for their families and cleaned up the mess themselves. No husband help in the kitchen back then. Most of the time, the kids were still in diapers, or off to school or doing other chores.

After breakfast, these farm wives headed to the garden to hoe or pick vegetables to clean, can, freeze, puree or cook. If not that, hundreds of other tasks needed “tended to.”

Hubby resurfaced about lunchtime, often rolling in from the fields on his tractor– HUNGRY!

They cooked three meals a day, scrubbed their houses, raised kids, worked beside their husbands, grew crops, turned live chickens into dinner, slopped pigs, tended to livestock, watered lawns with hoses, sewed clothes and curtains and raised flowers.

They were deeply involved in their children’s school activities, neighbors’ calamities and successes…and church.

Rough around the edgesThey talked about their husbands in positive, humorous ways. Sometimes they caught them reading their romance novels, and it delighted them, even as it gave them fodder to tease the poor dudes unmercifully.

Somehow, bless their hearts, they found a little time to curl up with a warm-hearted Harlequin romance paperback.

Their letters dripped with sincere praise as they literally begged for the next exciting adventure.

So here’s my homemade theory – romance books were (are) the best little mini-vacations for rural women facing a daily flood of endless tasks.

Picture it! After farm wife:

Snapped a zillion bushels of green beans, and/or,

Spooned the last batch of scalded, peeled peaches into sterilized Mason jars with a few whole cloves and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and/or,

Stayed up all night with a stressed-out mama cow in labor,

6419476she dives into the pages of a romance novel for an imaginary ski trip to Aspen, an ocean romp in Jamaica or a wild holiday in Rome with a handsome rogue *think Gerard Butler* pursuing her knock-down, gorgeous bod, and brilliant mind.

For oh-so-brief lapses of time, farm wife’s own impossibly thick lashes fluttered,

her fair cheeks burned,

her pulse raced.

She was admired, beloved, and sought after like the rare beauty she truly is.

Scores of men want her, but only her one true-love hero will ever win her heart!

Sigh.

Farm wife closes the book and stares wistfully out the window for a few seconds.

Okay.

On her feet.

Time to mop, weed, cook, can, drive, water, hoe, plant, sew, feed, restore, carry, soothe a worry, smooth an argument, or smooch a kid.

See what I mean?

Romance books are escapism on steroids for work-weary females.

Don’t you just love these work-weary, wonderful ladies!

Are farm wives still into romance books? I don’t know. I would really love to hear from some of the rural wives out there. Also from you brave urban warrior wives.

What books transport you to another world where you don’t think about wiping noses, cleaning dog poop off your shoes or worrying about cooking meals?

I love to hear from you.

*One disclaimer. The new wave of so-called “romance books” that have nothing at all to do with romance, history, or splendid writing and everything  to do with mere titillation, lust, and gawdawful writing do not deserve our attention here.*

 

Just for fun . . .

Give me one of them sasparillies and a good romantic book, bar keep!

Give me one of them sasparillies and a good romance book, barkeep!

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Ants as Miners


If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

I know I did. Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch.

If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds, the ants mostly thought of me as scenery. That was okay with me. Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

For hours I watched ants carry bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects (especially beetles and wasps) and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint.

I never actually witnessed them placing their goodies on the outside of their pebbly homes. Invariably, they took their gleaned material straight into the mysterious opening leading to the central parts of their colony. I was sure all good ants made sure they obtained Queenie’s orders before doing any exterior decorating.

Unless they were rebels.

Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Cosplay-Costume-Leather-Jacket-750x750 I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?

Anyway, my favorite anthill pickings were tiny hollow bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery and fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries ago for hunting small animals and birds.

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.

Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare, but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family.

Arizona pyrope garnets were fashioned into bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. Or so I’ve heard. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true or not, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times their own weight…and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.

Thoreau’s take on ants . . . 

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about them.

For example, Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like the ants. He said, “We should also know what we are busy about.”

I agree. And Thoreau’s end-of-sentence preposition is okay, too.

Likewise, I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little jewels out of the earth is both resourceful AND amazing.

And no, I don’t believe they use pickaxes.

Just because you may want to know, a few facts about Garnets:

  • Garnets are called carbuncles in the Bible.
  • Garnets have been found in Egypt, dated around 3100 B.C.
  • Garnets were found In Samaria, dated about 2300 B.C.
  • Garnets come in every color.
  • January’s birthstone is a garnet.
  • A brief look at the industrial use of garnets:*
  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10.
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on equipment, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone with water-jet cutters.
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80- to 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d Alene, Idaho.
  • Two hundred hours of use is garnered from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit, vs. only thirty minutes from an aluminum oxide mixture.

*Many thanks to Michael Castaῆeda, water-jet professional, for the technical information about garnets.

Treasures from the earth seem extra special. Have you ever found a treasure gathered by an ant or another kind of insect? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Just for fun . . .

My cat has been borrowing unauthorized media?

I just found out my cat has been borrowing unauthorized media!

 

 

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2017. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Just Connect Me, Dahling!


Robot waiter, butler background vector

Verella awoke to the sound of her wrist ringing.

Her wrist wasn’t really ringing, but the compact instrument strapped to it demanded her attention in a screechy, nagging tenor.

“Yes?” she whispered groggily, pushing her RESpond button. Her other hand rubbed her temple to quell the throbbing inside her head.

“Verella? Great! I caught you before you left the hotel. Send me another set of those charts we discussed this morning before you fly off to Beijing. What time is your flight anyway?”

While Mr. Hummph, Verella’s boss, blathered from the top side of her wrist bone, Verella struggled to control her rising ire. She tuned him out for a  femtosecond to gather her wits.

What the . . .? My plane leaves in four hours. Thanks to that global conference Mr. Hummph blared at 1 a.m. by setting off those gawdawful emergency X-Bells in our  laptops, I’ve had two hours sleep. I’ve got so much jet lag, I’ll probably run into myself sometime around noon. 

“Verella! Did you fall back to sleep?”

“No sir, I’m here. My flight leaves at 8. I’ll get those graphs to you in a few minutes, Mr. Hummph.”

“Minutes? Better make that seconds. Time is money, Verella, money. But you know that, you little globe-trekker you.”

Oh brother.

This week, Mr. Hummph’s globe-brokers, of which she was a part, but simply tagged as X705 to everyone but Mr. Hummph, were working in Beijing, Brussels, Moscow, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Never-Heard-of-It Nevada. Did that annoying man ever get any sleep? Lord knows she never did.

Verella dug her GPFX *GlobalPORTOTrans* from her purse, connected it to the laptop and issued a verbal code-connect-go. She stared at the purple pulses and wondered if Mr. Hummph could possibly be one of the new HU-ROBS already speculated to be infiltrating earth’s population. Of course, HU-ROBs were vehemently denied as myth, but exponential rumors about anything always adds up to something, Verella believed wholeheartedly.

Promising she would check out her suspicions when she returned stateside, Verella clapped her hands. Travel Tesauro, her constant travel assistant, whirred to life—his crimson, green and amber lights twinkling.

After a Command-String, TT – as she affectionately called him – instantly packed Verella’s suitcase, leaving the lid open for her pajamas after her morning toilette. He magnetically started the bathroom shower and waited for her with a warmed towel as she stepped out three minutes later.

While she sat in the hotel chair, TT presented Verella with a frothy latte and a power beet bar. TT’s front quadrant morphed into a giant clock with a second hand ticking away in Verella’s face. She allowed herself a long four minutes to relish her breakfast, thankful her assistant had made the latte lukewarm for fast downing.

A tray loaded with Verella’s makeup flipped out from TT’s left side. The tray exuded soft musicRobot 1 with a rousing under beat – one of the new music strips that soothed and hurried a person at the same time.

A peacock blue *Verella’s favorite color* panel glowed from TT’s other side as he awaited her makeup instructions for the day. “Moisturizer. Foundation. Enough rouge to cover my ghastly pallor. Comb out my eyelash extensions with the burr brush. Teal eyeliner. Relaxed eyebrows. Ratta-2-ee coral lipstick,” Verella commanded in soft tones.

After the last dab of robotically applied lipstick, TT zipped the suitcase closed and waited while Verella wiggled into her travel clothes.

Less than 30 minutes after arising, she emerged breathlessly from the Marriott Village d’Ile-de-France into a waiting cab, her freshly pressed suit crisscrossed with straps holding her TransGlobal-Connecting devices. TT carried her luggage and a medium-hot paper-cup latte for the ride to the airport.

While Verella settled into her plane seat for the flight to Beijing, TT worked at blinding speed to set up her in-flight office so she could begin working before takeoff.

She put her head back and sighed.Watching TT, she calculated she had at least sixty seconds before he completed his tasks – enough time for a few random reflections.

Thank the galaxies I became a biz-globe-broker and not one of those poor, weird women who manage households, she thought with a little shiver of disgust.

Their lives are so demanding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, this is satire, but do you think our connectivity might reach a point in which we scream, Enough! ?

Do you sometimes feel you are part of a surveillance society? As Orwellian as it sounds, we can now be contacted and/or observed anywhere in the world 24/7. Does that bother you? Personally, it doesn’t worry me that much. At least I can still choose WHEN and WHERE and HOW I want to be connected via computer, smartphone, etc. That gives me a bit of an illusion of retaining control.

Even if genuine seclusion is becoming a thing of the past, I can live happily in a 24/7 Connectivity World as long as I still control the finger that turns on *or off* all those connectivity devices! Make sense?

Make sense?

P.S. I recycled this post from a published article I wrote long ago. Understandably, I’ve had to seriously update the technological elements in the rewrite.

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Grow Your Own Jewelry


My childhood as the only girl on an Arizona ranch could get downright lonesome.

Television and radio reception were nonexistent, and all the wonderful gadgets of today weren’t yet invented.

Friends were far away, so play dates and overnighters were as scarce as green grass, which is plenty scarce in the high deserts of the Southwest.

One day, probably as a result of my mournful expressions and heavy sighs, my mother – shrouded in mystery – beckoned me to follow her to the garden. There, between a peach tree and the rock house that supported our water tank filled with well water, she poured several tear-shaped seeds about the size of corn kernels into her hand from a packet.

What were they?

Job’s Tears, she said, and I was immediately beguiled.

What a name! I could barely breathe as I asked her what we were going to do with them.

Plant them, was her reply.

And we did.

What exactly are Job’s Tears?

Jobs TearsFor starters, Job’s tears are nature’s jewelry.

The plants grow a pre-drilled, polished bead that can be used to make an endless assortment of necklaces, bracelets, and other baubles. The male flower grows up through the center of the bead. When removed, it leaves a hollow core just right for stringing.

People have grown Job’s Tears for thousands of years. In western India, a bead-making shop circa 2000 B.C. was uncovered. They found beads made from soapstone *man-made beads* and Job’s Tears *nature’s beads.*

Different cultures have used the beads in creative ways. In Africa, shaker gourds enclosed with a loose net and covered with hundreds of Job’s tears are said to produce a lovely musical sound. Here’s what Wayne’s Word said about it: As the beads slap against the gourd, a loud shaker sound is produced – as good as any modern instrument for this purpose. Using the neck of the gourd as a handle, the sound of the bead net is amplified by the hollow gourd.

Why are they called ‘Tears?’

The tear-shaped beads sometimes refer to Job of the Old Testament, a man who endured great suffering. They are also called David’s Tears, Saint Mary’s Tears, Christ’s Tears and Tear Drops.

jobs_tears_gardenMore than a pretty bead

  • Coix lacryma-jobi – Job’s Tears’ scientific name – is a close relative to corn. The plants strongly resemble corn but are skinnier. It is considered one of the earliest domesticated plants.
  • The beads have been used all over the world as a source of food and medicine.
  • They can be ground into meal, or used as a coffee substitute.
  • They are common in products sold in Asia. When supplies of rice were low during the Vietnam War, Job’s Tears became a staple substitute.
  • In Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, Job’s Tears are available as flakes or powder. They are often added to other grains, liquors, candy, bath products, vinegar, and tea.
  • Hatomugi, the Japanese word for Job’s Tears, is used in traditional Japanese Kampo herbal medicine. The grain is valued as a nutritious food and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to support hair, skin, nails, and as a digestive aide.
  • Here’s what Amazon says about them: This plant’s seeds are used in soups and broths, and can be used in any way that rice is used. They can also be ground into flour which is used to make bread. The seeds are popular for making decorations and have herbal and medicinal uses. 

Growing Job’s Tears

Job’s Tears are easy to grow. The plants don’t need a lot of water and are quite hardy. Here’s a link telling you exactly how to do it, but I promise, it’s easy!

Growing Job’s Tears and stringing the beads into necklaces remains one of my fondest childhood memories. My mother learned about Job’s Tears from her mother. Why not make some passed down memories for your special girls and guys?

They’ll never forget it. Amazon has the seeds for sale right now. And don’t forget to come back and tell us about it, okay?

 

I always love to hear from you.

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Why are Metaphors Both Awesome and Terrible?


Miss Metaphor! Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Miss Metaphor! Image from Wikipedia Commons.

One dreadful  inspiring morning at a writing seminar long ago, I emerged from a face-to-face editor session feeling as though I were stepping out the door and onto a parade float. For a few minutes, I could have sworn I was wearing a pageant gown, a tiara, and a ribbon sash proclaiming I was Miss Metaphor, and not in a good way.

Said editor had reviewed the first pages of my first novel and practically stamped that lofty title *Miss Metaphor* on my chest.

I emerged from the room fluttering a weak little Miss America wave at the other terrified aspiring writers awaiting their turns at the chopping block.

That experience caused me to

  • Greatly revise my manuscript, and
  • Wonder why metaphors are both awesome and terrible

With a little research, I found a true Metaphor Devotee — Italian semiotician, literary critic, and novelist Emberto Eco, who said, “…metaphor gives birth to pleasure (in writing).”

He claims that knowing how to conceive metaphors is an art.

I agree.

Metaphors, and their cousins – simile, hyperbole, allegory – add punch to pallid writing. They enlighten and freshen dull manuscripts.

Too Many Metaphors

Some writers (Jodi Lea Stewart in the past, for example) are addicted to figurative language. Consider the following paragraph, and yes, I wrote it myself, and furthermore, it was easy because I could almost live inside a metaphor but that’s another story, n’est-ce pas?

The female fire hazard blazed her way into the board meeting – bull nostrils flaring, poblano pepper eyes glowing – and roared at the Sovereign Power himself, “Give me back my job or I’ll torch your underwear from the inside out!”

Thirty-nine words, twenty-one of which indicate some kind of metaphor.

That’s overkill.

Writers who use metaphors to that extent might want to hook up with a 12-step Metaphors Anonymous program sooner versus later. Over metaphorizing *I made that up to add interest* dulls out the reader almost as much as the writer who doesn’t use figurative language at all.

Too Few Metaphors

If Elements of Style by Strunk & White makes you salivate,

If you love stringent grammar rules and feel it is a crime to alter them,

If you use symbolic language ultra-sparingly, or not at all,

If you wallow in strict English correctness,

Stop reading this blog.

Grab your Elements of Style and repertoire of grammar books and take a nap with them because you’re boring us all to death  with your writing. Sleep. Just sleep.

However, if you are boring even yourself, and you are often told by readers, agents, or editors that your writing lacks color, excitement, or imagination, then I have a suggestion for you.

Run, don’t walk, to buy Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite. Read it under the covers with a flashlight if you must, but read it without delay.

Plotnik, a self-defined, writing-rule-rebel said,”Both Strunk and White knew well that bending the rules…can give writing its distinction, its edge, its very style. Bending the rules can spring writers from ruts – get them out of themselves, out of the ordinary, and into prose that comes alive, gets noticed, and gets published.”

Strike the Balance

A sassy blend of metaphor mixed with essential writing rules will let you stand proud on that Miss *Mr?* Metaphor float, or anywhere else. Just as a superb pageant contestant is lovely, well-rounded, and interesting, so is the kind of writing that stands out from the crowd.

“Metaphor is the supreme figure of all…connecting notions and finding similitude in things dissimilar.” – Umberto Eco

What about you? Have you been guilty of too much flowery writing? Did anybody ever tell you to stop? Maybe you abhor metaphors, simile, hyperbole and the like. Tell us about it. We love to hear from you!

When writers share, we just get better.


That dame saw me borrow unauthorized social media. Maybe I can dart under the table...

That dame saw me use unauthorized social media. Maybe I can duck under the table before she calls the coppers.

Pssst! – All media used in my blogs are either acquired by payment for their use, or don’t require licensing for public use. Often, I use my own personal photos. Please play it safe and don’t recycle images, okay? (P.S. This one of Henry Fonda is free for all. Borrow like crazy if you want!)


Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

TJ (Thomas Jefferson) and the Tomatoes


 

Tomatoes. How we love them. How we need them.

Need them?

Sure. I’ll prove it.

Imagine a plate of spaghetti and meatballs without a  delicious, red spaghetti sauce. Envision always ordering white pizzas with an Alfredo or cheese sauce base.

Red sauce = tomatoes.

Salsa = tomatoes.

Ketchup = tomatoes.

Must I go on?

Yes. Because nothing but tomatoes can make our salads both juicy AND pretty.

Okay.

Since we admit we need them, what about the tire-tread taste of the tomatoes we buy at the store?

First of all, don’t blame the tomatoes. They’re innocent. Tomatoes grown for commercial purposes can’t luxuriate at the Riviera in the sunshine until they are red and ready. They are harvested from the vine while still green, gassed with ethylene – which turns them pukey pink inside – and shipped off to stores to wind up in your sauces, soups, and salads. That’s why they look sick and have no taste.

Thomas_Jefferson_revDid Thomas Jefferson (TJ) have to tolerate crappy tasteless tomatoes?

What does Thomas Jefferson have to do with tomatoes? Well, he indisputably was the most enthusiastic gardener-president we’ve ever had in office. He kept a garden calendar from 1767 to 1824, and he never failed to plant tomatoes. They appeared often in the Jefferson family recipes.

Naturally, Jefferson loved tomatoes.  And he should have. They were delicious, different “creatures” in those days. Even most home-garden grown tomatoes and organic crops aren’t as good as the ones Thomas Jefferson produced. Why? Because TJ grew them before genetic modification. Genetic modification makes generic seeds and grocery-store vegetables:

1)      more resistant to pesticides and weed killers,

2)      easier to ship,

3)      slower to rot,

4)      tasteless . . . and of dubious nutritional value.

Furtunately, we aren’t stuck with these cardboard versions of formerly delicious vegetables.

I found out about heirloom gardening  from my mother, who found out about heirloom seeds from her sister. They had a farmer dad, you know, and it’s in their blood to care about things growing out of dirt.

What are Heirloom Vegetables?

Heirloom seeds are carefully harvested from strains going back thousands of years. Some descend from seeds sewn into clothes by immigrants coming to America, or from Thomas

Monticello Vegetable Garden

Jefferson’s own garden.

According to Jack Penman in Getting Back to America’s Roots, since these seeds evolved before the age of industrial agriculture, they often grow better under eco-friendly practices.

Did you get that? They’re naturally hardy and disease resistant without chemicals.

Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creed Heirloom Seeds, sends out two million heirloom seed packets a year and says that number is rising at about thirty percent annually. Who knew? Added bonus: You can buy enough seeds to grow a crop for three years for less than ten dollars. Plus, you won’t have to reorder if you save your seeds. (P.S. You have to click on the Baker Creed link…it’s so cool. And you’ll see vegetables that look surreal!)

So now you know. Choosing pasty, yucky tomatoes or full-bodied delicious ones right out of Thomas Jefferson’s garden is now a matter of choice…and a little sweat o’ the brow!

Want to know more?

The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit

 

 

 

 

 

Heirloom Gardens to see  

What about you?  Do you ever worry about the gases they use to “ripen” our fruits and vegetables? What about hybrids and genetic modification . . . scary or not scary? I’ll say this, I’ve learned that none of us is getting out of this world alive. Therefore, our quality of life while we’re here should be pretty important. Upping the quality of the food we eat may be part of seeking that higher ground.

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Cacti, the Rock Star of the Desert


Paid-for Image from Fotolia

Paid-for Image from Fotolia

The truth is, cacti can be the best of times and the worst of times. It can represent the age of wisdom or the age of foolishness. *forgive me Charles Dickens*

The Best of Times/Age of Wisdom

Cacti as Food

Nopales, a fancy name for young cactus pads of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) is a food marvel. Use them in scrambled eggs and jalapenos. Grill them and use in tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas. Use them in salads, or as a side dish. How do they taste? Sort of green-beanish with a hint of lemon.

Almost any fleshy cactus fruit is edible, but the prickly pear fruit wins the popularity contest, hands down. Also known as cactus fruit, cactus figs, Indian figs, Barbary figs, and tunas, this little fruit is dynamic! It grows two to four inches and is shaped similar to an avocado.

The immature fruit is green and matures to orange, red, pink or magenta. It can be eaten raw, or made into jelly, syrup, candy or even margaritas!

Cacti for Health

Nopales are being added to smoothies. Why?

Because the humble little Opuntia cactus pad is receiving high marks for its low glycemic rating and ability to control blood sugar naturally. What’s more, research suggests the imbiber’s blood sugar continues to drop for two hours after ingesting it.

Cacti for Drink

Who hasn’t seen any of the old vintage Westerns depicting a poor soul with sun-blistered skin and shredded clothing crawling, scratching, grunting to get to a lone cactus in the torrid desert? He has only the strength to reach the cactus and carve a hole in the side or top. He reaches in with both of his filthy, shaking hands and brings the lifesaving liquid to his peeling lips.

Ahhhhhh. Man is saved. Cactus is the hero.

But hold on! Although the large saguaro with its arm-like branches can store as much as 200 gallons of water, the liquid can be toxic to humans.

What is a dying desert crawler to do?

Aim for the prickly pear and barrel cacti, and don’t expect a lot. Forget clear bottled water. The inside walls of the cactus will be tough. The drinkable fluid inside its moist, spongy pulp will most likely be bitter.

The best way to get nutrition or water from a cactus *in an emergency* is to peel and eat the prickly pear or barrel cactus fruits. Or eat the raw pads of the a prickly pear. Be careful of those spines!! Ouch!

Cacti for Ranchers

Native prickly pear growth has been used for over a century to feed cattle. The pads of the Opuntia are low in dry matter and crude protein, but will suffice in emergency conditions.  The pads also contain a sufficient amount of moisture. Recently, the Southwest cattle industry has begun to cultivate prickly pear cacti as a fresh source of feed and water for cows. The spines can be burned off to reduce mouth injury.

Since cattle tend to avoid the sharp spines, prickly pear cacti can actually be used like a fence to keep cattle in a certain boundary.

Cacti as Art

No explanation needed!

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The Worst of Times/Age of Foolishness

Cacti as Tormentor

Anyone who has ever stepped on a cactus, fallen into a cactus, or gotten the spikes of a cactus in any fleshly region of his/her body, knows that cacti can be “the worst of times!”

A childhood story …

After a long afternoon of walking in and out of washes, climbing rocks and scouring the red dirt of our Arizona ranch looking for Indian pottery shards, my brother and I wound up back at the pickup truck thirsty and tired. The grownups had all the canteens with them, so we were out of luck. My brother got a bright idea – why not eat some of the prickly pear fruit decorating the cacti all around us?

Great idea.

He sliced off a couple and tossed one in my direction. I carefully picked it up, but stupidly tried to take a bite out of it. Tears immediately began streaming down my cheeks as I realized my mouth and tongue were full of hairy little spikes from the skin of the fruit.

I’ll never forget how I felt trapped with a mouth full of stickers (glochids). My brother scrounged a pair of pliers out of the glove box and went to work. Soon, I was free again, and for that one day . . . he was my superhero.

Do you love or hate cacti? Have you ever had a cactus houseplant? Did you ever step in the middle of those spikes? Fallen into them? Eaten any of the fruit or pads? What’s your favorite cactus recipe?

I love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.