Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Johnny Boggs and Larry Wood

Several weeks ago, Jane Hale, president of Ozark Writers, Inc., forwarded names of contributors to Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V, who agreed to be interviewed on my blog.

I asked five questions plus a bonus question. First to reply were Johnny Boggs and Larry Wood. Here are their bios and responses:

Johnny D. Boggs has been a full-time novelist and freelance magazine writer since 1998. He has won a record-tying seven Spur Awards from Western Writers of America, the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, an Arkansiana Juvenile Award from the Arkansas Library Association and the Milton F. Perry Award from the National James-Younger Gang. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife, son and two dogs.

Larry Wood is a freelance writer specializing in the history of Missouri and the Ozarks. He is the author of fifteen nonfiction history books, two historical novels, and hundreds of stories and articles.  He maintains a blog at, and is an honorary lifetime member of the Missouri Writers' Guild. Larry's co-author on "Charlie Cries All Night," the MOTO V story, is his long-deceased father, Ben L. Wood. Larry resurrected the story from his dad's unpublished files and made numerous changes, but the basic plot belongs to Ben Wood. Ben was an essayist and poet whose work appeared in publications ranging from The Ozarks Mountaineer to the Kansas City Star.   

1. What sparked your writing bug?
Johnny Boggs: Third-grade English. The assignment was "write a tale." I have no idea what I wrote, but I remember the feeling I got while writing it. This was my calling, I decided, and I still get that feeling when I sit down at my computer.

Larry Wood: I more or less drifted into writing by default during college when I ended up majoring in English because I made better grades in English than my other classes, but the idea of being a writer was probably planted much earlier, since my dad was also a writer.

2. Please summarize your story in MOTO V.
Johnny Boggs:The tongue-in-cheek "Meet the New Dick Powell" has the Ozarks-born actor returning home because his career is washed up in Hollywood. He's mistaken for a private eye, and, having just been rejected for the lead role in "Double Indemnity," decides to play a tough-guy in a real-life situation.

Larry Wood: My dad, author of the first draft of "Charlie Cries All Night," was a correctional officer at the Medical Center for Federal prisoners in Springfield. Thus, the idea for the story, about an escaped, psychotic convict who terrorizes a nurse working late at a doctor's office, although the story was not originally set in Springfield.  

3. Where is your favorite place in the Ozarks? Please describe it.
Johnny Boggs: The Buffalo River. Rented a cabin there for a long weekend in 1990, bought a wooden chest at a shop outside of Eureka Springs, drove back to Dallas. I put a dozen roses and an engagement ring in the chest, and when Lisa opened it, I proposed.

Larry Wood: The nature trail at the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center just south of Joplin on Shoal Creek. It's not necessarily the most scenic place in the Ozarks, but it's a place I go regularly for relaxing walks in a natural setting.

4. What writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud?
Johnny Boggs: The seven Spur Awards from Western Writers of America blow my mind. I think I'm most proud of the first one, which I got in 2002 for "A Piano at Dead Man's Crossing," because that was for a short story, the hardest form of fiction to write. (Donna's note: Seven spurs--Wow! And I agree about short fiction being the hardest form of fiction to write.)

Larry Wood: As a longtime member of the Missouri Writers' Guild, I think that being named an honorary lifetime member of the organization in 2016 is probably the thing I'm most proud of in my writing career. (Donna's note: That is an amazing accomplishment!)

5. Many of my blog visitors are also writers. What writing advice can you share with them?
Johnny Boggs: Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. And don't miss your deadlines.  (Donna's note: I agree, and I would add you were first to submit your interview responses, so you are serious about deadlines.)

Larry Wood: Have a writing routine and stick with it. It doesn't even have to be a routine in the sense that you write at exactly the same time every day for exactly the same length of time, but you have to have something resembling a routine that shows you're committed to writing. In my own case, I write every day, seven days a week, with very few exceptions, but sometimes I write an hour, sometimes four or five hours, and not necessarily at the same time each day. It's somewhat like my exercise routine. I don't walk or jog at the same time every day, but I don't feel the day is complete if I don't do one or the other some time during the day.   

Bonus Question: Where can readers find more about you? (Your website, blog, Facebook, etc.)

Larry Wood: My blog on regional history can be found at, and I have an author Facebook page at

Johnny and Larry, thanks for your replies.

Over the next weeks I will post responses of the other contributors. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Essay on How I Met My Husband is in Sasee's October Magazine

Photo, Oct 17 Sasee Magazine
"Melodies and Memories"
Cover Artist: Mike Daneshi
If you're curious how a nineteen-year-old teenage girl from St. Louis met a twenty-year-old airman/immigrant who was born in the German Bavarian Alps, you can read about it by following the link below.

My essay titled "Living the American Dream" appears in Sasee's October 2017 issue with the theme "Melodies and Memories." The beautifully vivid and evocative cover art is done by Mike Daneshi.

If you're a writer interested in submitting to Sasee, here's a copy of their guidelines.

Hope you enjoy!

Note: Next week I will begin posting interviews I've received from contributors to Mysteries of the Ozarks, V.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Interview with Jane Shewmaker Hale, President of Ozark Writers, Inc.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting interviews with contributors of Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V, the organization responsible for the Mysteries of the Ozarks series.

First up are ten questions for Jane Shewmaker Hale, author, entrepreneur, and president of Ozark Writers, Inc.

1. Can you briefly tell us a little bit about you--your personal background, professional       background, writing accomplishments, etc.?

My late husband Bob and I have four sons, ten grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. I reside on the Hale family farm in Buffalo, Missouri, where I’m an active partner in our family businesses, including Hale Fireworks  I’m a columnist for "Buffalo...As I Remember it" in the County Courier. I’ve published a YA series of mysteries: Wonderland in 1997, Heartland in 1999, Foreverland in 2001, and Boomland, in 2003. My other books are Every Day Is Mother’s Day and Every Day Is Father’s Day. I’ve also published numerous short stories in anthologies.

2. What can you tell us about the history of Ozark Writers, Inc.?

 In August 2001 Ellen Gray Massey, Vicki Cox, Shirleen Sando, Carolyn Gray Thornton, Betty Cracker Henderson, and I formed Ozark Writers, Inc., a nonprofit organization with a 501c3 status. Our purpose was to encourage and promote writers from the Ozark region to publish their works and to educate and expand the reading public to the literature of the Ozarks. We held workshops in Missouri, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington, D.C. and Settle, Washington. In 2003, the first volume of Mysteries of the Ozark was published with 19 short stories by authors from the Ozarks.  In the fall of  2017, the fifth volume of Mysteries of the Ozark will be available, featuring 19 authors from the Ozarks.

3.  What inspired you to continue the legacy of OWI begun by Ellen Gray Massey?

From the beginning, I served as President of Ozark Writers, Inc. Ellen Gray Massey was our mentor. We learned to encourage others as she encouraged us. Our writing is stronger because of her insistence for perfection. As we traveled to conferences, we reread aloud from our writing. Ellen, pen in hand, noted corrections. Today, as I write, I imagine her watching over my shoulder, pen in hand, reminding me of her teachings. She spent a lot of effort compiling the first four volumes of Mysteries of the Ozarks. Ellen and I talked about Volume V before her passing.

I believe she would be pleased we were continuing her legacy.

4. The Mysteries of the Ozarks anthology is now on volume five. How did you solicit stories for this issue of the popular anthology?

In the fall of each year, I attend Ozark Creative Writers conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There’s a lot of talent gathered at that conference. In 2016, I felt it was time to compile stories for Volume 5.  I mentioned to some attendees that I was open for submissions. Some authors who had been published in the anthologies before expressed interest. Others, I piqued their interest. Before the conference was over I felt I had the essence of the book.

5. How did the submission, editing, and publishing processes work?

After I returned home from the conference, submissions began to arrive. I solicited a few other authors from the area. By the first of the year, I had the magic number 19. I was fortunate to have Vicki Cox, a member of the original board, and Donna Volkenannt join the board and serve as editors. We had worked together before as members of the Missouri Writers Guild. Three former Presidents of MWG made for a good editing team. High Hill Press was the original publisher. Circumstances required us to move the anthology to Goldminds Publishing.

6. I love the cover. Who was the photographer, and where the photo was taken?

The cover is a beautiful barn photograph taken by Melba Prossor Shewmaker of Bentonville, Arkansas. She is an accomplished photographer, whose hobby is photographing old barns. She has published a collection of those photographs. (See dedication in book for more.) The black and white photo is striking. It was made, more so, by a mock up done by Donna Volkenannt. Her version featured blood red font to entice the reader to enter the pages of mystery.

7. What can you tell us about some of the contributors in MOTO V?

Each story is unique in the telling from the computer of Robert Vaughan, who has published over 400 books or more. Western writers like Johnny Boggs, Dusty Richards, multiple WWA spur award winners. Terry Alexander, Mike Koch, Lonnie Whitaker, McKenrdee (Mike) Long, Micki Fuhrman, Brenda Brinkley, and Donna Volkenannt, who were attendees at OCW. Marilyn K Smith, a columnist for Reflex Newspapers in Buffalo, MO. Larry Woods and his father Ben, who share the honors with their story. Barri Bumgarner, Mitch Hale, Regina Williams Riney, Vicki Cox, Carolyn Gray Massey, and myself. And, of course, the cover artist, Melba Prossor Shewmaker.

8. What kinds of stories are included in MOTO V?

As the title denotes, they are mysteries. But, oh, the variety. The anthology includes: time travel, old west, fantasy, horror, nostalgia, romance, and humor. Each story is unique and entertaining!

9. Where can readers purchase copies of MOTO V?

From the authors, of course. Goldminds Publishers has excellent distribution ranging from local, area, to international. Watch for them on Amazon and in bookstores like Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, etc.

10. Anything you’d like to add or final thoughts about OWI, Mysteries of the Ozarks, or anything else?

I’d like to thank everyone who helped make Volume V, Mysteries of the Ozarks possible. Our two local banks, Oakstar and O’Bannon Banking Company donated funds. The authors and copy artist, plus our board and editors, and to Goldminds Publishing Company, our ultimate vehicle to publishing, made it possible.

Thanks, in advance, to readers, who I know will enjoy our anthology.

And, yes, Ellen, I feel you, pen in hand, looking over my shoulder.  

Monday, October 2, 2017

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In past I've posted about breast cancer awareness month, but this year it is more than an annual post. My life, and the life of my family, was turned upside down after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. I'm happy to report I'm now cancer free! By the end of the month I will be finished with radiation treatments, which should help keep the cancer from returning.

Over these months, I've been amazed by the love and support that has surrounded me.

When I decided to post about this topic, I wanted to keep it upbeat, so I'm focusing on some of the positive experiences I've had.

Shortly after I started treatments at the SSM Cancer Center, I was told about the Karen Weidinger Foundation. A member of the oncology staff escorted me to a room, where I was told to select any head coverings I would like, including caps, scarves, and a wig. Then, a week before my surgery, I received a call from the SSM Breast Center that they had a gift for me, courtesy of the Karen Weidinger Foundation. The gift was a certificate to take to a vendor to receive a special camisole to use after surgery. The generosity of this foundation, called Karen's Foundation, is amazing.

A second positive experience was the Look Good, Feel Better program from the American Cancer Society. I attended this session several months ago, and what a treat! Phyllis, the woman who applied make up for me, is herself a breast cancer survivor. She gave me the bag shown at the left. The bag, valued at $200, was filled with cosmetics donated by major manufacturers, including Estee Lauder, Christian Dior, Bobby Brown, Clinique, LancĂ´me, Ulta, and other well known companies.

The last item is something I found out about today. It's from the National Breast Cancer Organization, which is giving away a breast health guide in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

So, while this post is a reminder, it's also a testament to the spirit of generosity of groups and individuals dedicated to help people with breast cancer.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Voices from the Past Cemetery Walk at All Saints Parish in St. Peters

If you are interested in local history or like an evening where you can walk among the tombstones and listen to actors portraying long-ago deceased characters, you are in for a treat!

Once again, All Saints Parish in St. Peters will feature an evening of "Voices from the Past Cemetery Walk at All Saints." (If you click on the link you can see the cemetery in the background.)

This is the third time in six years the parish has offered the popular event.

And this is the third time I have written a script about a character buried in the cemetery.

The members of the parish Heritage Committee selected and researched the characters, then the Parish Administrator turned over their research to me to write the scripts. Writing a script stretched my skills, but it was a valuable learning experience.

My first script was about George Gatty, Revolutionary War hero and founder of St. Peters. He was an Italian immigrant who made his way to America, distinguished himself during the Revolutionary War, and was rewarded with a land grant that brought him out to the western frontier--all the way to Missouri!

Two years ago, I wrote the script for Aloys Schneider, sixth husband of Emma Heppermann, the notorious Potato Soup Black Widow.

Emma had the bad habit of poisoning her husbands and anyone else who got in her way. Unfortunately, Aloys got between Emma and a life insurance policy, and Aloys lost. His family and neighbors got suspicious after his death. They had no proof Emma did him in, but after Emma's next victim, Mr. Heppermann and his daughter (who survived), the Law stepped in. Emma was eventually tried and convicted of double murder.

The photo on the left shows the actor who portrayed the late Mr. Schneider referring to his script.

From reports, the actor's portrayal of Mr.Schneider was one of the most popular, and most talked about, characters of the walk.

This year, I wrote the script for Eva Kirchner, a German immigrant and farmer's wife. Eva was a resilient and determined woman who lived a hardscrabble life. She survived during the Great Depression by taking in boarders, and during Prohibition, she survived by ignoring the law. I gave her the name, "Bootlegger Granny."

This year the cemetery walk will be Saturday Oct 7 and Sunday Oct 8.Tickets for adults are $10, and children 12 and under $5. A reception will be held in the Parish Center after the walk, where visitors can enjoy light refreshments.

Unfortunately, because of the uneven ground of the cemetery, strollers and wheelchairs aren't permitted. And, because I'm still using a walker to get around, I won't be able to attend this year.

My sister Kathleen will be going and she has promised to report back to me on how it went.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MWG Trivia Night: A Tisket, A Tasket, Coffee and Critique Donated Eight Baskets

In case you haven't heard, the Missouri Writers Guild is having a trivia night on Saturday, October 7th, at the First Congregational Church of St. Louis in Clayton, MO.

The details are on the flyer on the left. The writers in Coffee and Critique, the critique group I belong to, were informed of this by Marcia Gaye, our chapter's MWG rep.

Marcia mentioned the MWG was hoping to get each chapter to contribute a basket for the event's silent auction. Our small group of ten regularly attending writers was asked to donate items or cash to fill a basket.

With our writers group name of Coffee and Critique, we voted to go with a coffee and writing-related theme.

The response was outstanding. Our members donated enough items to fill not one or two or even three, but EIGHT baskets--almost one basket for each person in our group.

When I thanked Marcia for spearheading the MWG Trivia Night basket project, she responded with her usual humility, "It was a team effort."

She added that we had 100 percent participation. Marcia estimated the value of the eight baskets around $400!

Our generous contributors included: Sarah Angleton, Marcia Gaye, Jane Hamilton, Alice Muschany, Doug Osgood, Doyle Suit, Les Thompson, Donna Volkenannt, Pat Wahler, and Jack Zerr. A handful of our more talented members stayed after our meeting to assemble and decorate the baskets.

Les took photos of the baskets shown below. And I've been told Sarah did a marvelous job tying bows.

Donated items include a variety of coffees and teas, coffee mugs, two hand-made mug rugs, coffee-related items, tea cups and saucers, wine glasses, a bottle of imported German red wine, dark and milk chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate), scented candles, candle holders, several books written by our members, a copy of the Coffee and Critique anthology autographed by several contributors, journals, pens, office and writing-related items, baskets, ribbons, the Coffee and Critique brochure, and, DRUM ROLL, PLEASE:

TWO CERTIFICATES FOR DETAILED CRITIQUES (up to ten double-spaced pages) from our entire group.

Although I can't attend trivia night, I'll be there in spirit--and our critique group will be there in more than spirit--we will be represented by eight beautiful baskets.

If you attend MWG Trivia Night, please let me know how it went, and I hope you're high bidder on one of our baskets!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Did You Know It's US Constitution Week?

to the US Constitution
While visiting the Spencer Road Branch of my county's library yesterday, I was greeted by two friendly women dressed in colonial period costumes. Of course, that got my attention.

The women stood in front of a decorative display with a copy of the US Constitution available for visitors to sign. They told me they were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and informed me that September 17-23 is US Constitution Week. I didn't know that!

They told me they were relatives of veterans who fought in the Revolutionary War.

I mentioned that several years ago I wrote a script about George Gatty, one of the veterans of the American Revolution, for the All Saints Cemetery walk.

The women told me they are attempting to locate gravesites of veterans of the Revolutionary War, so I told them where George is buried.

After I signed my name on their copy of the Constitution, they handed me a small copy of it, along with an American flag, and a bookmark with the Preamble to the US Constitution on it. There's a not-very-clear photo of the bookmark above.

I remember being required to memorize the Preamble and recite it in front of the class many years ago.

If you can't read the copy, here's what it says:

"WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Do you remember being required to memorize the Preamble and recite it? One thing I do remember is that I was nervous, even though I practiced it several times, and I didn't understand some of the words I recited, like domestic tranquility and posterity.

Do you still remember the Preamble by heart?

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Johnny Boggs and Larry Wood

Several weeks ago, Jane Hale, president of Ozark Writers, Inc., forwarded names of contributors to Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V, who a...