Narrow Escape Through the Stout Trees

The narrow road through the stout trees should have alerted us that the final challenge would narrow down ever further.

Klamath Canon241

Sure enough. It did. Such a narrow passage, we had to fold in our mirrors.Klamath Canon260

If you are planning a trip to the Redwoods, the Northern California or  Southern Oregon coast, you might be interested in more pictures of our road trip three years ago. To read about our Accidental Vacation click any of the links below. What started as a disaster ended up to be one of our favorite trips.

For hundreds of narrow views, click the icon below.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016


How to Juggle Multiple Blogs and Stay Sane

Ooops, mistake, Can’t be done!

But it can, and yesterday I found out why and how.

Yesterday I met with blogger guru, Steve Woods, from Tulare County Office of Education. Steve has been an editor of a site that advised bloggers on how to build successful blogs. We are going to write Because of Blogging together and contacting on some of you for quotes of your opinions and advice, too.

So, why have more than one blog, in the first insane place?

Steve pointed out that this blog, Marsha Lee’s Steaming Thoughts, is like my own personal house. Vince does not live here. It’s all about me. Most people do not see the inside of my house. Well, unless I invite them in. So, the point Steve made is, that if I am going to write a book about non-professional blogs, I’d better keep this blog going. I put my feet on the couch to trim my toenails. I don’t mind if there’s a clean pan left on the stove for a bit. I’ll put it away shortly. My best friends come over and can put up their feet too.

OK, I accept that. This IS my home. It’s not a professional blog, and it represents four years of my life.

My office
My office

In the process of talking, Steve suggested that everyone who blogs probably needs a blog like this one, which is their home. This is where I write everything. Thoughts right out of my head, some not so polished. OK, I’ll correct that. All not so refined! As one spammer put it, “Your blog is rife with errors!”

Ouch! Come on, I proofread like crazy!

Since I live here, I must spend a little time cleaning it up, organizing it, repainting once in a while. I don’t have to clean every day, but Steve convinced me not to give it up. I wanted to write a post about Seder at Elaine’s. I thought I would post it on my new blog.

Seder at Elaine's 2016
Seder at Elaine’s 2016

Steve shook his head no. I talked about flirting with Ralph in Spain while I was awake all night on a long train to Portland, Oregon. He grinned. He only knows me professionally. He said to write it down, but keep it on my home blog. Some things just don’t fit on my new blog.

My new blog, Just Write, is where I work, my office. Right now I’m spending a lot of time over there, building and decorating it. It works like a business, email campaigns, guest blog posts, interview with famous bloggers, authors, and photographers – in other words, my friends from here and others.

May Sunset in Elderwood, CA
May Sunset in Elderwood, CA

Actually, having another blog, and still keeping this one frees me up a little. Yes, I’m going to spend more time there for a while. But I have this place where I can still come home and relax. I’m going to learn a lot because I have to, so that should make maintaining my home a little easier. I’m going to be trolling the reader to visit more like-minded people and inviting them over to my house.

Because of Blogging is not about the professional blogger, but in the process of writing it, I’m learning how to be a professional blogger. Steve suggested that if I am writing about the non-professional blogger, I’d better not let my main blog, the one I love dearly, fall into disrepair.

Sometimes I love being told what to do. It takes the pressure off. So this is what Steve suggested to me.

  1. Treat your blogs like a hobby. Spend money to get the right equipment. You spend $30 for a lunch out with your friend, do not be afraid to buy a premium theme and get WP support. That just saved hours. If you go self-hosted, buy the plugins you need to make it work effectively.
  2. Treat your blogs like a job. Work on them regularly. You do not have to work every day, but you need to develop consistency.
  3. Treat your blogs like your home. Repair them, weed them out, organize them. They represent you.
  4. Make your blogs unique. Do not repost news posts, food pictures, or flower garden posts just to fill up your blog.
  5. Keep notes for a future blog post along with the pictures to go with it in a Google folder. Note also how you felt on that occasion about the activity or the post. Then you can pull it out on a rainy day, and create a new post.
  6. Calm down! Do not blog every day for the wrong reason. Recently, I read this advice from Dries Conje from Smart Blogging,

“But posting daily just doesn’t work for you. You don’t meet your traffic and income goals, you don’t get a flood of visitors, and your subscriber numbers stagnate. Now you’re doubting your ability to be a successful blogger, and you feel like a sweatshop worker, working super-hard with no real reward. The post-every-day strategy takes all the fun out of blogging. Deep down, you suspect this strategy is downright dangerous.”

If you do those six things, you blogging life will get more manageable. You will see other bloggers in their homes. You will build meaningful relationships, and you won’t wear out. Does that sound sane? Do you have some advice for us? Beware, we may contact you and ask for permission to use it in Because of Blogging.

Meanwhile, if you’d like my free book, So You Think You Can Blog?, click on Manny, and I’ll send it.

Ralph taught me everything I know about Blogging. He even took this picture.
“Ralph taught me everything I know about Blogging. He even took this picture.”


Website Moving and Expanding

March marked the beginning of my fourth year of blogging. This site has brought me many friends, fun and opportunities. It’s like the cartoon says.


I love my computerMore than that I love my blog because my friends live in it. Not only do my friends live at, but my memories are here too. I remember all the times that my friends stuck with me when I got stuck in their spam folders.  I panicked because for weeks I could not solve the problem, so I wrote about it, and eventually it worked out.

I'm going in again!
I’m going in again!

Another time I completely lost my site. Blinded I wrote to WordPress and told them I was not a spam site. I was not even selling anything. I did not use bad language, or show naked or violent pictures. A picture of Manny, my teddy, taking a bubble bath is the highest level of adult content as this site ever reached.

I love this site, and it will continue for a year because I just paid for the domain name and service with WordPress. This is the site on which I cut my teeth experimenting with blogging, and making friends around the world.

However, most of my personal efforts are going into developing a self-hosted site called Marsha Just My experiment needs to step up a notch because I have turned many of my blogging posts from this site into a book, called Because of Blogging, which I hope will come out in June. Last week I published an e-book, So You Think You Can Blog? which I am using to jumpstart  my email list for a regular newsletter. I’d love to have you sign up for it. A few of your comments are featured in it.

Besides being able to promote books and other materials I plan to publish, the other reason I signed up for a self-hosted site is to take experimenting to an all new level. I may have a new, very exciting job building a blogging community of over 100,000 teachers, depending on whether or not a colleague of mine gets a grant approved. I’ll keep you informed when I know more. Because of that, I need experience growing a professional blog. As usual I’m experimenting with my blog, and I hope you will join me on it. If I can pull in all of my sites – except Manny’s site, it will make it easier for me to manage everything.

In addition I accepted the challenge of building a new website for San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies. I’m moving the old site off and the new site into its location with a launch date of May 12th, what would have been my mom’s 90th birthday.

I hope you all will move with me. You will automatically receive the posts on WP reader, but to continue getting email notifications, you will have to sign up for emails on that site. Thank you all so much for your support. Hope to see you on the other site!  :)


So You’re Starting a Blog, What Comes Next, the Post or the Page?

I’m writing a book about blogging, so this is the start of Chapter 10. The idea behind it is that you, the reader, have a blog account, and you’re in the dashboard for the first time – NOW WHAT?

Clothes in HI002

I activated my WordPress blog account, and stared at my a dashboard, which takes me where no one but WordPress genies are allowed to go. The blog itself is a blank page except for the name I gave it and a couple of tabs, About Me and Home. Home is there the posts go. It changes every time you post something new. Pages are different. You write them just like you do a post, but they stay put.

First, I played around with themes and colors, trying to figure out what fit me best. I changed tons of time, and I’m still not sure I have the right theme, but at this point it is what it is. I clicked on all the links on the sidebar of my dashboard and filled in the blanks as best I could, including creating a gravitar profile. Making all those little decisions made me think and further define myself and my goal for blogging.

2015 BV March149
The sky’s the limit.

Since I started a random blog, and experiment, I started out journaling what I was doing when I did something I thought was fun or interesting, and posted my way into the blogging world before I did anything else. Of course, no one was listening and watching, so it didn’t matter what I did first, second or in whatever order I wanted to do it.

I waited until I got the hang of posting for a while before I started in on my About Me Page. For one thing, I had to decide who I wanted to be to the rest of the world. I think I rewrote my about page three or four times, but again, no one was really looking, so it didn’t matter. If you are famous, you will not be doing this yourself, so you do not need this advice. If you are like me, it’s amazing how much thinking it takes to decide what to and what not to say about yourself.

A lot of people like lists, random, usually. I like lists, but I can’t think of enough cute and interesting random facts about myself. I struggle with my about page. Over the years it’s accumulated nearly 100 likes. That works out to about 25 likes a year.

Here are links to just a few of the well liked About pages belonging to people who I like.

Sally Pace BD941
Sorry for the nudity, but you can’t get too much newer than a baby doll!🙂

After reading a post I read on Twitter about the necessity of having another page called “New Here.” Here is the post I wrote when I created that page. I have about 11 likes on that page – definitely not worth the time and thought that went into it, if you measure success by the number of people who interact with your page. There are other reasons to develop pages, though. One of which is to keep track of things for yourself, like, did I read that book, or not?

And the chapter continues with one of my blog posts, Good Morning World about a page you’ve probably never seen called New Here. This is not an advertisement for the best page you’ve ever read, for sure, but you might be curious to know what an unpopular page looks like.🙂

Be part of my new book about blogging, and leave me some responses, please. What pages do you have on your blog, and how are they doing? Why do you have them? Are they worth the time? And finally, can I quote you on that?

Blog Management Solutions

HELP!  I want to blog, but I’m out of time! My life is a roller coaster!  What can I do? There is hope, and I’ll share not ten, but eleven ideas that have helped me.

SFW Santa Monica155r

Passionate bloggers have something to say to the world. The world, or at least a very small fraction of it, wants to connect and interact, increasing the desire and commitment to blog. Experts convinced me that I needed to write daily, or at least consistently, to attract my fair share of people to my blog. V calls that market share. SO TRUE!!!

When I started blogging, I drove myself to do publish daily, and life became a balancing act, not to mention some of my posts were kind of cruddy, Yeah, I own up to it! Not to mention the bags under my eyes were becoming scary.

Even so, I am passionate about blogging because it has changed my life, but what do I do when the rest of my life dictates that I spend my time in other ways? Just like I did when I worked full-time, I struggle to maintain a balance between blogging and the rest of life. AND SO DO YOU! There just are not enough hours.  So here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years.

  1. Shop for the best and fastest internet service. Poor Internet service can discourage your blogging quicker than any other obstacle. I’m happy to report that ours has improved over the years.
  2. Prioritize, unless blogging is your job, not just your passion, it sometimes has to take second or third place.
  3. Write shorter posts. Write about what you are doing.
  4. Publish your to-do list so people will feel sympathy. That’s the ugly side of my personality. I crave praise, and blogging changed my life because a small group of people continued to support me in that need.
  5. Blog (reading and writing both) as a reward to yourself after you complete tasks.
  6. If you can’t read all the blogs to which you subscribe, visit those who have troubled to comment on your blog.
  7. Scroll the reader, scan articles, and at least press like on blogs you enjoyed.
  8. Blogging is you. Write when you can, and do not beat yourself up when your life interferes.
  9. Write several posts when you have time, and schedule them spacing them several days apart.
  10. Keep a to-do list handy so you can cross off what you accomplished and celebrate.
  11. Make draft posts of your ideas, instead of writing your ideas on a scrap of paper. Then you’re ready to go when you start writing again.

How are you keeping up with blogging and life?


Because of Blogging


I switched to a MacBook Pro from an old Toshiba laptop in preparation for my retirement from teaching and administration. I have been trying to clean my A S D and E keys because I thought they collected lint in the center, just like my Toshiba. I tried to pick the lint out with a pin. It frustrated me that they did not get any clearer. I must be dense. During the day the keys look about like my Toshiba keys. They are just keys. At night I turn on a light to type so I don’t burn my eyes out, so I have not noticed much difference. Tonight I got up in the middle of the night and stared down at the computer like I always do before I turn on the desk lamp. For some reason something hit me. I turned the lamp back out. The keys on my computer are blurry because the blue apple light that lights up the keyboard is shining through them. They are worn out. Blogging is addictive.


Images of America Woodlake Sales

I’m not a famous blogger or writer, except in Woodlake, the tiny town in Central California where I live. My fame is new – since August 2015 when my Arcadia Publishing book came out, Images of America Woodlake. Even now I can stand right next to the book or this lovely poster made by my Kiwanis friend, Lauri Polly, and talk to someone in a business office, and they don’t recognize me. For example I walked into the grocery the other day and offered to autograph the books they had for sale in the window.

“You’re the author?”

The young man’s voice behind the manager’s window sounded skeptical . He looked like he was about 20. Age has nothing to do with this, but I could smile instead of being insulted. What twenty year-old male thinks that a sixty-four year old woman can do much of anything except bake cookies?

“You WROTE this book?” Maybe I don’t know the meaning of the word author.

“Are you FROM Woodlake?”

Woodlakers are surprised they don’t know me. They grew up here. I just moved here fifteen years ago, and taught fourth grade here twenty years ago. They thought they noticed everything important about Woodlake, and they had never noticed me before, so maybe I was mistaken about living in Woodlake for fifteen years.

I started out talking about blogging, not about my fame in Woodlake. I talk about blogging frequently. I’m like the blogging evangelist to the stranger on the street, “Can I share with you the Four Steps to Happy Blogging?” I speak at the high school on career days. I spoke to Kiwanis once. I speak whenever anyone asks me to speak.  

They respond, “I really should start blogging. I just…” Fill in the blanks.

I really need a published book about blogging to establish myself as an expert. I AM an expert on some aspects of blogging. I KNOW what it has done for me. Since blogging brought me such fame and fortune, that should motivate others like you to start blogging, right? It is OK with me if you do not blog. Just like cooking, it is not for everyone.

My husband shakes his head. “You spend all this time on blogging, and what do you have to show for it?”

MacBook Pro1t
He means money, income.  We argue. I’m retired. I don’t feel that it’s my responsibility to EARN more money. MY value isn’t defined by my income producing ability. Money is wonderful, and I can definitely earn some through blogging. I defend blogging . “Because of blogging, I…” I fill in the blanks in my mind with hundreds of benefits. That’s when I decided to write another nonfiction book, because blogging has changed me.

Because of Blogging Cover

Because of Blogging is not another How To Blog or You Should Blog If You are a… kind of book. Rather I want to share my journey of blogging with you. I will include some of my old posts, updated to make them relevant and some of your comments because you are part of my journey. If you prefer that I don’t use your name, I’m glad to preserve your anonymity. Sure I will share blogging tips and obstacles you can avoid because I have experienced a bunch of them. But I hope this book will go beyond the how to the because.

Thanks again for being part of my journey. Watch for my book in the next month or so. Let me set a date so I’m committed, April 1st. Look for my book by April 1, 2016. Don’t let me fool you! I want to do this!

Because of Blogging calendar

Now I’ve got to go get started because my OTHER next book after that is a third grade reader or coloring book about Woodlake, I can’t decide yet which.

Deleted? Oh NO!

I spent all morning learning about landing pages, a very frustrating experience to say the least. It was so frustrating it was hilarious. So I blogged about it. Then guess what I did?

Unbounce Landing Page

I don’t know. Honestly I don’t!  After getting up at 4:30 this morning, going to exercise at 8:00 and returning to spend over two hours writing a post and trying to learn how to create a landing page, I was so frustrated that I clicked save on my completed post and went in to shower. I had planned to pass out Woodlake magazines this morning, and my morning flitted by on a landing page. The picture below is what mine looked like after about two hours. Actually it still looks like that.

Unbounce screen shot

After I showered and tried to call to get a key to the new Woodlake Chamber office where the magazines are, I realized that no one is there to give me a key. It’s President’s Day.  I’m not ready for another holiday!

The Perfect Landing Page

So I went back to my post, which I had closed out after I saved it. IT WAS GONE! Two hours of back slapping humor, lying in a puddle of e-tears on nobody’s server. How could that be? I know I saved it. Now it’s not even funny.


So how are you spending your President’s Day holiday?

President's Day

Happy President’s Day!

Why NaNoWriMo – Deadline Or No Deadline?

I don’t know about other writers like you, but I find NaNoWriMo grueling.  I’ve had a birthday, and today is V’s birthday and his son has come to visit.


Other minor interruptions-Thanksgiving, a cold, pink eye, a five-day 5,000 mile trip to DE, and  a trip to AZ planned starting the 30th have ground me into pulp trying to finish writing 50,000 cogent words by Nov. 30th. My breakout novel is destined to be pulp fiction reflecting the state of my brain.



I wanted to keep up with a commentary on my blog with how things were going and what I was learning as I wrote. But guess what? I can’t sit that long. I’ve run out of procrastination hours. I need to write 5,000 words a day to meet my deadline. I can barely snap my fingers on my mouse hand. I’ve gained another three pounds on top of the ten I already had going into the month. My normal sleeping pattern, which is asymmetrical at best, disintegrated in the wake of the NaNoWriMo deadline.

All deadlines fossilize me. The whisper directly into my endocrine system. “You have to get up to go to Kiwanis, Marsha.”

Result  – I blog all night and oversleep on Tuesday morning.

learning, writing, blogging, reading, pets, dog

“You must go to the store today.”

Result – I dither around the house trying to plan my itinerary, deciding which stops to make when I go into Visalia until it’s time for dinner. Then I call Vince to bring home some take-out from Subway.

In the case of NaNoWriMo my back, shoulders and butt tell me to walk away from the computer, take a long, hot bath – or until I have a hot flash –  and head to bed by 8:00 pm This forces Puppy to move off my pillow to the center of the bed. At 10:00 pm my sore body parts scream at Vince to give me a massage. Puppy gives me a respite if he puts enough smelly stuff on me. As soon as he finishes,  she crowds all ten pound between us and pushes with all her might against my back forcing both of us to sleep on the edge of the king-size bed. Then my brain, or Puppy Girl’s pressure against my kidneys, wakes me up at 1:30 am and threatens to kill itself if I don’t go back into the office and sit down at the computer and start writing again.


Vince asked my why I had to do this. After all, I’m retired and still young. (though I’m not feeling it today – pink eye in both eyes) I have a whole lifetime to finish, right? Right? Of course he’s right, he usually is – annoyingly so, but then so am I, so why do NaNoWriMo?

Deadlines motivate me. When I wrote Images of America Woodlake, I started from scratch collecting pictures and information about Woodlake. I worked eight or more hours a day to finish by the six month deadline. About half-way through the writing process the publisher wrote me an email, “You’re doing a great job. We’ll give you an extra five books free if you finish in five months.” I ramped up production to get those five extra books – about a hundred-dollar value – so I had more to give away before I had to buy any to give away to all my contributors.

My amateur diagnosis – there is definitely something wrong with my brain. I guess it’s the reporter-brain training I had as a kid that is just now kicking in.


Motivations like due dates didn’t work on me when I was a kid taking journalism and working on the school paper. Nothing motivated me to finish something that other people besides a teacher would read.  Going public with my thoughts, narrow as they were, petrified me. I feigned illness if the deadline came, and I wasn’t ready – an unpleasant characteristic flaw of mine. No worries If you’ve known me for more than a couple of minutes, then you already knew there were holes in my perfect persona.

After I missed my first real assignment on the high school paper, covering the first football game of the school year by moving to another state 2,400 miles away, I made sure I stuck to more important beats. In my new school I covered the library. I thought nothing exciting happened in the library because I only talked to the librarian, stupid kid. How dumb was that? I just needed to look between the shelves, but that’s another story. The interview and fear exposing myself during the publication process terrified me for six years, and deadlines did not motivate me to do more than get sick.


Deadlines and contact with real humans who need me to accomplish something by a specific date still make me sick, but without them my life would be chaos. Dishes would pile up, beds would be unmade. No one would have clean laundry. I might leave the house, and might not. I would spend the day in bed reading one good book after another until my eyes withered into the back of my head. I would eat until I ran out of ice cream, potato chips and protein bars. Oh wait, I’ve just painted a picture of my life now when I do have a deadline.


The best thing about having a deadline is that it puts an end to something you are driven to do. They validate saying, “It will never be perfect, Marsha. You can stop now. You made it. You got the sticker for your blog. Now go clean your house and fix a nutritious dinner.”

And I do.

What works for you? Deadlines? No Deadlines? Tell me YOUR stories.🙂



Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.

Did Kids Really Have Problems Growing Up in the 1970s?

Thank you for responding to my NaNoWriMo title poll. Forty-three percent of you had another idea for a title. yeah!!! Debbie Simorte, a friend and fantastic editor you can find on FB, suggested that since the book is about Jenny more than Wynn (the found puppy), maybe she should be in the title as well. Mama Cormier suggested that the Wynn title and the synopsis makes the story sound too much like Because of Winn-Dixie, another girl rescues and loves doggie book. I checked out on Kindle. Chris from The Story Reading Ape suggested Wynn or Wynn Woods for a title.

Because of YOU the new titles I am considering as of today are Winning Jenny’s Smile or Wynn wins Jenny’s Smile, and maybe  Make Jenny Smile, Wynn.

You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?
You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?

Thank you for participating. Your thoughts help me think about the real purpose and goals of the book. Unfortunately they change as I go along. I’m working on a clearer outline tonight and tomorrow. I used to always write an outline when I wrote, and when I sit down to write a novel, I do just that. Sit down and start writing. What am I thinking????

When I revived my twenty-five-year old novel, I started with a series of great stories that I rewrote to take out the boring, and to go deeper.  I learned that all breakout novels have major personal problems and major national problems. I’m struggling to weave them into the descriptions of funny things that happen along the way, which are not as important as the major stakes, but take up more of my thoughts.

Writing the synopsis helped me solidify my boggy plot, but now I need to go back and make sure that the story moves right along and reconsider which stories help move it and how. I’m asking myself, “Are my problems contributing to the plot or just funny or interesting? What will happen if I don’t solve them?”

As it did during the last NaNoWriMo, my brain gets in the way of my writing.🙂

If you didn’t get a chance to respond to the poll about your life and opinions in the 1970s here it is again.

Thanks again for all your comments.


Help Me Choose a Title for My NaNoWriMo 2015 Novel

Marsha & Kalev
This is me, not ten-year old Jenny, but I love dogs, especially rescued ones. None of Kalev’s toys provide incentive for trying on a new raincoat and hat.

Ten year-old Jenny Hatfield resents her dad for moving her family to the Southern end of the Willamette Valley to take a new job. She hasn’t lived in Pine Forest, Oregon three days before she detests it. Her friends and family live in Portland, Oregon. The kids in the rural logging town are mean. The dreary November weather overshadows her sunny spirit.

Ongoing family problems crescendo after the move. The love she craves the most, from her father, continues to elude her. Born with a double cleft lip, (yeah, that part is me – only.1% of the U.S. population would know what it’s like.) Jenny confirms her unspoken sense that her father’s disappointment in her imperfection drives his constant criticism of her. After spending her life trying to win his approval, she runs out of ideas.

Riding her bike home from school on windy Millwood Drive, Jenny saves an Airedale/Poodle puppy from certain death. She hopes her life in Pine Forest will take a turn for the better. Her neighbor, son of a logger, Todd Paul, happens along to help her. He seems like a promising friend until the class debate begins and Sandy Lassiter moves into their trailer park.

Always fighting for what seems right, Jenny finds herself scrambling to find someone in her class who wants to join her team in the class debate. When choosing sides, she never considered that anyone in the enlightened era of the 1970s would choose not to protect the environment. In the rural logging town of Pine Forest livelihoods hung in the balance over the national debate between protecting the endangered white spotted owl and the local economics of the logging industry. Emotions sparked flames she had not anticipated.


Not you , Kalev.
Not you , Kalev.

She finds love and acceptance where it is, and stops struggling to produce it where it is not.

So now the title problem remains. Catchy titles help sell books. Will the title A New Home For Wynn work? I brainstormed another, but what you think?

You can always reach me at, or like me on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m always listening for good vignettes and ideas to use in my  books. Write me your stories.🙂

Where Were You in 1976? Whatever Were You Thinking?

I’m only one inconsequential person who lived through the 70s. Many of you were there, too going through some of the major events of the decade with me with the same or different experiences.

oregon trip 201320130914_1106231R

My new book, A New Home for Wynn,or at least that’s what it is now, is shaping up. My ten-year old heroine starts out on all the wrong feet at her new school in the southern Willamette Valley in a fictitious town named Pine Forest, OR just before the 1976 election.

oregon trip 201320130915_0044168R
This picture is located at the mouth of the Klamath River, where they wrestle still with a salmon issue battling it out water rights with the Central Valley of CA, where I live.

I chose this location because twenty-five years ago I wrote my first boring novel about this little girl (me, of course). I had recently moved from Cottage Grove, OR, so my heart still lived there even though I had moved on. On November 1st I resurrected the book that I wrote during summer vacation of one of my first years of teaching. At the time I wrote this I taught fourth grade. Elementary teachers teach writing like we know what we are talking about. The text-book tells us what to say and do,  and I taught writing to kids. As I judged kids essays and graded their journals, I sometimes (not often) wondered if I was legitimately qualified to do so. I wondered if I could stand the scrutiny of publication. Proudly I finished the book, and put it away. Overwhelmed by the edits I knew needed to follow, I decided not to push for publication, but I cherished the experience, and the work itself.

Twenty-five years later it's on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton! :)
Twenty-five years later it’s on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton!🙂

I went on about life, but the book remained clipped to my wooden clipboard, its original floppy disks long gone. When NaNoWriMo came up this year, I decided to participate, in spite of the fact I am traveling twice during the month and will be out of commission along the way. I needed something I thought I could rewrite quickly.


And right, because I had the germ for my story, but not the details that will make the book a breakout novel. Yesterday I figured out how to interject the important issue that was part of my book from its inception, but was overshadowed by the girl’s (my) problems with her (my) father — and husband and any other male that  who happened across my path that and rubbed me the wrong way.

Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris' pew in Philadelphia.
Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris’ pew in Philadelphia.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate men! I had the most wonderful grandfather in the world, who looked something like my mother’s cousin Hal, pictured above. He adored me.  So he’s in there, too, you just wouldn’t recognize him as a grandfather because he’s 11 ish. I think Hal adores me too, but he just met me four years ago, but that’s another story I can tell you more about after I see him for the third time in my life tomorrow morning at 9:00 am PA time.

But here’s what’s missing – YOU!  I need opinions from all over the United States and beyond about what you were doing in the 1970s and what you thought about the Endangered Species Act of 1973. My heroine and her grandfather-type friend are assigned reports, debates and all kinds of assignments to involve them in the white spotted owl issues in Oregon at that time. By the way, those issues were not resolved at the time, but they were quite heated.

Palmer's white spotted owl
David A. Palmer, Easton

People all over the country at that time became involved citizens protecting the earth from industrious invaders. What were your experiences?

Click the express yourself link below and share your thoughts with me.  When the book comes out, (and it will – I guarantee it –  my word is my bond) if I use your name or quote you in any way I will send you a free copy as a thank you gift, unless you’d rather have a check for $1,000. You know I’m kidding don’t you? About the check, I mean. I’m hoping it will cost me thousands just mailing copies of the book because so many of you respond!  :)

Click here to express yourself. 

If you have longer stories, you can reach me at

Also like me on WP, FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I rarely check the others, but I do check those.

Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?

Mapping Back to

Good morning everyone. This is your troubled WP friend, Marsha Lee, streaming thoughts, good and bad for everyone to see.

Streaming or screaming, Marsha? I can't tell.
Streaming or screaming, Marsha? I can’t tell.


I received an answer to my cry for help from the Jonathan S the Happiness Engineer from WP. It looks like with one simple click I am back in business on this site – now that I started a new one. I guess I am happy now.

Honey are we having fun?
Honey are we having fun?

I’ll keep this one going as my fun, social site, so I don’t lose my friends. Thank you Ute, Dianne Gray and Naomi for writing to me on my new site. You made my day!

What are your favorite social activities?
What are your favorite social activities?

The new site,, will be my professional writing site.

How to write and read millions of books in 10 minutes a day.
How to write and read hundreds millions of books in 10 minutes a day. is my site for local history.

Photo courtesy of Ellie Cain
Photo courtesy of Ellie Cain

How many websites have you started either accidentally or on purpose?  Have a great week!

Kind regards,

Marsha Lee🙂

Lost in Cyberspace v. Private domain

Where am I?

I seem to have lost my domain name, My account says it is there, but the webpage is not available. So I switched the site back to until I can find myself out there somewhere.

Thank you all for your concern about my web presence. You are BFFs.🙂

Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds challenges me unless I have a 9 grid overlaying the photo or viewfinder.  Since I’ve never seen a viewfinder like that, I confess that these shots became rule of thirds after the camera lens had long since left the scene.

A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand.
A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand. You wouldn’t want this bird in your hand at any price.

These shots look a little cloudy because dense fog covered the Woodlake Valley floor the day I took them.  I should have had my portrait done out-of-doors that day. This woodpecker may have had trouble finding his worm.  I prefer that he pecks at the ground instead of burying his acorns in my roof or pecking my siding.

Cross-Eyed Kitty hasn't lost the instince of hunting.
Cross-Eyed Kitty hasn’t lost the instinct of hunting.

Out to help me keep my yard bird-free, Cross-Eyed Kitty looks like a fierce hunter.  In reality, this beautiful old feral cat heard me, and came running so I could take him over to my house to eat from Mama and Scardy’s bowl.

Cross-Eyed Kitty poses.
Cross-Eyed Kitty poses.

We know he’s at least fourteen years old, but he may be a lot older. He looks great, but pick him up, and he’s all hair and bones.  He has the most beautiful blue eyes.

Rule of Thirds8

Cross-Eyed Kitty never acted feral.  As soon as he comes near, he rolls over for a rub.  I did not edit this photo as CEK took up exactly two-thirds of the picture if you don’t count his tail, which blends into the ground anyway.

peach blossom
peach blossom

Back home again after rescuing CEK from a hard hunting trip, I walked around the yard admiring the new blooms on the peach trees.  Woodlake Valley boasts hundreds, no thousands, of peach trees which grow in large orchards with military-perfect straight lines. Pink and white blossoms make this valley fit for a  spring festival. My husband’s sinuses do not agree.

Everything's peachy keen with TC History Gal.
Everything’s peachy keen with TC History Gal.

For more Rule of Thirds pictures click the WP icon.


Is Social Media the New Reader, Or Is It Just Laziness?

Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging and love my blogging friends. But I’m frustrated. When I’m busy, I spend my time on quickie social media and not my blog. I take a quick picture when I’m walking or driving, post it on Instagram, and maybe write a caption – BAM gone to all my social media accounts including WP. I don’t bother with my brand, floating like a misshapen cloud above the mountains, or edit, edit and re-edit only to find another error after I’ve posted!

Lazy blogging?
Lazy blogging?

Done.  It takes two hours for me – at a minimum –  to create a blog post – this small – that’s hard! (Granted I’m slow!)

I wish WP had a better way to share blogs, and here’s why.

Cat LoveIn Facebook I browse through the comments, pictures and memes sharing likes or a quick comment.  My wall is as cluttered as my work table, but I love it. If I want to find what you posted yesterday so I can copy it to my blog, I type your name in the search box, and bingo – your wall appears. I scroll through your stuff, take what I want, get to know you a little better, and I’m out.  I’ve joined some groups, become friends with some, and those comments show on my home page. I don’t have to click to find them. For those of us with slow internet, every click means wait, wait, wait.

Max Brooks will speak at the CCSS Conference on March 6th.
Max Brooks will speak at the CCSS Conference on March 6th.

Twitter is Facebook on speed. I meet colleagues, new contacts, and post news. It’s not impolite to follow others first. Many people follow me that I don’t know. I check them out briefly, and speed read through news. I don’t engage much more than a star unless its Rosy, Al or Ann, my blogging friends, or I’m working my California Council for the Social Studies accounts.

Author of Historical Thinking who changed the way we think about teaching history.
Author of Historical Thinking who changed the way we think about teaching history. He’s speaking at the CCSS Conference on March 6th, too.

On LinkedIn people have common professional interests. I like to endorse people I know, just to let them know I still think about them even when I don’t see them. I also post news. Like FB, it doesn’t take much time to browse. If I see something I want to read, I stop and read it.

I share what's in my inner storage shed.
I share what’s in my inner storage shed, but Photoshop out some details.

Blogging, however, is where I get to know people well. We are friends even when we’ve never met. But commenting on blogs is more difficult because I have to click on each blog, and sometimes they don’t load or take my comment. If it takes too long I don’t get it done.

Everyone looks better at the beach!  :)
More time to lay around.

So it is laziness, or do we need all types of social media? So please join me on FB if you consider me a friend @ TC History Gal Productions, or one of the other social media.

Winter in Woodlake Valley

The scenes as I walked along Millwood Drive took my breath away. Maybe if I stayed in shape… Eventually my husband  picked me up and we enjoyed the warm photoshoot together.

original picture

While our eastern friends bury under mountains of snow, in Woodlake Valley we welcome a few inches of water on the valley floor and many feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It rained this weekend, and in December, so while we get the most wonderful winter weather in the world, we wish for more precipitation so our wells won’t run dry. I took these pictures December 27th a day after it rained.  One rain yields instant green fields.

cropped picture in perfect obedience to the Rule of Thirds


The mountains glowed with the snow. Don’t you love snow from a distance? I experimented with composition, and used the trees to frame the picture, but couldn’t get a Rule of Thirds picture that I liked. I cropped it in Photoshop, and I’m still not sure which way I prefer so I’ll let you decide.

Old barn1

I love this old barn. However, beautiful winter weather doesn’t insure eternal life even for barns. I wish I knew an interesting story about it. Maybe someone who reads this post will have some insight that I don’t. Or maybe someone will make up a good story. As we came back from taking the shots of the netted trees which was my goal for the day,  my husband said, “I know the perfect place to take a picture.” We got to the barn, and he said “This is it.” What I had missed being so focused on using my zoom lens was that there was a path with no fence, and I could have walked up to the barn. How did I miss it? I’m so zoned in that I miss the obvious.

fruit tree in a bag2

As the road curves following the sandy bed of Cottonwood Creek, rows and rows of netted trees appear on the east. Slowly the daylight ghouls creep up on a lone kid-tree trapped in the center of the row as he tried to run away. They raise their arms and close in for the big take-down. He should have stayed in line.

in line

Netting provides protection for stone fruit trees from birds. The nets also prevent frost and insect damage. I don’t know how any fruit tree lives without its net. However, trees in most fields don’t have nets.

fruit tree in a bag

I shot this little tree with its see through gown, and thought it looked sexy. Vince disagreed and he thought eerie described it better.

cement buildingFrom a distance smoke seemed to pour out of the top of this building. On closer inspection with a zoom lens, the building grew a tree. Probably if I had climbed over the barbed wire and snuck up behind the structure, the tree would have pretended that it was no where close to that building all along. I staged this picture with these photogenic pieces of dead wood that had nothing more to do than lie there and look pretty.

I wonder if this is the building Bob Hengst built with friends to launch their rockets.


I’ll let you know.