Saturday, April 28, 2007

Let the Hurricane Roar

As I mentioned a while back, I requested a copy of Rose Wilder Lane's Let the Hurricane Roar from a neighboring library. I wasn't sure what to expect after not being overly thrilled with Rose's story about the Beatons.

Let the Hurricane Roar tells the story of newlyweds Charles and Caroline who leave their home in the Big Woods and settle in a sod house on Plum Creek. Anyone familiar with the history of Laura Ingalls Wilder knows Charles and Caroline were Rose's maternal grandparents. But Rose does not give her main characters a last name, though she did give one to all the other characters.

There is Mr. and Mrs. Svenson who are Charles and Caroline's closest neighbors, and Loftus, to whom Charles owes a large debt after the grasshoppers come and destroy his wheat crop. Mr. and Mrs. Henderson own a store in town and Mrs. Decker is the wife of the saloon keeper. With the exception of the Svenson's, the other characters are mentioned only in brief moments, but they have last names, unlike Charles and Caroline and their son, Charles John who is born in the sod shanty.

Why is important? Maybe it's not, but in Holtz's book The Ghost in the Little House the author mentioned an incident between Rose and her mother that might have been part of the reason for the exclusion. Not that I can find the page right now--if I do, I'll add it here--but during one of Rose's stays at Rocky Ridge Farm, she was explaining her latest story to a group of friends who were also staying on the farm and Laura told her she got it all wrong because she knew it was the story of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Holtz mentions that perhaps Laura felt Rose should not use Ma and Pa as the basis for her story because Laura was writing her own stories where Ma and Pa were important characters and she felt protective of those memories.

By not giving Charles and Caroline a last name in Let the Hurricane Roar, Rose could have been protecting herself and her story, or maybe she even made a deal with her mother to not add the last names so there would be no direct connection. But, we might never know for sure.

Moving on, people who have studied the real lives of the Ingalls family will notice right away that there is a good deal of fiction in this novel. Charles and Caroline Ingalls did not leave the Big Woods by themselves, Mary and Laura were young girls when they left Wisconsin, and their son never made it out of infancy.

We know from Laura's books and other biographies of the Ingalls family that the grasshoppers did come and destroy every green thing on the prairie and that Charles was forced to find work to support his family. But other than that, the events in Let the Hurricane Roar don't seem very similiar to what I've read of the Ingalls family history.

Let the Hurricane Roar was much shorter than Free Land, but that wasn't the main reason I was able to polish it off within three days. This story held my attention from beginning to end. It didn't start off with a young, happy couple who were optimistic about the future and then turn into a tale of despair and hardship against insurmountable odds. Even with all the challenges Charles and Caroline faced, they approached each new page in their lives with a positive outlook. Sometimes it was hard to do-- Caroline and Charles were both lonely when they were apart, Caroline was forced to make tough decisions when Charles was back East working, Charles's return home was delayed by an injury and Caroline and the baby had to survive the winter alone after the Svenson's gave up and returned to Minnesota--but they were determined to make it work.

Let the Hurricane Roar could easily be compared to one of Laura's books--some of the content, the tone, and the song lyrics remind me of the Little House series. There is, of course, one exception to that rule--The First Four Years. This manuscript was not published in Laura's or Rose's lifetime. In this book, Laura tells us about her first four years of marriage to Almanzo, the birth of Rose, the loss of their home to fire, and the death of their son who hadn't even been given a name yet. It was a trying time for Laura and Almanzo and the tone of this book is very different from the other eight books she had written about her life.

Rose had sent this manuscript to Roger Lea McBride, who would eventually become her heir. It was McBride who took the manuscript to Harper & Row after Rose's death. A decision was reached to publish the manuscript as Laura had written it.

Yet, if one were to compare the tone of The First Four Years to Free Land they might see the same smiliarities I do when I compare Let the Hurricane Roar to the rest of Laura's books. But, since Rose did not touch Laura's manuscript of The First Four Years we might think the similarities are coincidence.

Where does that leave us? I'm sure there are more than the two options I am listing here, but these are the ones I will concentrate on. Rose could have taken eight of Laura's manuscripts, performed heavy editing on them--rewriting entire portions--and even coordinated getting the manuscripts to the publisher. She could deserve to be listed as co-author of these eight books because they wouldn't have sold without her. But what about The First Four Years? Rose never touched it and amazingly this manuscript and Rose's own Free Land are similiar in tone and style.

There is also a thought traveling through my mind, however, that perhaps the similiarties between Rose's Let the Hurricane Roar and the first eight books of the Little House series, and those found between Free Land and The First Four Years could be chalked up to something not as controversial. Rose grew up in Laura's house, where her mother shared many of the stories she had heard growing up. Perhaps, Rose's and Laura's writing styles were not so disimilar overall. If I did not see such a clear connection with the way Free Land and The First Four Years are written, then this theory would not hold water. But, I do see that connection, and Rose never touched the final manuscript her mother had written.

So, what's next? Well, Old Town Home is a collection of stories by Rose Wilder Lane. I need to read more of Rose's writing to see how the storyteller in her, interacts with the reader. I have multiple books with Laura Ingalls Wilder collections in them, so it will be interesting to see if my second theory has any merit.

I guess that means more reading for me and more blog posts for you. LOL!


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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My interview with Little House Historian Lennon Parker

Today I have the awesome opportunity of interviewing Little House Historian and Web site Designer, Lennon Parker. Lennon has created a Little House Web site, a Little House fan forum, a blog, and a MySpace to honor the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also have the distinct pleasure of calling Lennon—a good friend. Thanks for letting me interview you for my blog. I’m thrilled you’re here!

Thanks Cheryl, it’s my pleasure!

Q: Where did your love of Little House begin?

My love for Little House began while I was in third grade. I remember my teacher would read us chapters out of the books after lunch recess. I grew fond of the books and started to read them more by myself as the years went on. I was addicted to the Michael Landon series after watching it one afternoon after school. I didn’t know it was Little House at the time, but recognized several characters from the books I had read, and the western time period. I remember thinking to myself is this a Little House TV show? I wasn’t sure because Charles had no beard and the story was nothing like I had read. After the episode ended another one came on and I saw the theme song and thought it was really cool that there was a TV show for Little House. I have been a fan of the show since and love it as much as the books.

Q: Why have you dedicated so much of your time to promoting the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder?

I have always been into history, and one part of history I love is the Wild West. I admire the pioneers of our country and most of all how they lived. After studying Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family, and reading her books, I really find her work amazing. Usually your work is a reflection of you, so I could really just imagine what type of person Laura might have been. But I enjoy promoting her legacy through and other publications I have been involved in to share with fans how much her work has become since writing her books. I also provide on my Web site a separate page about pioneer life. I think it’s important for generations to know about that part of history. I have viewed many K-12 history books and very little is said about pioneer life. My goal is to help fill in those gaps for students like me when I was in third grade so they will have something to learn from.

Q: Have you ever met any of Laura’s relatives?

I have never met any of Laura’s relatives, but have swapped emails and interviewed Beth Ingalls who is one of the finest ladies I have encountered.

Interviewer’s note: Beth Ingalls is the great-granddaughter of Hiram Ingalls.

Q: You give presentations to school-aged children where you dress up in authentic pioneer clothing and read from Laura’s famous books. How would a school get in touch with you to request information on these presentations?

I enjoy doing these presentations because it was something I didn’t get to see as a youngster. All I had was a teacher with big glasses reading Half-pint’s stories to me. So, being a former professional actor and in love with Laura’s work it’s awesome to get to put the love into one and making children happy. I can be contacted at for booking.

Q: You are a former model and actor. Are there any memories you would be willing to share with us from that time in your life? Do your experiences as an actor help you appreciate what it took to make a series such as Little House on the Prairie so successful?

Like I mentioned a second ago, acting is something I loved to do and it was a big part of my life. I was a commercial actor from 1983-1990 and appeared in over 70 commercials around the USA for numerous products. I also did print modeling. I auditioned for several TV roles, but found more work in commercials. A memory I will never forget is my experience with autographs. In Los Angeles I was the cute kid trying to sell cars for this car company, so they would hire me to be cute for their commercials. So, I did and got paid. The small print… I had to do shows! When the car company had a big show, they wanted me to attend for publicity and to sign pictures. I hated the hot sun and hated signing my name over and over again. I always tell people if they have a signed picture from me I would pay them for it! LOL!!!! For many years I hated it because I couldn’t do stuff kids do--for example, playing outside or going to parties or yes, fighting. I couldn’t get dirty or scratched. I remember if I had a big shoot I would have to stand by a fence while my friends played at recess so I wouldn’t get dirty. Usually the bad kids had to stand by the fence. I also would get teased by kids when my teachers would hang my ads up in class or talk about commercials.

I was happy to have had another acting job since leaving the business in 1992, but with a twist. Instead of just me, all that was needed was my voice. I did a voice over job in 2006 for a Laura Ingalls Wilder event in Independence, Kansas. What better way to come back than with something related to Laura! I’m also working on a comedy CD. Release date should be this summer. Hopefully…

As for my experience as an actor, yeah I appreciate what those kids did on the show. It’s hard work, I know! It’s not all play. I think this is why I get along with many of the kids from the show today because I know what it is like. Who knows…

Q: Back to the Future is one of your favorite movies. Did you ever meet Michael J. Fox?

Ha, ha, ha you have done your homework! Yes! I LOVE Back to the Future. It’s a great and exciting story. I never got to meet Mike, but had the opportunity to read with his TV sister Justine Bateman in the mid 80s. Small world… Justine’s brother also appeared as one of the Cooper children on Little House.

Q: What is Prairie Fans? How did the Little House fan forum Prairie Talk come about?

Prairie Fans is a Web site based on the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder featuring information on her books, TV shows, and movies. I originally started working on the site in 1998 after meeting several of the cast in Sonora that year. I had written a book about Little House, and for personal reasons I have merged parts of it into the site. Prairie Talk came about in early 2005. It was originally a yahoo group where fans could interact about the show and books, but I hated the style and limitations you had with yahoo groups so I had a friend open me up a mini forum on his classic TV site. Again, the old saying is true… you get what you pay for. This was another freebee and was full of banners and stuff. The content of these banners just didn’t sit well with me. So, in early 2005 I had my own forum built and hosted with prairie fans and launched Prairie Talk, which was everything I wanted in a forum and is still growing today. From time to time members of the old and new Little House stop in to interact with fans. Prairie Talk can be accessed on or directly at

Q: If people check out Prairie Fans, they’ll see pictures of your Little House collection. What are some of your most treasured pieces of memorabilia?

My favorite pieces… I would have to say my used Melissa Gilbert scripts. I have her Journey in the Spring script and on the front of it Melissa wrote, “Please save.” I guess she didn't do a good job, if I have it. LOL!

Another would have to be my signed t-shirt from Kyle Chavarria that she autographed for my birthday. That was a big surprise and to have a photo of her holding it up and signing it. What a treat!

For autographs… my cast signed picture of the Ingalls family is nice, but the icing on the cake is my personalized photo from Melissa Sue Anderson. It was a treat to get that from her and at the same time help her obtain something she needed.

Q: You’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview many of the stars and crew of all of the shows adapted from Laura’s books (NBC’s Little House on the Prairie, CBS’s Beyond the Prairie, and the ABC/Disney version of Little House on the Prairie). Do you have any favorite interviews? What are some of your fondest memories?

I met most of the cast, like I mentioned earlier, in Sonora back in 98. It was a great event and I always tell people that I had never been in a room with such nice people before. I remember talking to Robyn aka Sidney Greenbush about 30 minutes or so about her pin she was wearing. It was of the Ingalls home. I loved it. She was really cool. I have several favorite interviews! I enjoyed my talk with Kent McCray about the making of Little House a year or so ago and Kevin Hagen was another one of my favorites. We had a great interview, and just months before he passed away did a tribute to Kevin for his work on Little House and film. Fans from all over wrote in what they love about him and his work. Kevin told me he was touched by it all. A lot of people just see Kevin as Doc Baker, and don’t realize he did more. His career was longer than my arm, and I was happy to have been able to do what I did.

Q: You spent a great deal of time promoting the new Little House on the Prairie mini-series. How did you get involved in this project? Do you think there is any hope this cast will be reunited for another Little House project?

I loved the new ABC show and not only was I happy that Little House was back on TV, but some decent family television would be back on TV. I did everything in my power to help keep the show running, but reality kicked in, and not just politics, but reality! People like reality and that’s what we got. Reality shows—reality shows and shows full of vulgarity and insults. People like that stuff now it seems, and it sells, and well the big guy in the suit is happy. I wish we had more family shows, but not in this life. Do I think the cast will be reunited? I seriously doubt it, but you never know. All I recommend is fans write in, and not typed letters but hand written letters. It might not change anything, but it lets networks know you want more than Victoria’s secret.

Q: Let’s talk about Lennon Parker Productions. How long have you been designing Web sites?

Lennon Parker Productions is my Web design company where I create Web sites for clients. My cliental is mostly people in the entertainment industry. However, I have done a few non-entertainment sites.

I have been designing Web sites since 1996. What I did then is totally different from what I am doing now. I always tell people Web sites are like fashion. People don’t dress like they did in the 50s anymore and Web sites don’t look like they did in 1996. It’s hard keeping up with the times because it’s more Web languages you have to learn.

Q: You’ve created Web sites for several well-known actors: Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady, The Brady Bunch), Brian Part (Carl Sanderson Edwards, NBC’s Little House on the Prairie), Kyle Chavarria (Laura Ingalls, ABC/Disney’s Little House on the Prairie mini-series), and Karen Lynn Gorney (Stephanie Mangano, Saturday Night Fever) to name a few. What do you enjoy most about this business? Where can people contact you about designing a Web site for their individual needs?

Gosh, just reading all those names and like you said just a few makes me want to go, good grief! I enjoy designing Web sites as the skinny guy likes to play golf. I now work at a college doing Web services, so it’s nice to say I can go to work doing what started out as a hobby. If people want a Web site they can go to

Q: What are some of your other interests and hobbies outside of Little House?

Gosh we would be here all day… I love working out, reading, hanging out with friends and doing something new! You only live once! Life is too short to be pee-oed I say. Live it, Learn It, Do it!

Q: Is there anything you would like to add? Are there upcoming projects we should know about?

Thanks for asking me to do this interview. What could I add? I would like to thank everyone who reads this interview! Gosh! If you made it this far down I should reward you with a check!

As for any upcoming projects… like I mentioned earlier I am working on a comedy CD. I’m also taking on small acting/voice over jobs as they come in, nothing too big just something small here and there.

But for those who know me… things are always changing and I keep my eyes out for the next project.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. I wish you much success and happiness!

Thanks! You too!!!!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Meet Southern fiction author, Rhett DeVane

Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Southern fiction author, Rhett DeVane. Thanks for joining me Rhett. I’m thrilled to have the chance to learn more about you and your work!

Q: When did you decide to become a writer?
I will borrow my mother’s answer to this: I was born to it. Fortunately, I came from a long line of Southern storytellers. We camped a lot, and I often sat at the feet of my elders around a roaring fire listening intently to their colorful tall tales. My father was the best word-weaver I have ever known; a man with an acute sense of humor and a feel for the absurd. As soon as I could write, I developed little story lines. My mom saved most of these. Honestly, I can’t recall a time I didn’t write.

Q: Can you tell us what qualifies a book as Southern fiction? Are there certain qualities that books of this genre have in common?
Southern fiction is mainstream fiction set in the South. I heard the term for the first time several years ago at a writers’ conference. The main elements that identify a piece in this genre are a strong sense of place and rich Southern characters. I would venture; most Southern fiction is penned either by writers from the area or those who are intimately familiar with it. To the reader, Southern fiction provides a type of feeling, for lack of a better description; strong familial ties, colorful characters, a certain manner of speech, and, of course, comfort food.

Q: Did you choose the genre you write or was it more of a case of the genre choosing you?
At first, I wrote a series of children’s chapter books. I am revising them now. Then, I realized I had overlooked a rich source of material—my heritage. What better setting for novels than my hometown; a town with two stoplights and a state mental institution on the main drag? Plus, I had a dream about Max the Madhatter—a mental patient who is one of the peripheral characters—one night after eating Italian food particularly late (Italian food always makes me have vivid dreams). By the next day, I had a clear plan for a plot line and several characters. I am most comfortable writing what I know, so I am sticking with this genre. It’s fun! I don’t really have to search far for story lines. The South is ripe. I just listen and observe.

Q: You have published two novels (The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate and Up the Devil’s Belly) which follow the lives of the Davis-Lewis family. Can you tell us more about these books? The first novel, The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate, centers on Hattie Davis’ homecoming to her small Southern town and a vicious hate crime that nearly kills one of her dear friends. It is a rich tale of small town humor, tragedy, and the extraordinary twists of fate.

The second novel, Up the Devil’s Belly, returns to the same town, where a well-known citizen holds a dirty little secret; one that will shake the community to its roots. The characters and town must pull together to survive the evil backlash of his actions, as well as the national sorrow following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Excerpts for both novels appear on my website. The books are available with online vendors and may be ordered through any bookstore.

Q: Are there advantages to writing a series? Are there any disadvantages?
The main advantage is intimate knowledge of the characters and setting. These folks are so real to me at this point; I am surprised when I don’t bump into them on the streets of my hometown. Now, I can establish the plot and allow the characters to run the show. I tried sticking to an outline a couple of times, and they took off in directions I had never dreamed.

The disadvantage lies in crafting each book as if it was a stand-alone. A reader must be able to jump into the middle and still be able to follow the story. Working the back story into subsequent books proves a real challenge. I have to provide just enough to bring the new reader in, without telling too much and aggravating the ones who are coming back for more. Also, I must leave just enough hanging in the air at the conclusion to set up the next book.

The first four books are sequential. Then, I branch out to other families and plot lines, yet still set in the same town.

Q: Both your novels are set in the small town of Chattahoochee, Florida where you grew up. How did you weave familiar places and landmarks into your stories?
Easy. I put myself there and wrote it. I have a road map of the town, and I went back and snapped a few pictures to help me with the descriptions. I secured written permission to use the actual names of a few businesses. No problem there; it was good publicity for them. I mixed in fictitious addresses as needed. Hattie’s home place is actually the farmhouse where I grew up.

Q: Do you feel using a familiar setting made the books easier to write or was it harder?
Definitely, this proved easier than coming up with a setting from brain space. I lived there for the first seventeen years of my life, so I have a good feel for the town, as well as a visual memory. Chattahoochee is only forty-five miles from where I live in Tallahassee, so I am able to hop in the car and refresh any details if necessary.

Q: As I read The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate, I kept thinking that Aunt Piddie Longman reminded me of everyone’s favorite aunt. How do you create such realistic and memorable characters?
I just love Aunt Piddie! She is a blend of several senior Southern women. My mother claims she is the model, and a number of Piddie’s characteristics do stem from her.

Piddie seems to ring true to readers. I suppose everyone has someone like her in the family; the keeper of wisdom, the funny woman who doesn’t give a rip what she says, the banker of family lore. I like Aunt Piddie so much; I devoted one novel in the series to her memoirs. She’s a cool old gal with the biggest hair this side of the Mason/Dixon line.

Q: You share some mouth-watering recipes in your books. How did you come up with this unique way to share a little bit of the South with your readers?
Anyone who is familiar with Southern traditions knows that food is the tie that binds. We will use any excuse to sling up a buffet or slap together a casserole: birth, weddings, illness, holidays, birthdays, death. I have had wonderful responses to the recipes, so this is something I plan to continue. The recipes match the theme of the book. The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate features chocolate recipes. Up the Devil’s Belly is dotted with hot and spicy recipes. The next novel in line, Your Mama’s Comfort Food, shall be loaded with time-honored Southern comfort food recipes.

Q: What is your writing process like? Do you have a set schedule? Is there a time of day when you feel more productive than others?
I write when the notion strikes me. When I am actively involved in a novel-length work, I try to spend at least an hour a day. If I can produce two to three pages per session, I will have the book completed in around three months. Then, I let it sit for awhile before starting the revision process. Thus far, I have averaged one novel per year, with short fiction pieces in between.

Mornings are best. Since I work, I generally arrive early at the office and use the half-hour or so before I need to begin with patients. I hate traffic, so this works out in that respect, too. By the time I finish the day, I can barely put two words together. In the evening, editing is easier, as I don’t have to create, just correct.

So many times, I hear others state that one must write every day to be successful. This doesn’t ring true for me. In fact; I disagree. If I try to force the words, I hate what comes out. If I am in the mood, I enjoy the flow.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the mission statement that is found on your website (

I can sum it up in one sentence: I was put here to do more than just take up space.

I want to use my writing to sprinkle light and humor into this tired old world.

Also, I have pledged a portion of my royalties to aid in the fight against breast cancer. I have lost friends to this killer disease, and it would be unthinkable to sit back and do nothing.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

To use the words of my character Piddie Longman:

“When you have a big dream…when something just lights you up…you have to aim for the stars! Otherwise, you might just end up circling Uranus.”

Never, ever give up on your dreams. Don’t let anyone dissuade you! You hold the power.

Finally, and most important; a big old thank you for honoring me by asking me to appear on your blog!

Thanks for sharing your experiences as a writer. I wish you much success in your future endeavors!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Free Land-Final Comments

I enjoyed the last few chapters of Free Land more than any other portion of the book. David and Mary Beaton welcome their second child, David buys a herd of sheep from a widowed woman who is going back east, and the Beatons are visited by David's parents for the first time since they moved west.

The hope for the future--which was missing for most of the book--returns in the final chapters, making me want to keep reading. I'm never sure, if I enjoy a story ending which ties up every loose end or one that leaves the reader thinking of what is in store for the characters after the last words are written. While Rose left the future up in the air for the Beatons, I felt it ended in the appropriate place. James Beaton makes a decision which ideally will help David prosper.

But we don't know what happens with David and Mary after that. Does David lose his flock to disease or does he becoming a successful sheep herder? Are David and Mary able to become wealthy enough to live in the same style they were accustomed to when they lived back east or do they lose everything? Or, do they end up prospering so greatly that they surpass even the wealth they once knew?

The possibilities for what happened to the Beatons are endless...just like all our futures. And it is fascinating to toss these ideas around in my head and think of stories left untold.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Free Land: Almost done

I have less than fifty pages left of Free Land to read. There have been parts that were so interesting I stayed up too late to read them, but most of the book hasn't drawn my interest. Maybe it's because the story is a bit familiar in spots--not unlike Rose's mother's stories. Maybe it could be the lack of optimism in the main characters or how the Beaton's marriage has been adversely affected by trying to make it on their own in a somewhat unsettled territory.

The lengthy descriptions which I enjoyed reading in the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, bore me to death in Free Land. I can't exactly pinpoint why. It certainly doesn't seem to make sense; unless I chalk it up to the fact that Montgomery was describing the beauty of the Canadian countryside, whereas Lane is typically describing the difficulties the Beaton's experience in living and farming under harsh conditions--raging blizzards, scorching heat, droughts.

But still, I must read it to the end so that I can figure out what happens.

I wonder too, if Laura Ingalls Wilder had written her books for an adult market instead of for children--would I enjoy them as much as I do? It truly seems that the one major element missing between Rose's book and her mother's is that undying optimism which the young narrator of Little House books portrays through words and actions.

Last night I ordered Let the Hurricane Roar from a local library. I'm curious to see how Rose portrays this story which is supposedly based upon the life of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. I believe I can get a more complete picture of Rose as a writer if I read as many of her books as I can find.

I love this kind of research!


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Great News for Women of All Ages!

I just received word that The Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act (Johanna's Law) passed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. But the job is not over yet--Congress still needs to appropriate the money to fund this crucial piece of legislation.

Once funded, Johanna's Law will help educate women, their families, and physicians about the risk factors and early symptoms of ovarian cancer. Because there is no reliable test for ovarian cancer, Johanna's Law is vital to helping save women's lives.

Let your U.S. Congressmen know that Johanna's Law must move foward! Tell them you want to see this legislation funded. To find out who represents your district or state go to and

Don't wait! Write or call your Congressmen today!


For more news about Johanna's Law go to

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Monday, April 09, 2007

I Stand Corrected

As I was skimming through The Ghost in the Little House for a passage I knew I had read but couldn't find, I came across this on page 148:

"She (Rose) was trying to develop for Mama Bess a bridge between her parochial writings for the Missouri Ruralist and a national market.

Since 1911, Rose's mother had written regularly for this regional farmers' journal. Her forte had been practical hints for managing the farm home, although in time she became something of a columnist, offering a few prosy thoughts each month on moral and ethical issues."

Well, that means that Holtz did take at least a moment to recognize Wilder's other writings--which I had stated he did not in my earlier posts. I would hate to be misleading, so I felt the need to correct my earlier statements. There are days that the reading blends one page into the other. I think I will need to start making notes of important statements along with their corresponding page numbers if I wish to continue along with this research.


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Free Land and The Long Winter

A strange thing happened to me last night as I sat in the tub reading Free Land. I actually thought for several pages I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter. While the names and some of the events were portrayed differently, and they occurred in Nebraska instead of Dakota Territory, there were many of the same details Laura had spoken of in her novel.

It was freaky to hear of David Beaton and his friends the Peters family--who he lived with during that hard winter--hauling hay from claim shanties, twisting the hay for fuel, hovering around the stove for warmth as the blizzards raged outside, constantly grinding seed wheat in the coffee mill, and even making a lamp made from a rag dipped in axle grease. All of these things happen in The Long Winter within the Ingalls house.

Now, we writers know that ideas are a dime a dozen and that there are no patents on them, but in The Ghost in the Little House, Holtz claimed Laura may have had a problem with Rose using what Mama Bess saw as "her" material. So, I find it odd that Rose would use this part of family history and publish it in 1938, while Laura was working on her own books and The Long Winter was published in 1940.

I can't imagine that readers at the time didn't make some kind of connection between the two--maybe they did. Granted, the Hard Winter is only part of Free Land, whereas Laura's book is entirely focused on that one winter and the hardships the town endured.

One good thing about Rose using this material--I was able to get all the way up to page 171 in Free Land because I liked the story.

Look for more comments about Free Land as I read through to the end.


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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Free Land by Rose Wilder Lane

I snagged a copy of Free Land by Rose Wilder Lane from the Worcester Public Library. I thought it might help me to figure out how I felt about Holtz's claims in The Ghost in the Little House and the amount of Rose's involvement in her mother's books.

If I remember right, there are two versions of this novel--the 1938 copy (which I have) and a later version printed as Young Pioneers after a 1976 movie of the same name. The book tells the story of David Beaton, a young man who leaves his father's farm to set out on his own with his new wife Mary. As I had mentioned in other posts on my blog, Rose's father Almanzo is the inspiration behind this book. The curious thing is that many of the names are the same. David's father is named James, David has two sisters named Alice and Eliza, and a brother named Perley. As far as I can tell, the only names that were changed in this novel are Almanzo's (David) and Royal's (Raleigh). David's mother is simply referred to as mother.

I've made it to Chapter 16, which is found on page 83 of this 332-page novel. I wish I could say it's been easy reading. I guess I had this silly thought it would be so much like the Little House books that I would love it. But, this is an adult novel, not fiction for children, so the difference is clear. Lane does provide a good amount of detail so that you can get a picture of what it was like for David and Mary as they suffer through a blizzard while on the way to their claim shanty. They are forced to seek shelter underneath their sleigh because they cannot find the railroad camp--which unknown to them they passed 11 miles back.

Since I only have until April 20th to complete the reading of this novel, I best get moving on it. That's one of the problems with borrowing a book from the Virtual Catalog--there are no renewals. I'm hoping that there will be a moment where I suddenly find myself so interested in the novel that I can't put it down. It hasn't happened yet, but it took me over 600 pages to get into Stephen King's The Stand, and I still think it's the best book I've ever read.

I'll be checking in here as I progress through the novel, giving you my thoughts as I did with The Ghost in the Little House. Perhaps reading Lane's book will help me make up my mind one way or the other about Rose's connection to the Little House series.

And I will close with one little bit of trivia. According to the IMDB, Blanche Hanalis was a writer for the TV movie Young Pioneers. She is also the one credited with adapting Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books for Landon's Little House on the Prairie.


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