Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Blog and Giveaway with Tamara Linse

Writing a novel is like growing a garden ~ a long haul, but a joyous one.

When I was a kid growing up on a ranch, my mom grew huge gardens. They had to feed not just my large family but other relatives and workers too.  I remember one year we have six rows of potatoes I swear a 100 yards long that wound around along the creek bottom.  That was 1976, the second U.S. centennial year, and we would listen to the radio as we picked potatoes and the same commercial would come on again and again celebrating the date. It became a running joke. At other times, I also loved nothing better than to be working on a tractor in the fields near the garden and then to stop by and pick a tomato and a turnip. I’d eat them while driving down the rows. Tomato juice dripped down my chin, and I’d peel the turnip with my teeth and carve away bite after bite.

Then I grew up.  My husband is a born farmer, and so when we bought a house it wasn’t long before we were planting gardens.  It’s one thing to watch your parents do a garden and another thing entirely to grow one yourself.  Especially since we live at 7,200 feet above sea level.  Our summers are less than three months, and so we have to be creative and use season extenders as much as possible.

It’s funny how every year is different. Some years you’ll get lots of string beans and others you can’t get them to grow to save your life.  We had a really hard time getting carrots to come up for years, and with a straight face my husband’s granddad said, “You planting the seeds upside down?”  Early on, something was getting to our plants. The extension person suggested it was rabbits.  Well, we had a cat and a couple of dogs, and so it wouldn’t have been rabbits, but I believed her, so I made my husband put up a rabbit fence.  Turns out it was cutworms (moth larvae) coming up out of the soil and eating off the bottoms of the stems, making the plants fall over, but ever since then my husband’s given me a bad time about my “tiger fence.” 

You wouldn’t think so, but we do really well with tomatoes.  Well, my husband does ~ that’s his project.  The thing about tomatoes is that they grow 24 hours a day and so they need heat 24 hours a day.  We don’t have that here because it drops too low in the evenings, and so we use walls of water (a handy device of plastic that holds water and absorbs and emits heat) that gives the plants what they need.  We have a pretty good crop every year.

But the thing about a garden is you are rewarded for constant effort.  You can’t just plant and go.  You have to water regularly ~ especially in the Great American Desert where we are ~ or set up a watering timer.  You have to weed regularly or they will get away from you.  To get the best results you have to plant inside early or get large plants from a greenhouse and you have to replant regularly throughout the season to stagger the output.  You really have to be dogged about it.  But, you know, every year I think the garden’s going to be a wash this year, and every year it pulls through and amazes me with its output.  Not that we could live on it by any stretch, but it’s so satisfying.

Writing a novel is the same.  I’ve written ~ and rewritten ~ two novels and I’m in the middle of the first draft of my third, and also I’ve done a short story collection. You go through much of the same convolutions when writing a novel as growing a garden.  You start with such vigor and high hope, but it doesn’t take long before reality sets in and you’re like, “This is real work!”  But you put your head down and go and things start to happen and you get excited.  You have your first moment of real harvest or a scene that really pleases you.  But then also you have those moments where it all sucks.  You’re sure you’re the worst writer/gardener in the world and they should revoke your license.  You also ignore it at times, and then it gets away from you.  In the case of a garden, you get lots of weeds and few produce, and in the case of a novel it becomes this wooden thing and your mind won’t produce either.  You’re infinitely rewarded by constant regular effort.  And if you push on you get this beautiful and wonderful product that you’re very proud of.  And it take multiple “revisions” ~ you can’t just have your first go.  You have to go back and replant ~ i.e., you have to revise and rethink and change course midstream.  If you gave up after the first planting, you wouldn’t get nearly as much or the quality of product. 

Above all else, it’s a dang long slog.  You push and push and hit the depths of despair and want to just give up. And sometimes you do just that, you give up.  But there’s always next year and the next novel and you engage it with high hopes.  And then when you complete a draft, you’re over the moon!  The produce tastes so good and you’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished!

You just have to have faith in the process.  It’ll work out, even when you’re ready to just give up.  Keep after it. It’ll happen!

Deep Down Things
Tamara Linse

Genre:  literary fiction

Publisher: Willow Words
Date of Publication: July 14, 2014

Number of pages: 330
Word Count: 75,000 words

Cover Artist: Tamara Linse

Book Description:

Deep Down Things, Tamara Linse’s debut novel, is the emotionally riveting story of three siblings torn apart by a charismatic bullrider-turned-writer and the love that triumphs despite tragedy.

From the death of her parents at sixteen, Maggie Jordan yearns for lost family, while sister CJ drowns in alcohol and brother Tibs withdraws. When Maggie and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. As she helps him write a novel, she gets pregnant, and they marry. But after Maggie gives birth to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect, while Jackdaw struggles to overcome writer’s block brought on by memories of his abusive father.

Ambitious, but never seeming so, Deep Down Things may remind you of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.

Available at Amazon  BN   Smashwords  Kobo other international ebookstores and through Ingram.

Chapter 1


Jackdaw isn’t going to make it. I can tell by the way the first jump unseats him. The big white bull lands and then tucks and gathers underneath. Jackdaw curls forward and whips the air with his left hand, but his butt slides off-center. Thirty yards away on the metal bleachers, I involuntarily scoot sideways—as if it would do any good. The bull springs out from under Jackdaw and then arches its back, flipping its hind end.
Jackdaw is tossed wide off the bull’s back. In the air he is all red-satin arms and shaggy-chapped legs but then somehow he grabs his black felt hat. He lands squarely on both feet, knees bent to catch his weight. Then he straightens with a grand sweep of his hat. Even from here you can see his smile burst out. There’s something about the way he opens his body to the crowd, like a dog rolling over to show its belly, that makes me feel sorry for him but drawn to him too. With him standing there, holding himself halfway between a relaxed slouch and head-high pride, I can see why my brother Tibs admires him.
I haven’t actually met Jackdaw before, but he and Tibs hang out together a lot, and they have some English classes together. I haven’t run across him on campus.
The crowd on the bleachers goes wild. It doesn’t matter that Jackdaw didn’t stay on the full eight seconds. They holler and wolf-whistle and shake their programs. Their metallic stomping vibrates my body and brings up dust and the smell of old manure.
With Jackdaw off its back, the bull leaps into the air. It gyrates its hips and flips its head, a long ribbon of snot curling off its nostril and arcing over its back. Then it stops and turns and looks at Jackdaw. It hangs its head low. It shifts its weight onto its front hooves, butt in the air, and pauses. The clown with the black face paint and the big white circles around his eyes runs in front of the bull to distract it, but it shakes its head like it’s saying no to dessert.
The crowd hushes.
Then, I can’t believe it, Jackdaw takes a step toward the bull. The crowd yells, but not like a crowd, like a bunch of kids on a playground. Some holler encouragement. Others laugh. Some try to warn him. Some egg him on. My heart beats wild in my chest like when my sister CJ and I watch those slasher movies and Freddy’s coming after the guy and you know because he’s the best friend that he’s going to get killed and you want to warn him. “Bastard deserved it,” CJ always says, “for being stupid.”
It’s like Jackdaw doesn’t know the bull’s right there. He starts walking, not directly to the fence but at a slant toward the loudest of the cheers, which takes him right past the bull.
I turn to Tibs. “What’s he doing?”
“He knows his stuff,” Tibs says, his voice lower than normal. The look on his face makes me want to give him a hug, but we’re not a hugging family, so I nod, even though Tibs isn’t looking at me.
Tibs is leaning forward, his eyes focused on Jackdaw, his elbows on his knees, and his shoulders hunched. Tibs is tall and thin, and he always looks a little fragile, a couple of sticks propped together. His face is our dad’s, big eyes and not much of a chin, sort of like an alien or an overgrown boy. He has the habit of playing with his fingers, which he’s doing now. It’s like he wants to reach out and grab something but he can’t quite bring himself to. It’s the same when he talks—he’ll cover his mouth with his hand like he’s holding back his words.
Tibs is the tallest of us three kids—CJ, he, and I. CJ’s the oldest. I’m the youngest and the shortest. Grandma Rose, Dad’s mom, always said I got left with the leftovers. Growing up, it seemed like CJ and Tibs got things and were told things that I was too young to have or to know. It was good though, too, because when Dad and Mom got killed when I was sixteen, I didn’t know enough to worry much about money or things. They had saved up some so we could get by. But poor CJ. She in particular had to be the parent, but she was used to babysitting us and she was older anyway—twenty-two, I think.
Like that time when we were kids when CJ was babysitting and I got so sick. Turned out to be pneumonia. I don’t know where our parents were. Most likely, they were away on business, but it could have been something else. Grandma Rose had cracked her hip—I remember that—so she couldn’t take care of us, but it was only for a couple of days and CJ was thirteen at the time. In general, CJ had started ignoring us, claiming she was a teenager now and didn’t want to play with babies any more, like kids do, which really got Tibs, though he didn’t do much besides sulk about it. But that day she was playing with us like she was a little kid too.
We had been playing in an irrigation ditch making a dam. I pretended to be a beaver, and Tibs pretended to be an engineer on the Hoover Dam. I don’t remember CJ pretending to be anything, just helping us arrange sticks and slop mud and then flopping in the water to cool down. I started feeling pretty bad. Over the course of the day, I had a cough that got worse and then I got really hot and then really cold and my body ached. My lungs started wheezing when I breathed. I remember thinking someone had punched a hole in me, like a balloon, and all my air was leaking out. CJ felt my head and then felt it again and then grabbed my arm and dragged me to the house, Tibs trailing behind. All I wanted to do was lie down, but she bundled me in a blanket and put me in a wagon, and between them she and Tibs pulled me down the driveway and out onto the highway. We lived twelve miles from town, in the house where I live now. I don’t know why CJ didn’t just call 911. But here we were, rattling down the middle of the highway. A woman in a truck stopped and gave us a ride to the hospital here in Loveland. Can you imagine it? A skinny muddy thirteen-year-old girl in her brown bikini and her skinny nine-year-old brother, taller than her but no bigger around than a stick and wearing red, white, and blue swim trunks, hauling their six-year-old sister through the sliding doors of the emergency room in a little red wagon. What those nurses must’ve thought.
On the bleachers, I glance from Tibs back out to Jackdaw. The bull doesn’t know what’s going on either. It shakes its lowered head and snorts, blowing up dust from the ground. Jackdaw bows his head and slips on his hat. Then the bull decides and launches itself at Jackdaw. Just as the bull charges down on Jackdaw, the white-eyed clown runs between him and the bull and slaps the bull’s nose. Jackdaw turns toward them just as the bull plants its front feet, turns, and charges after the running clown.
Pure foolishness and bravery. My hands are shaking. I want to go down and take Jackdaw’s hand and lead him out of the arena. A thought like a little alarm bell—who’d want to care about somebody who’d walk a nose-length from an angry bull? But something about the awkward hang of his arms and the flip of his chaps and the way his hat sets cockeyed on his head makes me want to be with him.
The clown runs toward a padded barrel in the center of the arena, his white-stockinged calves flipping the split legs of his suspendered oversized jeans. He jumps into the barrel feet-first and ducks his head below the rim. The crowd gasps and murmurs as the charging bull hooks the barrel over onto its side and bats it this way and that for twenty yards. The bull stops and turns and faces the crowd, head high, tail cocked and twitching. He tips his snout up once, twice, and snorts.
While the bull chases the clown, Jackdaw walks to the fence and climbs the boards.
The clown pops his head out of the sideways barrel where he can see the bull from the rear. He pushes himself out and then scrambles crabwise around behind. He turns to face the bull, his hands braced on the barrel. The bull’s anger still bubbling, it turns back toward the clown and charges. As the bull hooks at the barrel and butts it forward, the clown scoots backwards, keeping the barrel between him and the bull, something I’m sure he’s done many times. He keeps scooting as the bull bats at the barrel. But then something happens—the clown trips and falls over backwards. The barrel rolls half over him as he turns sideways and tries to push himself up. The bull stops for a split second, as if to gloat, and then stomps on the clown’s franticly scrambling body and hooks the horns on its tilted head into the clown’s side, flipping the clown over onto his back.
Why do rodeo clowns do it? Put their lives on the line for other people? I don’t understand it.
The pickup men on the horses are there, but a second too late. They charge the bull, their horses shouldering into it. They yell and whip with quirts and kick with stirrupped boots. Tail still cocked, the reluctant bull is hazed away and into the gathering pen at the end of the arena. The metal gate clangs shut behind it.
Head thrown back and arms splayed, the clown isn’t moving. Men jump off the rails and run toward him, and the huge doors at the end of the arena open and an ambulance comes in. It stops beside the clown. The EMTs jump out, pull out a gurney, and then huddle around the prone body. One goes back to the vehicle and brings some equipment. There’s frantic activity, and with the help of the other men, they place him on the gurney and slide him into the ambulance. It pulls out the doors and disappears, and the siren wails and recedes.
Tibs stands up, looks at me, and jerks his head, saying come on, let’s go. I stand and follow him.

About the Author:

Like the characters in Deep Down Things, the author Tamara Linse and her husband have lost babies. They had five miscarriages before their twins were born through the help of a wonderful woman who acted as a gestational carrier. Tamara is also the author of the short story collection How to Be a Man and earned her master’s in English from the University of Wyoming, where she taught writing. Her work appears in the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, and Talking River, among others, and she was a finalist for Arts & Letters and Glimmer Train contests, as well as the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize for a book of short stories. She works as an editor for a foundation and a freelancer. Find her online at and on her blog Writer, Cogitator, Recovering Ranch Girl at

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Anonymous said...

Before contributing to the launch of your pest control business, I researched you to make sure you are legit. Is it true you are a smut writer under the pen name Roxanne Rhoads, AND you are a green activist who is going to be an exterminator with horrible chemicals? You sell cheap jewelry on Etsy, and 99 cent books you call "novels", and you write about yourself like only a professional scam artist would. No, I am not going to contribute to your newest money making scheme. I hope others look into you before being scammed.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to leave some of my research notes so you know I did my homework.

Wenona Napolitano, married to Robert. Pen name Roxanne Rhoads. Launching your business scam on GoFundMe. Pest company is called Insect Assassin Agency. DBA in Genesee County Mi, in your hubby's name. Whois shows you have purchased the Domain.

Your husband is still working for, and scamming his CURRENT employer. So, no, your hubby wasn't fired. He wasn't let go. He was too lazy to work, and now you are ticked off because he got questioned and was put on commission so he could earn his keep. His employer did the right thing. I AM sending my research to his employer, and I hope he can pursue some type of lawsuit for embezzlement or fraud.

I hate when legitimate contributors want to help someone locally, and all the research adds up to another fraudulent attempt to earn a buck.