Tuesday, December 23, 2014

... and three more Cabin Creek Mysteries are up!

Hello reading friends!  Three more Cabin Creek Mysteries with new illustrations are available on Amazon, in paperback and Kindle.  I hope you enjoy Cody Rutty's drawings as much as I do:

Look for Longhand: One Writer's Journey, to be published Spring 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good news for Cabin Creek readers

Yesterday I was happy to answer this mother's email, about the Cabin Creek Mysteries, with a bit of good news:
Hi Kristiana:  I have a 10 year old daughter who just started reading your Cabin Creek Mysteries.  She asked Santa for the whole series because she absolutely loves your books. I could only find the first 2. I've been told that the others are out of publishing or printing.  Is there a way that I can make this girls christmas come true with getting the 4 last books by christmas?  Sincerely her mother
     When the series went OP (out-of-print) several years ago, I kept getting letters -- tons! -- from teachers, parents, librarians, and 3rd-graders.  They requested more "Jeff and David stories," about the young detectives who solve mysteries in the mountain town of Cabin Creek.  Most frustrating of all, copies were nearly impossible to find and prices ranged up to $50, which is obscene for a kid's book.  
     Finally, FINALLY, Scholastic returned the rights to me, which means I now have creative control.  Boom, my family and I have been converting the series into new paperbacks with fresh covers and illustrations by my son, Cody Rutty.  The smaller 5.25x8 size allows us to keep the price low.  I think $5.95 for a book to hold in your hand is fair, as is $4.95 for a Kindle version. 
     So the good news:  Cabin Creek #1, 2, 3, & 7 are available on Amazon, and ready for Christmas!  We're still working on #4, 5 & 6, so hang in there if you're looking for a complete set.
I  hope you enjoy these new paperbacks ... and look for my memoir, LONGHAND: ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY to be published this Spring. Thank you for being such faithful readers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New baby: memoir 27

In 1984 my husband and I welcomed another baby boy -- so did Princess Diana! I devoured every tabloid story about her castle life, envying her heated towel racks and diaper warmer. Nannies and cute clothes. A chef! She was thin and pretty. Down the road I learned that along with our sons being born in the same years, she and I had had another thing in common: bulimia. I really felt for her.
     But back to our new buddy: Cody Rob, his middle name after my brother. Because it snowed nearly eight months of the year in Idaho and temps often fell below zero (minus 33 one December), our favorite outing became the public library. Betty Holbrook, Pocatello's wonderful children's librarian, introduced us to a wealth of kid-lit. Oh those picture books! They were beautiful, evocative, and such fun to read aloud. Memories from my childhood flooded back.
     Art Seidenbaum and I talked about the Children's Book Column for The Times. If it were available, I'd be so stoked if he would consider me.
     Thankfully he did! In March of 1985, life became sweeter. When the UPS truck rumbled up the icy street, the boys and I watched out the window. Boxes delivered resembled treasure chests brimming with brand new, crisp-smelling, colorful stories and illustrations, just thirty-six pages, not hundreds. My lighter workload was heaven.
     I signed up for a correspondence course with the Institute of Children's Literature, to learn about the craft. The lonely days of long winters with toddlers eased when the mailman would deliver a large white envelope, feedback from my scrawls. I worked on a novel about a California beach girl growing up in the 60s. In A Town By the Sea was coming from my heart.
     As I watched Greg and Cody's faces light up when read a story, then their saying, "keep going!" and "more," I realized I wanted to write for children. If kids could grow up hearing and reading beautiful words, would it make the world a gentler place?

From LONGHAND: ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY, to be published Spring 2015

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

writing on the go: memoir 26

When our first son, Greg, was seventh months old we moved to Pocatello, Idaho. Life there came as a culture shock with its slow pace and farm tractors on the highway. A sign boasted "Idaho: Like America 50 Years Ago." And although we saw bumper stickers with "Don't Californicate Idaho," people were super nice to us. From my journal September 9, 1983:
     The Sunday paper has three FULL pages of weddings and two of golden anniversaries. The dry cleaners do your American flags for free. There's a used-car dealer named Rick Cheatum. Neighbors introduced themselves as "Mr. & Mrs" and they're our age! The mailman stopped to talk and told us about his 6-week-old baby who has colic and that his wife loves to read romances. Backyards have clotheslines with socks, aprons and undershirts, vegetable gardens, stacks of firewood and big collie dogs sleeping under shade trees. Alleys are narrow with a spine of grass. 
     We stayed in a motel while searching for a rental. I hand-wrote several book reviews on a couch in the lobby, then the manager kindly offered his typewriter. While Greg crawled around the filing cabinets and desk in his office, I typed my column on the five-layered carbon paper. Tore off the top sheet and mailed it to Art Seidenbaum.
     Since The Times was still transitioning to computers, I once needed to phone in a column. I spoke as clearly as possible, articulating all punctuation and odd spellings. It took about forty minutes. As explained to me, someone transcribed my recorded voice -- typed it, I assumed -- then delivered a hard copy to one of the editors in Book Review. After corrections, it was sent to production for galley pages, which returned to Art for final editing to appear in the Sunday section. So many steps.
     In that motel office I could not have imagined myself today, in my sunroom with a paper-thin computer on my lap. Just one keystroke, quiet as a whisper, I can send an entire novel to my publisher before you've finished reading this sentence.

From LONGHAND: ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY, to be published Spring 2015.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

LA Times book columnist: memoir 25

In my joyful distractions of marriage and motherhood I had no time to work on a novel, but was able to keep up occasional book reviews for the LA Times. While we were living in San Luis Obispo, California, Editor Art Seidenbaum called one morning with an interesting offer: "Our Soft Cover columnist is leaving. Think you'd like take it on?"
     "Yeah!" I answered without pause.
     "Good," he said. "Every other week do a round up of mass-market paperbacks, eight in each column. Like stringing together a bunch of Notables. You'll do fine. Pay is $250 per."
     After we hung up, I calculated. Mass-markets are those 4x7s racked in grocery stores, newly published, not re-prints. Four a week! I have a baby. I'm a zombie-head low on sleep. I want time to swim and walk more. What was I thinking? Art had given me the phone number of the departing columnist.
     "Do you read every single book all the way through?" I asked.
     "Nooooo," he answered. "Skim, summarize, write. Easy."
     The first carton that UPS set on our porch weighed a ton. I selected obscure authors because I wanted to give them a chance the famous had already enjoyed. But how do you skim a novel and be fair about its content? You'd miss plot nuances that could make what might at first seem mediocre turn into a heart-stopper. If flippant, you could devastate a new writer.
     Over the next few years I did skim, but only almanacs, diets, recipes, and how-to's. Anything with a plot, I read cover to cover. Mysteries, Science Fiction, Romance. 
     I loved staying home doing mommy stuff and reading for my column. When baby Greg and I got antsy, we'd talk long walks downtown with the buggy then roll back to our bungalow. Writing the Soft Cover column was fun and great discipline. Limited to just a few lines per book taught me to keep it tight. No extra words.
    Meanwhile I submitted short pieces to periodicals about motherhood and infants, obviously not breaking new ground because everything was rejected. I tried writing picture books but they, too, were rejected. Becoming an author was going to be harder than I'd realized.   

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Hello Readers!
I'm happy to announce that Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express is back in
hand, and I've published it as a Kindle and in a fresh paperback.  For ages 10 and up, this picks up where THE LEGEND OF JIMMY SPOON leaves off, in a fast-paced, robust historical adventure based on the true exploits of Elijah Nicholas Wilson: 
   Salt Lake City, 1860:  It's been several years since young Jimmy Spoon returned from living with the Shoshoni and he's restless.  Working at the family store is drudgery.  He longs to get out of the city, to breathe fresh air, and to sleep under the stars.   One day, he sees a newspaper ad:  "WANTED:  Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18.  Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily, orphans preferred.  Wages $25 a week ... "
   It's the chance of a lifetime.  And Jimmy knows he's a perfect candidate.  After years with the Indians, he can ride a horse like no other white boy.  The trail boss hires him on the spot.
   But riding for the Express isn't easy.  A rider must cover 50 miles a day through rugged terrain that exhausts three or four horses on each trip.  Living conditions are primitive.  There are outlaws, angry tribes, blistering heat and below-zero winters.
   And all along, Jimmy yearns to return to his Shoshoni family.  Especially to rekindle his friendship with the lovely Nahanee.

** Booklist: "Gregory packs her chapters with enough action, drama, and humor to please even hard-core reluctant readers ... A painless way to learn about American history." 
** VOYA:  " ... terrific ... "
** School Library Journal:  " ... exciting ... those who have not read Legend will certainly want to do so after finishing this one."

I hope you enjoy meeting Jimmy Spoon, and I hope you enjoy reading about the research and true history of this story in my memoir,  BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this fall.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Hello Readers ... I'm excited to give you this news: BRONTE'S BOOK CLUB is back in my hands, and I've published it as an ebook and in paperback.  Kirkus Reviews calls it a "poignantly wholesome offering," and Booklist says, "This book shows how talking about a great story can spark connections."
   The novel tells of 12-year-old Bronte Bella who moves to a small California beach town. She tries to make friends by organizing a book club that gets off to a rocky start with jealousy, quarrels, and gossip. But as the girls discuss the historical novel ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell, they see parallels in their lives and that of the main character, Karana, the Chumash Indian who had lived alone on San Nicholas Island during the mid-1800s. As they reflect on, and quote from the story they begin to discover true friendship. And of course, a good dog is involved!
BFFs, I'm 2nd from left
Bronte is based on my own girlhood [PHOTO, left]. A few of us started the Manhattan Beach 4th Street Book & Snack Club. That wasn't its official name, but that's how we thought of it. With younger siblings tagging along, we rode our bikes to the pier then up the hill to the library where whispering--quiet whispering--was strictly enforced. There we roamed the stacks until we each found a book to check out, its plastic cover then crackling against our handlebars as we rode home, fast, because of the treats that awaited us. It was the best part of the club, eating Hostess Twinkies and red licorice while looking out at the ocean. Though we never actually discussed the stories we read, we sure had a blast.
   I hope you enjoy meeting Bronte, and I hope you enjoy reading behind-the-scenes of writing this story in my memoir,  BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this fall.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Purple prose: memoir 24

In 1982, a Telegram-Tribune editor gave it to me straight.
     I had covered a San Luis Obispo city meeting that dragged until 10 pm. Friday. I had squirmed trying to pay attention, but the speakers were dry as cactus. Time to jazz things up, I thought. I returned to the newsroom and typed like mad for the Saturday morning edition. With just thirty minutes until deadline, I felt someone stand behind me. A hand reached over my shoulder and yanked out the paper.
     "Kristi!" John Marrs shouted loud enough to stop the hybrid tapping of computer keys and typewriters. "You should be writing fiction!"
     A bit of courage raised my voice. "What do you mean?" I asked.
     "Your lead is too flowery. No one cares about the color of wallpaper or the potted plants. It's a business story! Do it over."
     Oops, more Purple Prose.
     That bit of yelled advice from the managing editor, a man I greatly respected, tore cobwebs off my brain. Fiction. Of course. Made-up stories had been my passion since a little girl.
     My days at the T-T waned. Budget cuts meant lay offs and I was one of them. Still renting a room for $50 a month, I dug in with writing and submitting to magazines only to collect rejections. Art Seidenbaum phoned one afternoon and asked if I'd be interested in being a columnist for a Beverly Hills weekly.
     "Lots of movie gossip," he said. It sounded like fun, but I didn't want to return to freeways and smog. He understood and continued to send books to review for The Times. Those few hundred dollars a month helped with my Spartan living.
     In the spring that year, the new city editor called and invited me back to the T-T. I had loved working there. Writing stories then seeing them in print the next day was such a high. I missed my colleagues and the wild pace of breaking news, but turned down the offer.
     A happy event had changed my life.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Royal wedding: memoir 23

On a warm summer night in San Luis Obispo, California, my girlfriends and I gathered for an all-nighter: to watch The Royal Wedding!
     The date: July 29, 1981. At 3:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. in London) Diana arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral in a glass coach, veiled in lace. "Like Cinderella," we squealed, ignoring that the fairytale actually described a glass slipper and a pumpkin coach. Didn't matter. Diana was beautiful (and thin!), the train on her ivory-silk gown with puffed sleeves 25-feet long. We watched the ceremony, hushed, drinking coffee to stay awake, part of a global TV audience: 750 million, according to the BBC.
     Britain declared a national holiday, but we Americans went to work. At the Telegram-Tribune, I banged out the best piece I'd ever written. Swooning details included the coachman's scarlet-and-gold waistcoat and his bay horses, Lady Penelope and Kestral; Diana's veiled face so pretty and innocent. 
     I pulled the story from my typewriter and with a flourish presented it to city editor, Jeff Fairbanks, watching for his reaction from the safety of my desk. He read without expression. Then in one swift motion he crumbled the paper into a ball, yelled "incoming!" and lobbed it over to another editor who held out his wastebasket without looking up. Score.
     My story, trashed, just like that. I felt too embarrassed to ask why. Looking back, it probably oozed Purple Prose.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Telegram-Tribune gossip: memoir 22

Two months after the 1980 election, we gathered in the Telegram-Tribune newsroom near a radio turned up loud. We listened to Ronald Reagan's swearing-in as our 40th president then his inaugural address. This same day -- January 20, 1981 -- we also heard crowds cheer for the American hostages in Iran. After being held 444 days, they were finally freed.  
     I loved being around editors and reporters, especially during historic events such as this. Conversations sizzled, no topic too gruesome or mundane: politics, movies, shark attacks, British royalty. Oh yes, top of the news: In February Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer ("Shy Di") were getting married! In July! And it would be televised!
     My ancestors fought in the war of Independence against England, but never mind. I tracked royal news like a Tory. Blame this fascination on a Disney childhood of castles and princesses, and my Barbie doll in a white gown, the perfect bride for Ken. Ah, romance. Since weddings were still my beat, I would watch the extravaganza then write a column. Just five months away, it would be my best yet.
     Meanwhile, newspapers were transitioning to computers. Typewriters at the Telegram-Tribune moved to the corner of a desk or into a storeroom. Teletypes still chugged, phones still rang, but the newsroom quieted. Even chatter among reporters softened because now we sent one another messages. Silent, stealth-like, we appeared to be focused on a story, but actually someone was inviting everyone to a party that night and someone else needed a ride home. We arranged lunch dates or quarreled without making eye contact. Liz screamed at me in all caps, BITCH WHY DID YOU TELL PAUL I'M A LESBIAN???
     Lesson learned: gossip whispered to one person -- true or not -- could now reach an entire newsroom in seconds.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'A real reporter': memoir 21

Two of my favorite co-workers at the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune were City Editor Jeff Fairbanks and his wife Ann Fairbanks. I noticed that when she typed her stories, she read them aloud to herself. I asked why and she explained it helped her hear the cadence of language and to catch repeated words. She was a wonderful writer and I was like a little monkey imitating her. I adopted her habit and have practiced it ever since. When Jeff assigned me the Friday night beat, I was excited. From my journal of October 25, 1980:
It's Saturday morning 1:30 a.m. Can you believe I just drove over 100 miles, wrote a front-page story for today's morning edition and I'm wide awake? The last hour just as I was cleaning the debris from my desk, a call came over the police radio. A woman was lying face down in the middle of Cuesta Grade, northbound lane. So off I went. Got there before the cops. A truck driver, clean-cut, slight build Latino was holding the woman in his arms, speaking Spanish in her hair. She'd evidently just stopped her car on the shoulder, gotten out & passed out. In a few minutes about six CHP and Sheriff's cars screeched up, lights flashing. No one knew what to do & they wondered among themselves whose jurisdiction this was. The truck driver had draped his coat over the now sobbing woman and shielded her face from the many flashlights. He was so tender with her, even as she vomited all over his trousers. A nurse arrived & squinted at the bottles of pills found in the woman's purse. Sleeping pills & tranquilizers. But not enough missing to be serious. They called an ambulance & I shivered back to my car. I didn't get the truck driver's name and the Sheriff just shrugged, "No story."
     Well it looked like a story to me. I drove down Cuesta Grade like a mad woman, composing the lead sentence in my mind. At the paper I hurried from the parking lot, tossed the keys on my desk and started typing: "Stars like chips of ice blinked in the chill air ... "
     The next morning, I discovered a new addiction: the exhilaration of having written an article then hours later seeing it in print and being told by your co-workers that it wasn't half bad. The big guns editor, George Brand, said, "Great. Lead was excellent. Loved your details about the stars." When I told him about the rushing Friday night & writing with a 30-minute deadline he said, "Now that's a real reporter."

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In the newsroom: memoir 20

Though just a newsroom aide at the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune ($5/hour), I was thrilled it involved writing: weather reports, wedding and anniversary blubs and -- most fascinating of all -- obituaries. By 8 a.m. the funeral homes would call with the death notices and I would then try to shape the nicest stories out of the grimmest details. Sometimes I phoned family members to learn more about their loved one so that the obit could have a little warmth.
    Since the T-T was an afternoon paper, my deadline was 10 a.m.
    With the phone cradled on my shoulder, I wrote in a spiral notebook then typed. After observing the reporters, I weaned myself away from this middle step, soon able to imitate them by typing while on the phone. I loved the ding of the return bar and the clickity-swooosh when you pulled paper out of the inked roller. Final step, walking it over to the editor's in-basket.
    It might sound macabre, but I loved writing these short stories, as I called them.
    I got permission to visit local Funeral Homes. Having never attended a memorial or even known anyone who died, I was curious what went on there. Also, I wanted to meet the voices behind the morning calls. These solemn men in dark suits oozed compassion and were gracious about giving a tour. My footsteps were silent on the plush carpet as I crept near an open casket. I touched the pale hand that lay across the chest. Cold as marble. Okay. So now I knew. Obits usually led by name, age, and date-of-death, but I tried to begin with a fun tidbit. From my clippings:  
Emil J. Johnson, a Swedish immigrant who narrowly missed sinking with the Titanic, has died at the age of 91. When the 22-year old discovered another ship was to throw an Easter party, he changed tickets at the last minute ...
      An elder reporter, Betty, aka "The Battle Ax," confronted me one day at my desk. Her angry voice carried through the newsroom as typewriters fell silent and heads turned our way.
     "WHO told you to write obituaries that way?" she demanded.
     I was still new and innocent about her reputation for demoralizing writers. "It just seems more interesting this way," I told her.
     Five seconds is a long time when all eyes are on you. Finally Betty said, "Oh." As she turned to storm through the newsroom, heads whipped down and the cacophony resumed. Later one of the reporters, Ann Fairbanks, said, "Way to go, Kristi. We were scared you wouldn't be able to stand up to her."

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.