NaNoWriMo 2015 Week Two At The Ranch Pen

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 7.34.43 AM

The screenshot above shows where I’m at with NaNoWriMo as of this morning. The sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat is beginning to take clearer shape in my mind’s eye, but I’m still doing a lot of, “what if this happened ?” and “what if that happened?” questions instead of putting together actual scenes. In week two, I can’t say I like this method of whacking together a first draft. My usual modus operandi for first drafts is having a vague picture in my mind then taking a chapter at a time and s-l-o-w-l-y ironing it out until I feel like it’ll hold up.

So, I don’t know. The jury is still out on this NaNo thing. However, if my brain doesn’t blow up, I’m in it to win it and am over halfway to the 50,000 word mark. On a bright note, according to the stats page this morning, my fellow Oklahomans have logged in over 1,200,000 words. Pretty impressive! I trust the other Okies haven’t written as much gobbledygook as I have.

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all.

Rough Drafts At The Ranch Pen


by EK Johnson

by EK Johnson

Danni whacking out a rough draft

There is an event for writers each November called NaNoWriMo  in which participants on Nov. 1, begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. I had planned to try that last November, but a drunk driver crashed into my son’s pickup at 85 mph+, disrupting many plans. (If you know anyone who drives drunk, do whatever it takes to stop them–the lives they ruin may be more than just their own.)

At any rate, nearly a year has passed and I’m gearing up to try NaNo again. My plan is to whack out the rough draft of the sequel to Agnes Campbell’s Hat while continuing to work on the third book in the Love Is Not Enough Series and do a bunch of other stuff, too.

Agnes Campbell’s Hat is aimed at younger readers who read books in the 35,000 word range, so depending on how the drafting process goes, I may not need to write the entire 50,000 words.

Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful. My rough drafts usually go something like this:

Melba runs into the tootntotem store. Harold I think I just saw that guy with the gun (the small mustachioed man with the orange hat?)

Harold is at chip display (pork rinds?) sullen look.

Why are you just standing there, Harold? Chop, chop. (is she trying to figure out why Harold’s mad? Argument over cracked iPhone screen again? Losing the dog?) (Look up what kind of dog from last book) What’s your problem Harold? Did u not sleep again?

Not after you dug your toe into my shin at three o’clock.

Melba stares. What’s he talking about?

You  woke me up doin’ this–Harold makes grinding toe motion–on my leg. Figured I was breathin on you or something. only got two or three minutes sleep after that.

Melba: Dug into you with my toe? (Is he kidding? The guy with toenails like daggers?)  I know nothing of this so called toe incident, Harold. Do you seriously think I wouldn’t just–makes jabbing elbow motion–and tell you to quit breathing on me?

Harold scowls? You got up and went to the bathroom after that.

Well, the clues are really falling into place, now, Harold. sarcastic You know what this reminds me of? That time I was talking in my sleep*–Melba looks over his shoulder at small guy holding gun coming out bathroom? Harold duck, she yells

Then the poison dart hits her in the forehead? Harold thinks, serves her right now she knows how I feel after toe incident?

What if the gunman rips off his hat and he’s a woman with a mustache? Real? fake? Harold suddenly remembers a recurring nightmare about a man with a little mustache? His mother? Did they think she died a long time ago from the freak farm accident? begins to suspect he was adopted?

What does Harold actually need in scene? Resolution from pain of his past? New cell phone so he catches podcast about missing mob boss for next chapter? Just pork rinds? 

And, on and on.

*Parts of Harold and Melba’s conversation may, or may not, have actually occurred one morning before breakfast. Some names may have been changed to protect the guilty.

I might not have many brain cells left for blogging in November, but we’ll see how it goes. As always, thank you so much for reading what I write. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Phillips, Craig & Dean doing You Are God Alone.

Tooting The Hat’s Horn At The Ranch Pen

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Screenshot of Agnes Campbell’s Hat on

This week, just a quick update on one of the books, Agnes Campbell’s Hat, which earned one of those coveted, orange best-seller banners this past week. I have no idea why, but I’m glad since The Hat is my favorite book I’ve written, thus far. Years ago, I started writing stories for my nephew and nieces and The Hat was my niece, Tessa’s story. I tried to use her personality as much as possible in the story, so maybe that’s why people like it. That’s definitely why I do.

The book is a historical adventure about twelve-year-old Tessa, who finds a hat that transports her backward in time to Oklahoma Territory where she’s trapped in a homesteader’s family with an aggravating young lad named Judd Howard who is the only person who can help her get back home.

A few factoids about the book:

  • Judd has family ties to the Howard family in the Love Is Not Enough series, being designated the great-grandfather of Gil Howard, of The Cedar Tree.
  • The Kiowa Indian, Big Tree, actually lived in this area of Oklahoma during that time period.
  • The outlaw, Stumpy O’Halloran, was a made-up character out of a conglomeration of real outlaws, including those of the Doolin Gang who once terrorized the Oklahoma Territories.
  • The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, was a favorite of Ira Campbell, the transplanted Scotsman in the book–and coincidentally is one of my all-time favorite poets, too! What’d’y’know.
  • Ira Campbell has family ties to the Campbell family in the Love is Not Enough series, being the designated great-grandfather of Katie Campbell of The Cedar Tree.
  • White and Nerdy is an actual video on Youtube by Weird Al Yankovic. If you haven’t watched it, you should join the over 98,000,000 viewers who have–it’s hilarious.
  • Toward the end of the book, Tessa wonders if her uncle’s barn is burning to the ground. That would be m’dear Gramps she was worried about. His barn DID NOT burn down, but he HAS suffered a few haystack fires.

As always, thanks so much for reading the blog and Agnes Campbell’s Hat. God bless all y’all and enjoy Kari Jobe singing Steady My Heart.





Mind Barf From The Ranch Pen

No More Mind Barf

While some people in this age of ebooks are churning out three or more books per year, Danni McGriffith Super-slow-author is not. I always think, “I should crank out more books like those prolific people do!”. Then I look at the scientific formula below (that I made up just now and metaphorically taped to my forehead) to remind myself why that ain’t a good idea.

3-4 books/year by Danni McGriffith=Mind Vomit


3-4 books/year by Danni McGriffith=Danni’s personal journal

Below I’ve included a fill-in-the-blank sample entry from my personal journal to prove my point.

Oct __

Woke up from a nightmare where I killed ___wearing only my___. Feeling mentally unhinged and prickly toward___. My___hurts. I also have a strange pain in my___. Clear skies, high south wind, 99*.

Obviously, I should confine the mind barf to the journal and the blog and write my way through my books at a snail’s pace. Which is what I am doing on the third book in my Love Is Not Enough series.

One of the main characters in this book is Annie DeRossi Campbell, an emotionally frozen young Navajo woman who is reluctantly coming unfrozen. Almost everything about her goes on beneath the surface. She’s an exhausting personality for the other characters to deal with and she’s an exhausting personality to write. However, I want her to be okay, so I’ll keep trying with her. You can read more about Annie’s origins here.

While we’re on the book topic, people have asked whether there will be a follow-up to my novel geared toward the younger set, Agnes Campbell’s Hat. I plan to write one, but have not started it yet. If only there were more hours in the day, or more and younger brain cells sparking around in the old cranium!

Finally, the first book in the Love Is Not Enough series, The Cedar Tree, was free for a few days this week. It made number two on the Amazon top 100 free books in the Western and Frontier slot and top ten in Family Sagas, so thank you very much to anyone who downloaded a copy. I really appreciate it. Remember, too, anyone with an Amazon Prime membership or Kindle Unlimited can borrow my books for free on their Kindle and if you have paid for a download, you can share it with a friend or family member on their Kindle for free, as well.

Until next time, thanks so much for reading. God Bless all y’all and enjoy David Wesley doing The Stand.


This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse the blog, I just love his music. If you do, too, you can download it on iTunes.


Improper Display At The Ranch Pen


image via the internet somewhere

Danni getting ready to talk about her books.

Okay, so I don’t know if it’s legal for me to use this image all the time. My knowledge of internet law is pretty weak and I almost expect to be arrested at any moment for it.

But that reminds me of another brush with the law I had one time, so before we start talking about the books, we’ll talk about that.

*A disclaimer: Danni is relatively harmless unless you’re a raccoon. In that case you’d better say your prayers.

We have charming rural weekly newspapers in our area. Desperate for “news” of any kind, they print every name which comes up before the judge for criminal activity–most of which, sadly enough, is drug related–but for light relief, we have the speeding tickets, the fines, the driving without insurance or a seat belt, the occasional poaching, or shooting from the roadway.

The Highway Patrol, or HIPO, sometimes attaches offensive labels–or entertaining, depending on the viewpoint–to the offense when they write the ticket. A farm woman I know once found herself in an embarrassing brush with an boorish doughnut eating clod officer,  similar to my skirmish with the law. This farm lady is super nice and a fine human being who also happens to drive huge tractors and semi trucks with ease, could beat Gramps up, and is what is known as a Plus Sized Woman. Once, her trucking violation appeared in the local newspapers–listed by an insensitive doughnut eating HIPO–as “over weight”. Can you believe that? SO rude. 

So, we press onward to Danni’s brush with the law. One summer day,  with the lawn needing mowed and Gramps having drained every gas can on the place again, Danni loaded her gas can into the back of this good little farm truck  (below) which is used to beat around the country to save fuel and haul small loads such as the little plastic Christmas tree peeping up in the back. (Very cute tree. One of Gramps’ friends wanted it. I don’t know what that says about Gramps’ friends. Or Gramps. He kept forgetting to take it to his friend though, so we just hauled it around all summer until all the color bleached out and it no longer resembled a Christmas tree.)


Danni had seriously meant to put on the new license plate and stuff the current insurance paper in the glovebox, but she kept forgetting. Gramps is apparently not the only one with memory trouble. Anyway, she heads for the farmers’ co-op pumps in town with her gas can. She approaches the hamlet, momentarily forgetting where she is going, and instead of hooking through the back way, she rolls up to the stop sign at the highway.

And across the intersection directly opposite sits a trolling HIPO.

She has to keep revving the motor to prevent it dying at the stop, but she slides down on the seat, trying to escape notice. However, the HIPO has fixed her with an icy stare. Resigned to her fate, she revs the motor and zips toward the co-op pumps a short distance away, pretty sure the turn signal on that side doesn’t work–to add icing to her cooked goose. The HIPO is able to view her battered little transport in all its glory as it roars past at full throttle.

Sure enough, the HIPO pulls up behind her at the pumps. She decides not to get out since it’s quite an ordeal to open the door on that side. Besides, she is probably having visions of her lifeless body stretched on the gravel, shot plumb full of holes.

The officer seems unnecessarily grim as he approaches her window. He may have his hand on his gun holster, it’s hard to say. And seriously? (See picture of Danni above).

HIPO: Do you know why I pulled you over, ma’am?

Danni: Um… 

Her super-sized brain is whirling like a whirligig. Could he have perceived her little truck’s throttle problem as the revved engine challenge of a coy teenage  girl at a Saturday night stoplight? Or was it no turn signals? No tail lights? No brake lights? No seat belt? Broken headlights? The side of the truck caved in by a wild steer? The possibilities seem endless.

HIPO: Your tag’s expired.

Danni: I know. I’m sorry. It’s laying on the shelf at the house.

HIPO: (narrows his eyes. he is not cute like tv cops) Mmhm. Can I see your insurance verification?

Danni: (squirming) Um…

HIPO: You don’t have insurance, do you?

Danni: Yes, I do. It’s with the license plate.

HIPO: No, you don’t have any. You wait here.

Danni: (he really doesn’t look cute at all. quite the opposite.)

The HIPO returns in a few minutes after checking with whomever they check with, but he doesn’t even apologize to Danni for finding out she wasn’t lying. He just tears off a warning from his pad and hands it to her with instructions to put on her new plate and carry the insurance card from now on, or else.

Then he leaves and she looks at the warning–Improper Display. Seriously? What if he had written a ticket instead of a mere warning and that had hit the newspapers?

“Danni McGriffith, ultra-conservative Christian wife, mom, grandma, writer lady, Christmas tree lover, etc, up on improper display charges. Arresting officer goes blind…”

Well, anyway. Thank you, Ossifer Officer, for not writing me a ticket. I would’ve NEVER, EVER lived that down. (And neither would’ve you.)

Okay, now for the books. For Friday’s post, I’ll try to talk about how my book about a dashing cowboy and his dumb love interest Kate turned into a book called The Cedar Tree, over twenty years in the making. Also, my two books, The Cedar Tree and Agnes Campbell’s Hat–historical fiction for the younger set–are scheduled for free download on Amazon today and Wednesday. If you don’t have a Kindle to read the books, Kindle apps are available for any smartphone and also for your computers and tablets.

I appreciate your kind remarks, comments, and reviews on the books more than I can ever say, and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorites, The Peasall Sisters doing Where No One Stands Alone.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.

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Four Southwest Oklahoma Industries On Wordless Wednesday

southwest oklahoma industries

Click on the image to see farming, cattle, wind, and natural gas–four industries on one rural corner

Anecdotes From The Ranch Pen

border collie on atv

Nellie preparing for a career in some sort of Extreme Sport in case the stock dog thing doesn’t work out

A Little Too Loosely?

Today, we’ve got a post chock full of short anecdotes from the Ranch Pen. The official definition of anecdote is included below to assist y’all in determining if the term is perhaps used too loosely here.

Anecdote: a short and amusing, or interesting, story about a real incident, or person (or dog)

Coming On Apace

As pictured above, Nellie is in training for a career in Extreme Sports. But first, she has to learn the ‘stay’ command, as in: Stay on the 4 wheeler, Nellie, so you can look cool on the blog. She has also been learning ‘that’ll do’. As in: That’ll do, Nellie. Drop the cat. Now. That’ll do, I said! Blast it all anyhow, that’ll do!

No, Nellie is a smart little gal and her training is coming on apace. She LOVES to ride on the four-wheeler and she knows ‘sit’ and ‘go home’. She also ‘shakes’ which has no useful application, but it’s a charming gesture. I’ve never trained a stock dog before, but I purchased some training books with my birthday money and have been studyin’ on it. What could go wrong?


Gramps’ fence building rig–DOA

What’s The Number For 911?

On the beautiful morning pictured above, I had to perform a rescue operation for Gramps. His fencing truck’s giddy-up had laid back its ears and died. All he could do was drive in reverse, which gets a person pretty much right back where they started. So, why did you have to rescue him, Danni?–you might be asking. He could’ve just kept backing up til he got back to the ranch, seems like.

Well, apparently Gramps didn’t want to drive for twenty miles in reverse. He’s funny that way and he’s also a little grumpy on occasion.

Gramps (looking testily at Danni standing in the road with her iPhone poised for action): You’re not puttin’ this on the blog are you?

Bwah, ha, ha…

oklahoma sunset

Another Amazing Southwest Oklahoma Sunset

A Genius

After studying the letters below–created by the three-year-old grandson, Einstein–we can only conclude he is a genius.


Killed By A Swimming Pool?

We keep one of those horribly ugly, bright blue, above-ground swimming pools for the kids’ summer fun, but alas–or, finally, depending on the viewpoint–summer has ended. The nieces came to help drain and roll up the heavy monstrosity. Nellie was no help. She became hysterical–as one of my dog training manuals calls it–with joy. She raced around like a loony tune, leaping about on the drained pool, no doubt puncturing it in a million places. Nellie’s antics were slightly dangerous to everyone, I suppose, but we finally captured her and locked her in her pet taxi to chill out. But then came the part when life was nearly snuffed out. While the nieces lifted the pool sides, I stood inside and dried the thing with towels. The thirty-mile-an-hour breeze–as we who live on western Oklahoma wind farms call it–caught the canvas stuff, ripped it out of the girls’ hands, and whacked me right on the head. Seriously. Swimming pools can kill even without water.


Donating Agnes Campbell’s Hat to the Hobart Oklahoma Public Library with the real Tessa (right)

Thanks Again

And another huge thank you to all of you who have read, or are reading, Agnes Campbell’s Hat and for the nice comments and the reviews on I love writing for kids and I love knowing they enjoy the stories.

My art students–grandkids, nieces, and assorted others sometimes–which I have dubbed The Rocky Ridge Illustrators, are working on illustrations for several of my other books for kids–Silver Cries Fowl, Mystery At Sheep Camp, and one with the tentative title of Escape From the Inskeletower. We have no release date as yet since my art group’s other names could also be, The Rocky Ridge Snackers, The Rocky Ridge Swimmers, The Rocky Ridge Horseback Riders, and The Rocky Ridge Players.

A Serious Note

On a serious note, the news coming out of South Dakota this week is really terrible. An early blizzard has left many ccattle in western South Dakota dead and the families that depend on them for their livelihoods in trouble. In bad weather conditions like that, cattle turn their tails to the wind and start drifting. If they hit a fence or drop into a ravine, the cattle behind just keep coming, piling on top of each other and suffocating the layers beneath. Early estimates place the livestock loss at at least 75,000 head. I’m sure those ranch and farm families affected would appreciate prayers as they try to figure out where to start dealing with their losses and the massive cleanup.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy this old clip of The Bishops singing I Need You More Today.


*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.

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An Anti-Recipe For Fall And A Big Thank You From Southwest Oklahoma

Sunflower Thank You

To everybody who downloaded Agnes Campbell’s Hat over the weekend, I thank you ever so much. Every day, literally tons of authors by weight release books into the world, so I deeply appreciate you giving mine a try. If anybody still wants to download it, click on the link above or the image in the sidebar and it should hook you up with the ebook or the paperback edition.

I want so much to provide useful content on the blog, especially today for those of you who downloaded the book. I thought, Hey! Maybe I could post a really yummy recipe to thank everybody since a lot of the farm blogs and other blogs I read have been displaying beautiful pictures of fall food. Then I remembered…I’m not a very good cook and I don’t know any really spectacular recipes.

So–as a thank you that will save you embarrassment if nothing else–I am posting a free anti-recipe, or something you should never bake if you want to be taken seriously as a cook. I made this apple crisp…ish thing myself this past Sunday, and I can tell you, this anti-recipe WORKS. Follow the step by step instructions and yours will turn out just like mine.


photo courtesy of the Agnes Campbell’s Hat down home cookin’ foundation

1. Round up your best pan. Put some kind of grease in it. If you live thirteen miles from the nearest open store, you might need to be inventive. I happened to have some butter on hand, but lard or chicken fat will do.

2. Dig around in the bottom drawer of the fridge for the apples nobody would eat because they had the texture of cornmeal and tasted like cardboard when you bought them. Not even peanut butter could make them palatable. The more wrinkled the apples are, the better–that means they have absolutely no juices to get anything sticky. A few black spots are fine. (While you’re digging around in there, you might as well throw out the mummified grapes and other unidentifiable foodstuffs. The…lemon wedge?…carrot?…in the ziploc bag needs to go.)

3. Peel the apples. This’ll take a while if they’re crumbly enough. Be sure not to miss paring out those black spots. They can leave an aftertaste. Place the apple pieces in the pan–one cup or five, no matter.

4. If you’ve just plain forgotten how to make the apple crisp stuff, you can probably wing it from here–or dig out a cookbook. Oh, go ahead…just wing it.

5. Melt some butter. (My grandma would’ve used chicken fat if she had any getting ready to go rancid, but I will say butter is better than chicken fat for apple crisp.) Measurement is arbitrary. Just eyeball it. Then put in some whole wheat flour and oatmeal and a couple of spoons of cinnamon. Remember you don’t have any brown sugar. Substitute something here. I happened to have some turbinado cane sugar so I used that. Be sure not to use enough to make extra juice.

6. Pour the crumbs on the apples and mash the whole thing down. Then you slide the apple crisp in the oven and bake it until juice starts bubbling up through the crumbles. Unfortunately, when you use old, wrinkly, tasteless apples, there is no juice. In that case, just stop cooking it when the stuff looks brown-ish.

*Don’t make this apple crisp if you’re trying to win the county fair.

**And a big thank you to Gramps who will eat almost anything I slop out there and acts glad to get it.

And again, thank you so much for giving Agnes Campbell’s Hat a try. Until next time, God bless all y’all.

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Related Post

This Is How We Make Books In SW Oklahoma

This Is How We Make Books At The Ranch Pen In Southwest Oklahoma

Tessa and General

How do we make books in southwest Oklahoma? First, we take a girl like that one above.


Then we add her Aunt Danni who was laid up recovering from a horse wreck incident a while back.


And we come out with a book for middle grade readers with my niece Tessa as the leading lady.

Below is the back cover copy:

After an old hat and a storm leave modern girl, Tessa Hensen, trapped in a past century and living in the hobbit-like house of a homesteader’s family on the Oklahoma Territory prairie, she is forced to accept help from an infuriating farm boy to get back to her real life.

Tessa lives as twelve-year-old Agnes Campbell while Judd Howard helps her solve the mystery of the hat. Sparks fly between the two of them as his old world and her new world collide. He does everything possible to get rid of her; she longs to escape him and his grumpy, old-fashioned ideas about everything.

Gradually, her unwanted family’s everyday struggle for survival draws Tessa into the past. When Elizabeth—a Kiowa Indian girl—befriends her, the hardships finally seem bearable.

The two girls face a terrifying encounter with an outlaw and an old Christian man sacrifices his life for theirs, forcing Tessa to ask herself the question: Does she really want to leave behind the past…and Judd?

I’ll probably talk about the book now and then on the blog, but for today I’m just inviting everybody to take advantage of the free Kindle download today and tomorrow. All you need to do is click this link: Agnes Campbell’s Hat, or on the book cover image above, and it’ll take you to the free download on You can obtain the paperback version there, as well. Amazon will let you look inside the book, or download a sample. Also, you can read the first chapter-and-a-half here.

*The free download expires at midnight October 5, 2013. 

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for PC here, or the Kindle App for Mac here to read on your computer. You can also download the Kindle App onto any smart phone or tablet in order to read Agnes Campbell’s Hat.

I’m not good at asking for things or promoting anything, but if you read the book and like it, we–Tessa and I–would appreciate a review on Thank you all so much.

I’ll close today by saying God bless all y’all and enjoy The Isaacs singing The Lowest Valley.


*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.

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