Saturday, August 16, 2014

What makes it work

This has been an intense couple of weeks for me. The good part was having two of my grandchildren here for part of it. They come every summer to the farm and to their cousins' and usually we divide their visits into two-- a week early in summer and a second later. It's a delight to have them, get time to know them better than I ever can on family visits; so that was great.

For Saturday (the 9th), when they would still be with us, I decided to do a little pre-exploring regarding episode one of the series Outlander (which I had been eagerly anticipating). I wanted to know how the sex would be since I had read the Diana Gabaldon books, which although not remotely erotica, they do have sex in them and some tough subjects. 

Luckily Starz was letting that first episode out online as a tempter for people to sign up. The part I saw looked good but way too much sex for teen-agers when visiting us. If their parents let them see such, I'm fine with that decision but not happening on my watch to possibly end up with the parents saying-- what were you thinking?! 

Monday we did the annual hand-off in Glide Oregon to our daughter's family where the grandkids will have their next family time with their cousin, and I was back to my regular routine-- such as that ever is.

A few days later I found time to watch on the television that first episode. Whether you read Diana Gabaldon's books or not, you can enjoy this film, set in the Scottish highlands. It's beautifully acted and filmed but definitely a bit graphic for sex and violence if that kind of thing bothers you. I have not heard how long it will run, but since there are eight books, so far, it could go a long time if it's popular.

Outlander is time travel set right after WWII and in Scotland, 1740s. Although the first book is all told from the heroine's viewpoint, in first person, through her eyes you meet the reason, I believe, that these books are so popular-- the hero, Jamie Fraser. 

Oh I know it's supposed to be all about Claire who is the time traveler, the outlander, the outsider who rides two worlds with two lives. If you are familiar with them at all, you know this kind of love affair from readers rests mainly on Jamie's broad shoulders. It is why she matters and why others (men and women) revere or even desire him so highly. Yes, Claire is intelligent, daring and passionate, but she, as often as not, gets herself into situations where he saves her. She does some of this because she's outspoken and there are eras where that works better than others-- okay, in women not many of them ;).

In Jamie, Gabaldon created a hero for the ages, and he is more than any real man could ever be, but her books are fantasy set in that historic accuracy. Put those two together and you draw in a lot of fans as she has over more than twenty years. 

The redheaded Jamie isn't just a hunk. Yes, he is extremely handsome with rugged features and described again and again in every book I've read. He's bigger than men of his time, 6'4", but it's far more than being tall and handsome that makes him so desirable. 

Jamie is very intelligent, confident in himself, a born leader, responsible, wily, honorable, brave, curious, passionate, not afraid to be emotional, and at times the sacrificial hero, the nearly Christ figure (leaving out the religious part of that). He is the warrior hero who can fight but also use his head; always he puts his people ahead of his own needs. He is a leader of the type humans seek to find and never do-- except in imagination, mythology, and fiction. 

For the series, the hour long first episode was excellent (in my opinion) for casting and the beauty of Scotland where it was filmed. In watching the first episode, it brought me back to her other books, some of which I bought and read, some not. The first time I would have read these, I'd have been writing but not nearly into it as I am now. It changed some of how I see them. I related to the following quote from Voyager.
"It was not Monsieur Arouet, but a colleague of his-- a lady novelist-- who remarked to me once that writing novels was a cannibal's art, in which one is often mixed small portions of one's friends and one's enemies together, seasoned them with imagination, and allowed the whole to stew together into a savory concoction."                                 Diana Gabaldon
Getting back to her writing made me think long and hard about my own books, my heroes and heroines, why they work or don't for readers.  She writes about a time in history that is very popular with readers but where I have had limited interest. 

Her ability to tell a story is important wherever the writer sets it. She puts in a lot more detail than I personally care to read, frankly a lot more action where it seems sometimes the hero and heroine go from one disaster to another with no breaks, but nobody can deny she has a wonderful story-telling gift, which does bring to life a piece of history, colored by bigger-than-life fantasy. 

Into each life a little fantasy should come. It's healthy-- so long as we don't confuse it with reality. :)

Saturday, August 09, 2014

challenges or not

This week, I had a friend tell me that I don't choose to have challenges in my life which in short, I guess, means I am playing it safe and not doing new things. This came at an interesting time, as a blog I sometimes read had asked if we (old folks) have had our best jump which meant-- is the best yet to be and do we live that way?

Well, you know I am a writer, writers are interested in exploring emotional issues. So I was bound to look more deeply at both of these not only for myself but for how we end up thinking as we do. 

In the conversation with my friend, who does know me but maybe not as well as she thinks, I asked-- what challenges am I avoiding? (I myself was thinking I wrote three novellas, put them out as well as two full books all to less than favorable reader response-- you know that because you don't get sales-- Didn't that qualify as taking on a challenge?) I've also tried to learn marketing (see above for success ratio) which is definitely a challenge for me. Add to it that I have stuck to writing what I believe even when it was not popular. Not challenging?

Guess not as she then listed off the things that I had said I don't like as well as that I still wear my hair the same way I always have. She said:
 "Reread what you have been writing just here. You have closed your mind to doing more abstracts for your trailer (for eBook trailers). going on cruises.  playing games. pleasing romance writers, or anyone else."
Our conversation before that had been about some places I was not happy; so that led to some of this question about challenges. I think what she was saying was that if I took on more challenges like maybe cutting my hair in a pixie cut or going on a cruise, I would be more satisfied. Basically, what she listed as the challenges I have rejected are things she likes to do-- please others, play games, go on cruises and paint abstracts. (I had earlier said I don't like big parties, and it didn't make the cut but maybe she doesn't like them either). Anyway that led to some introspection on my part. 

When I got to sixty, one of the things I decided was that I had done everything I felt I had to do or that society said I should do. I'd been through a lot of diverse experiences (okay I had never gone on a cruise or gone to a drunken party) which included having and raising a family, ranch life, deep immersion into a religion, leaving said religion, and other things I won't be mentioning here (or to my friend). I had felt at sixty, which is a full lifespan, I now had the rest of my life for me-- for only doing what I wanted to do. Which means I didn't have to take someone else's challenge.

One of the pluses of being my age is I have tried a lot of things. Some I liked and kept in my life. Some I rejected. Some I reconsider once in awhile to think if I have changed or the activity has and I might then like it. 

Maybe as part of being a writer, I have an imaginative ability to put myself emotionally into a situation to assess how it'd be if I was physically in it. Based on what others have told me about the cruises, which they love, I can imagine what it's like on a cruise. The only part that would remotely appeal to me would be seeing say the coastline of British Columbia if that was the only way, watching whales or porpoises-- in short the part about nature. The things others love about cruises (like organized play activities, casinos, shows, parties, gourmet food, and tours where someone else plans what you see and gets you there) sound very 'unfun' to an introvert, which I joyfully am.

I can't please other writers or other people for that matter if what I am doing doesn't please me first. I can't write their stories. I went through counseling some years back (actually three experiences with different professionals, not to mention a few times with psychics which can be like counselors), and one thing I learned was what it means to be a people-pleaser and how it was no longer working for me-- if it ever had. 

So making someone else unhappy or that I won't do what they want, that's not on my agenda of caring about. Sorry, but that's their problem.  This also doesn't mean I never want to do something for others. Sometimes it's what I want too.

I can be convinced by hard facts to rethink a position but by almost 71, I do pretty well know myself, what I like, or don't like. I don't feel a need to prove anything to anybody including me-- which can seem contrary to someone who would like me to do what they think would be better for me. Sorry... wait, not sorry and not going there again ;).

As for always the same hairstyle... well, there is curl and less curl (two photos taken within a week of each other)) But otherwise I found a way I like to wear my hair-- give or take an inch or four-- and whether I have bangs. I do evaluate it once in awhile, but I had short hair in high school and haven't wanted it since. Why should I change to a hairstyle that doesn't suit me emotionally even if it would be more flattering-- and it might be. So what. There are other reasons to do things than that.

As for whether my best jump is yet to be, my best experiences are yet to be lived, I never say never, but I am pretty sure I had my best jump years ago. I knew it at the time. I savored it at the time. I don't live in it today nor the need to relive it.

One life lesson I fortunately learned early is always live fully right where I am. I still do that. That I believe my best jump is behind me doesn't mean I cannot still have great experiences and successes ahead-- or not. I never say never ;)

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Here we are again-- Lammas, (sometimes called Lughnasa and can be thought of the 1st or 2nd of August), which is the Celtic celebration of the beginning of the harvest. It can be celebrated with bread loaves. Or just recognized as a new season. By this time we have had Imbolc at the first of February which is ewe's milk and the beginning of spring. Then we had Beltane which is the beginning of May and a celebration of summer, where we leap the fire-- those of us so inclined. 

Lammas was used in my book Sky Daughter, as the villain was a rather shallow, pop culture sort of guy. You know the kind who knows a bit about this or that and tries to use it without following the rest or caring at the deeper meanings.

A bit from that book might explain the potential significance of Lammas and how someone might misuse it. But it can also give a key into how we can use it in a deeper sort of way as part of our own spiral of life.
    Nadine let out a breath. “I wonder...”
    “Wonder what, Nadine?” Maggie asked.
    “Lammas Day.”
    “More witchy stuff, I’ll bet,” Jim snorted.
    “It’s more than that. Do you know what it is, Reuben?”
    He shook his head.
    “What about Succoth?”
    Reuben looked at her with surprise. “How did you know I was Jewish? Did Maggie tell you?” She didn’t answer. “Succoth is offering of the first fruits,” he said after he evidently decided she wouldn’t be answering.
    “And the offering had to be...”
    “Without blemish... What does this have to do with anything here?”
    “It is also a Sabbat. In the Celtic it would be called Lugnasadh, a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Irish sun-god Lugh.”
    “You are as confusing as ever, Nadine,” Jim protested. “Celebrating a death. How does that fit with first fruits?”
     “The god of light, Lugh, doesn’t really die.”
    “Is any of this supposed to make sense, woman?” Angus asked, exasperation in his voice.
    “Well, I don’t know,” she said, her own tone impatient. “But sometimes days mean something, and when we’re dealing with Darren, I just realized that this one might.”
    “It could be considered a day of sacrifice. The God-King becomes a willing sacrifice for the planting of the next year’s crop.”
    Maggie let out a breath. “A sacrifice?”
    Nadine nodded. “It is hard to explain, but somewhat simplified, before the time of the Equinox, the Sun God is resurrected to become the Leader of the Wild Hunt and the Lord of the Dead in the shadows of the Underworld.”
    Maggie felt a cold chill. That did sound like something that would play into Darren’s warped thinking. A perfect sacrifice? She looked at Reuben and shuddered. Had Reuben been marked not to identify him but as a sacrifice? She had to get to her grandmother’s book, for help with a day only her grandmother might have seen coming.
Nadine in that book is a Wiccan, and Maggie, the heroine has unhappily learned, to her surprise, so was her deceased grandmother. She has a lot to which she must adjust-- and quickly. Hence understanding the meaning of this celebration, which possibly only a Jew would know other than a Pagan. 

Now I am not a Pagan, Wiccan nor a Jew, but I do think it is good to keep in mind such dates and celebrations, sometimes finding our own rituals to suit them. 

One more is left for 2014, Samhain, which is the end of October and can be considered the day of the dead. We know that the Solstice, the end of December, our shortest day, doesn't really feel like the beginning of winter. It comes far sooner when the nights grow longer.

Most of our celebrations come from one religion, or another; but many originally come from countries that are far different than where we live. The Celtic celebrations fit the climate in my part of the United States, and hence it does feel like fall is on its way even though it's August with still hot days ahead. Maybe because I lead an agricultural/nature oriented life, the Celtic seasons ring more true to me than someone in a city.

Imbolc February 2014

Beltane May 2014

Lammas August 2014

Yes, like the hummingbird, sip from the nectar of the season. It is the harvest.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Butterfly Mysteries

The mystery of the butterflies started out as a simple photograph of butterflies as one afternoon we finally had the camera with us as we sat on the lawn chairs in the garden. There were such big beautiful butterflies flitting around. Like so many people, I find them to be beautiful insects, and their life is interesting with the change from caterpillar to pupae to finally the flying insect we admire so much.

Lots of lovely photos later, I decided to look them up to be sure of the names of these. They looked like swallowtails but what kind? That's where the mystery comes in because Oregon Swallowtails (which I had rather thought them to be), do not migrate and live a year in Oregon, but only in Eastern Oregon, mostly in the rivers that enter into the Columbia. Looking closely at the photos, these are not Oregon Swallowtails; so then what are they?

I am not an insect person generally. I see pretty yellow butterfly and other than monarchs, I just think pretty yellow butterfly with no urge to know exactly what the name is. That is right up until I have these gorgeous photos, wings looking battered, and a blog to write on the topic. And that's when it gets complicated as many photos that look exactly like these are not in my part of Oregon.

As part of this, I went looking for photos of the caterpillars which I felt would be smart as if we want these butterflies (whatever type of swallowtail they might be), we better not be destroying the caterpillar that is them. It looks to me like, no matter which of the many varieties of swallowtails, the caterpillars look a lot alike.

photo from

From what I read, the swallowtail caterpillar is drawn to parsley plants, which we do grow here, as well as other herbs, which they might take as second choice. They are about 3" long. 

It kind of looks like the photos below are of tiger swallowtails (although I have yet to confirm that those are in my part of Oregon)... It wasn't the end of the mystery though as it turned out we had two types of butterflies that day which we hadn't noticed until studying the photos.

This next one is different and looks much more like the Oregon Swallowtail, the butterfly that lives in sagebrush country and not here.  It turned out the answer didn't require a climate change to draw a new butterfly to us.

Anise Swallowtails, which also look like Old World Swallowtails, look like the Oregon Swallowtails. Although the Oregon Swallowtail does not migrate, the Anise does. This one though looked less like it had been traveling than the other butterflies that afternoon where their wings had clearly been attacked or worn out.

Monarchs fascinate anyone who understands their story where they migrate but die in a southern climate where they will have laid their eggs. The new butterfly, once it emerges knows to head north to from where the parents had come. 

One time we were up the Clackamas River, hiking into a stream that saw few people. What it did see were thousands of Monarchs having a congregation. We ran into something similar in Montana one June where not thousands but a lot of butterflies had come to one grassy glade. 

Wherever they are seen, I never see a butterfly that it does not attract my eye. Mostly I am content to say--pretty yellow butterfly but we did plant that butterfly bush for them and knowing they like parsley as much as we do, we'll be planting more of it too because the caterpillar, not the beauty of the flying insect, is what has to be nurtured, rather like our own less beautiful parts need to be nurtured to bring out the butterfly in us. Maybe knowing that is why most of us do value the butterfly.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

summertime and the living isn't necessarily easy but is gorgeous

When considering what a summer should be, this has been the perfect one for us here at the farm. Hot days but most of the time not too hot. We have not had to bring out the room a/c unit which is an indicator of it being too hot. We don't have central air conditioning here because with the creek, it's only a few days a summer where we might need it.

Sunday we had an exciting thunderstorm with just enough rain to lessen the risks of fires from lightning strikes. It was the kind of storm I have seen more frequently in Arizona with squalls of hail, and thunder rumbling around for about four hours. The main Willamette Valley, to the east of us, got most of the wind, lightning and damage. 

Our vegetable garden is starting to really produce, and we are enjoying thinking up creative ways to use all the tomatoes, zucchini, string beans, corn, and cucumbers we have and soon will have. I think we might make pickles this year. The variety of cucumber we planted has been surprisingly sweet even when bigger (when they usually get a little bitter).

For pickles I am looking for a recipe for spicy, peppery dill pickles as I like that better than a straight dill. We have been considering getting a food dryer as the apple trees are loaded too. There is a lot of bounty to process in some way for the winter.

In the meantime it's good to sit out on the patio and talk, to enjoy the family when we can get together, to dream dreams (I have had some interesting ones), to mix the work that is part of this season with the joy, and to savor these long, warm and lush days. This is Oregon's season to shine.

The only concern will be fire danger. Eastern and Central Oregon got hit hard by the recent lightning storm, and fires are everywhere with enough to have the governor declare a national emergency to enable the National Guard to help. So it's been tough on some regions for the danger and fear. I totally relate to it and we could end up with the same problems as we have in previous years. 

Photos all from July on the farm. I find myself not wanting to leave here because this is the place I'd most want to be if I didn't already live here. I spent some time where dragonflies hang out trying to get some good photos but so far no luck. Just blue blurs. I haven't given up yet. I do though have some wonderful photos of swallowtail butterflies on our butterfly bush, but will save those for next Saturday.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ain't life great-- or not

Without a doubt, my life is a kaleidoscope of physical reality, which I see out my window or when I walk to the barn, along with the fantasy world I create in my mind, along with the craft of getting that world from me to someone else, along with the marketing world that goes along with that fantasy world. Some of these things are more enjoyable than the other. Bet you can guess which ones...

With the recent one-thing-after-another set of experiences where it comes to my writing and actually my physical world, I have decided-- a person can be writing too much. It seems I am in a kind of whirlwind of constantly needing to do something else. Yes, Virginia, there can be too much on a person's plate!
  1. bring out Comes the Dawn
  2. get the word out Comes the Dawn is out
  3. try to not be depressed when the book does not sell *wink*
  4. promote my short, short story in Alison Bruce's blog
  5. prepare a first kiss feature for Lily Graison's blog-- out Aug. 11
  6. edit Sky Daughter after a writer friend gave suggestions
  7. put together Diablo Canyon after deciding that it will come out, all 3 novellas in one eBook probably end of July
  8. surprise of surprises, find a great cover for Diablo Canyon-- first I have gotten from a graphic artist. she offered it free. If book sold, I'd be happy to pay but...
  9. do not ask why I'd want to bring this book out given the three novellas sold virtually nada.
  10. get back to writing Love Waits as the fourth Oregon historical, a book I may never publish
  11. write blogs and meditate on whether I should keep doing blogs as breaks can be healthy for anybody
  12. Find room for a life in there somewhere-- oh and a root canal, abscess and one more dental root canal/crown, that should be done, plus time with grandkids.
I could set those all into a big circular swirl because they are how I feel right now-- not separate but mixed together along with quiet times of sitting out in the yard and talking to Farm Boss about his chaotic project world which makes mine look like it's nothing. Add to it the importance to me of putting meaningful time into friendships and maybe finding some new inspiration with mini-vacations. And gratitude. I am oh so grateful I was not in Yellowstone when my tooth abscess blew up.

In terms of personal improvement, I have a project there too-- trying not to clench my teeth. I have to constantly remind myself, all day, especially when editing-- keep those teeth apart!

Recently I have bought quite a few books from other writers but haven't taken the time to read any. I am in the mood now to think maybe August needs to be-- read other authors month. Maybe August should be time out from blogging too. This would be ironic as both blogs are building up numbers quite a bit now-- good time to cut them back-- not lol But maybe a good time for me emotionally.

We have one week of grandkids here, of which I look forward to, but other than that, a lot of reading under the golden chain trees is in order.

Oh and has anybody had a cat that climbs chain link fences on her paws? We do. The first time we saw our one-year old, Raven do it, we thought she used her claws. No, she uses her paws like a clever little fox. So the fences have all been extended until our yards look like big bird enclosures :). That's okay, we do not want a cat out beyond those fences as beyond lie things like automobiles that kill little cats like her who have no idea what risks the world holds.

Finally I won't mention names but a couple I have come to think highly of just faced the death of one of them due to congestive heart failure. They are so loving and such an interesting couple, and it made me incredibly sad, to the point that I cried when I heard it. That might seem nutty for people I haven't met, but it's the empathy of  relating to what other people go through. I wanted their story to go on longer! 

On the other hand, another person I also have come to like, also through the world of the internet, is going to be married next month and is starting a brand new life. That makes me so happy that I feel a glow when I think about the wonder of new love. Their story is just beginning.

So life goes with a mix of good and bad, happy and sad. I don't know if it'd be better if it was always up but definitely know it would not be better to always be down. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Comes the Dawn

My third Arizona O'Brian historical came out early. I planned it for the 10th, but it was actually up last night. Better ahead of time than behind. This was a book I really enjoyed writing because I got to travel back through some of my favorite parts of Arizona with my characters. That's the plus of writing or reading something set in places the reader/writer  loves or maybe didn't know much about but learns to love through the words.

I will be back in Arizona this fall but not into the parts in Comes the Dawn-- or at least that's not on the plan. But someday I definitely want to spend more time in central Arizona. I'll be writing more in the blog about that area and what makes it so special. 

In the meantime, this is my newest book out as an eBook. We'll get the paperback up as soon as we can. I like having them out in both forms now that we're finally learning what it takes to get the paperbacks formatted in a way that makes them readable. That took some learning.

Comes the Dawn is a romance first but just as important is what it says about family, about responsibility, and most especially about fatherhood. It's a love story to Arizona and the people there. I've always said it's difficult when some of your greatest loves are over a thousand miles apart. But I can go there whenever I want-- in my imagination.