Saturday, February 13, 2016

the arc

 image purchased from CanStock and on the background for the cover of 'Bound for the Hills'

The first sentence in Bound for the Hills was typed January 4th. "Wilhelmina Agatha Tremaine Butler listened with pretended concern to the driver of the wagon carrying her and her possessions to the cabin she had rented for three months." Willy was on a journey, which would change pretty much everything in her life.  110,000 words later, her story and the rough draft came to its conclusion on February 9th.  

Writing a book, for me, goes best if I stay with it, which means it is sometimes a grind. There are reasons to stay with it, even when my back is screaming-- quit that. One reason is how easy it is to forget what was written even two days earlier-- let alone if it's longer. I never start a book without having thought quite a bit about who the characters are, where they are heading and where they will end up. I learn more as I write. I like to stay with the flow, leaving time between scenes to think what is going to add to this event, make it more real. There are days I enjoy writing and days I have to make myself.

Almost universally, when I finish a rough draft, I think the story is a classic, the best thing I have ever written. A week or two later, when I give it its first edit, I think it's horrible, how could I have ever thought it was good? Multiple edits later I will be back to thinking it's good. I don't put out anything I don't feel positive about.

With the rough draft done, comes the week to write the blurb, which will be sent with it to Amazon, CreateSpace, and D2D (which sends them to B&N, Kobo, etc). I have just spent many words telling a story and then must reduce it down to say a hundred to let a reader know what to expect. Even though I dislike writing blurbs, they do let me see if my story has an arc that will not only be believable but also exciting to readers.

Since I began publishing my books, I've been on an arc of my own for learning. Arc is a word I only recently heard in connection with writing, in an article on The Notebook where Nicholas Sparks, its author, said he believed that the reason it was hard to find a star for the film was the actors complained there wasn't an arc for the hero. The hero began where he was and more or less stayed there with the heroine the one making changes. He defended why that was true, and I think what he said made sense. A character does not need to change if they are already where they need to be.

In my case, I think I generally write arcs. My characters do go through changes. I have, however, thought of it as Joseph Campbell's-- [The Hero's Journey], which I believe is not just true of mythic tales, but also of a life fully lived. We enter a new experience through a gatekeeper experience of some sort. It is not always something we'd have chosen of our own accord; but once in it, we go through steps that will change us, deepen our understanding of life, teach us skills, and strengthen our knowledge of ourselves. The hero's journey then returns home but with us being changed by the experiences. The journey could be schooling, an illness, relationships, a task, moving, loss, so many things, but it is about life as well as mythologies. 

In my books, the hero and heroine both have a journey, and yes, an arc. They come into the journey through something that takes them out of their world into a new one. Through what they experience, they change and there is, in the end, a satisfying sense that they have grown through it. This is the nature of romances, not so much novels. Novels don't need to be positive in the end. I write romances because I see enough negativity in the world without choosing it for my writing. I have to live with these characters and their experiences for months at the least. I want to feel good for that time.

This week I began choosing images and words for the book's trailer. Book trailers are to share the physical reality and beauty, as I see them, in my stories-- like a little movie of sorts.  Some of my readers say they enjoy them. I think they are especially good after the reader finishes the book when all the images will mean more. I've never felt they sell books, but they are what I enjoy doing for mine.

Other than that, I've had a little more time at the social media sites and not sure what I think about that-- so for now not saying. Same with the primaries. Sometimes I just plain get angry that we end up with so few candidates that I can feel good about. With the world in as big a mess as it is, I wish it was otherwise. This is a good time to be buried in creative work as it is certainly not a good time to pay much attention to what's going on in the world...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

writing, politics, lambing, and birds...

 where a lot of my new book takes place. I bought the image of a lake and a cabin and had to put them together with photo-shop
Reading what some people comment in places like Facebook, I have seen a different side of politics for the anger. I knew it was in the newspaper comment sites, but was surprised when it's supposedly involving friends. I was even more surprised how much was coming from the left.

There are two candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton, who was the designated one, and Bernie Sanders, the outsider who has been elected as a socialist in the Senate for years, even though he caucuses with the Democrats. He's not exactly an outsider considering his many years in Congress, but he also is not one of 'them' and he is advocating big changes if he wins.

Anyway I missed the beginning of their one on one debate Thursday night but caught the last hour. I guess I missed the fireworks. I saw reference to it the next morning in comments. One person declared that at one time she had favored Bernie but now she is mad at him for what her friends say about Hillary. Say what!!! You might agree with his politics but because he has fans who you don't like, you would not vote for him??? Might I say, that is nuts! lol

And then there are those who want Hillary just because she's a woman. Excuse me, but that is no more reason to vote for her than voting for Obama should have been because he was half black and half white. Sorry, but I just don't consider that sensible when the next President may appoint more Supreme Court Justices, where they will have wars they could enter, taxes they could increase or lower, environmental issues to decide, programs to gut, even Constitutional amendments to push. Come on, the fact that Hillary would be the first woman President is absolutely no reason to vote for her. Incidentally, neither should that Bernie would be our first Jewish President.

I believe (drum roll) that we should vote on two factors-- character and issues. Some would say character does not matter, but I believe it does and equally. IF the candidate says everything you want to hear, but they are known for deceit or waffling, seriously can you believe what they will do on those issues once they are in?

This seems early for people to get so angry but that's how it appears to be going. *shaking my head* Which is why I took a picture of me smiling. Seriously, it's laugh or cry a lot of the time, isn't it? And I'd rather laugh.

Meanwhile, I am still writing on the new historical (around 95,000 words and not sure how long to go), which should have its rough draft done by Sunday if not today. It's hard at the last, as from here, I could write it all in a day, but when you go too fast on writing, you miss the character notes. You don't get what these people would do when the unexpected happens. 

Below is what my desk currently looks like with research books, sheets of paper with character lists, timeline, calendars for their activities, moon cycles, notes, and chapter lengths as well as glasses, etc. etc. The bulletin board above it mostly has the pictures of the hero in this book with his heroine and much of its landscape (there is one snuck on there from what will be the first of the Arizona contemporaries, which I will get into when this book has its rough draft finished). 

I vary writing, watching birds, and talking to Ranch Boss about the latest plot development. I used to write totally alone with what I was doing, my plots, etc. Now I enjoy having someone to bounce ideas from and he likes doing it. There are places he knows things about that I don't; so it's very symbiotic as how it's evolved

Finally, lambing is going well.  

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

four and twenty... what was that again?

It's going to be a long election season in the US with the media pimping anything that happens as the biggest thing ever. I am so sick of it and suspect a lot of Americans feel the same way. I have no candidate I am totally thrilled by although there is one we have donated to, but there are doubts regarding policy positions and how they'd actually work out. I have candidates I cannot stand and unfortunately they seem to be the ones most pushed by the media into our faces night after night if we watch the nightly news-- which is why I don't do that anymore. Ugh.

 Doesn't it all seem a bit like the way the red-wing blackbirds squabble! Except, we can't abandon ship not if we want to see our country make wise choices. Of course, our voting may not get the country going the way we want. At least though we are taking the responsibility seriously of what a democratic nation should mean-- involvement of the citizens in the governing process.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

seasonal rituals

Celtic or Gaelic festivals can be taken on many levels. There is looking at them as a recognition of seasonal changes. This year Imbolc is February 1; Beltane May 1; Lammas August 1; and Samhain October 31. They relate to spring, summer, fall, and winter with each also potentially having a spiritual meaning.

Imbolc has many suggested pronunciations but most do leave off the B. It comes midway between the winter Solstice and spring equinox. It actually is more like spring than the equinox in the lands from which this festival developed. By its celebration in places like Ireland or my part of Oregon, spring is in the air. The trees are budding out, the lambs are bouncing around the fields, the grass is growing, and thoughts turn to planting gardens. Even if more snow falls or more freezing nights come, spring is already in the people's hearts. 

The interesting part about festivals like Imbolc are how many different cultures have found the time important in human life. Something that was more obvious to peoples who lived a more agrarian life than most do today.

If someone wants to find ways to celebrate it that involve ritual, there are many possibilities especially in Wiccan books. Here's a link with some suggestions.

My interest in Wicca goes way back. I have quite a few books on the festivals and rituals. I am not a witch, nor do I have an interest in becoming one. As someone might know who reads me regularly here, I am kind of off religions of any sort. There are though many misconceptions about witchcraft with those who believe it's connected to Satanism. It's not. It is an old faith with rituals, which relate to the seasonal cycles, to healing, and strengthening people through often communal celebrations. I think knowing when they are, giving thought to them, can be beneficial whether we do the rituals or not. To me, when rituals come from natural, earthy sources, they are apt to have more benefit to our lives. We need to be connected to the earth and it's too easy to lose that in today's world.

In the early 90s, I wrote my first book that involved the paranormal. That was Sky Daughter and as with most of my writing, the story evolved very organically as I wrote. For those of you, who have considered being a writer but haven't gotten started, start. Writing begets writing. You begin a story with characters. As happens in all friendships, you get to know their personalities through their activities and your interactions with them. 

In Sky Daughter, the heroine is not a believer in the mystical, when she returns to her family's ancestral home, where her grandfather still lives. From then on, what happens teaches her more about who she is as well as who her family had been. The hero is Jewish but not practicing. Each of them come from a place of disbelief to facing the unknown and finding ritual sometimes is needed even if the person does not know why it works. Sky Daughter takes place before and during Lammas.

I've since written more stories that involve the mystical, may write more in the future, but Sky Daughter is special to me for its combining of nature, the mystical, and human needs. It's a theme I do return to often even if the mystical is less dominant.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The first lambs here often come near Imbolc. This year, they beat it by over a week. In the first photo, the second of the twins has not yet gotten up, but you can see it is bright eyed and within a few more moments, it was checking out the source of sustenance.

It's interesting how fast prey species babies get up versus those from the predator species where their babies often take a week or more even to get their eyes open.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

One land-- or many fiefdoms?

 shared from Facebook

Oregonians have been facing an issue that maybe isn't of as much interest to those in other states, but it should be because it has deeper repercussions than some might realize. When the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was occupied by militia members from mostly other states, it started a debate over public lands and whether there is a right for such to exist. The debate goes beyond that to whether each state/county should make their own laws and the federal concept of one nation (except to fight foreign wars) should be eliminated. It's not a new battle for this country but rather shocking that it's being fought again in 2016.

If those, willing to use guns and make their argument with their willingness to fire bullets, can win this, what will they claim next? Most of these militia types do not believe the government, which in our country means the people, should own anything. It should all be in private ownership which means under the control of the local rancher or the richest people. 

When ranchers can cut off access to wilderness areas, which were often long-used by the public, they do so with fences and locks. If those using outlaw methodology can win that way in Harney county, it won't stop there. Never forget, they are not claiming it for the people but for a few people-- some of whom graze it now for pennies in comparison to what other ranchers pay for leasing private land for their stock. What we are seeing in Oregon is what amounts to an attempted land grab with guns.

What they are attempting would be called theft if they arrived on my land and decided they'd live in my house and change my fences and roads to suit themselves. But for some reason, this has been allowed to go on and on and on. There have been a lot of articles on it for those who have not heard about it.


Some claim innocent ranchers were put in prison as terrorists when they were not. Before defending the ones who gave the Bundys the excuse to do this, check out who these two guys were. This doesn't even address accusations earlier that the younger Hamilton abused his nephew as part of 'disciplining' him. 

What is ironic is why didn't all of this come out months ago as the Hamilton case has been a story in the farm papers for months. If the government is responsible for any of this happening, I'd say their lack of putting out the information regarding this family contributed certainly-- although militia groups have just been looking for excuses and a place to do what they want which is take over. If the meanest and most brutal take over, what will happen? Well, read about the Hamiltons for a good idea.

The claim is made by these militants that they are returning the land to the people. Strange talk indeed because it is owned by the people now, managed for their use. IF these yahoos got their way, the only ones able to use it would be the ranchers who could graze it to dust if they wished. 

This is a land grab attempt and if the US government doesn't recognize that, worse will come. There are those who do not want national parks, refuges or wilderness areas, those who only value $$$, and then only when in their own hands.

I've often thought, when hiking on BLM or National Forest land, or when visiting state or federal parks, how wonderful it is that earlier generations set aside land for the people of the future. I thought how wildernesses are disappearing and without the foresight of those like Roosevelt, there'd be no Yellowstone or Grand Canyon as we know it. Always the rich wanted to set those places aside for themselves to charge anyone else or even prevent their entering. It's not a new story we are seeing. What is new is now it's our generation's time to step up to bat. Or do we let oligarchs and the ones who believe might comes through weapons to take over.

Writing my new book, one of the places I had to research was San Francisco and got a surprise when I learned that Golden Gate Park was created over the objections of the local oligarchs of that time, who wanted a race track or some other use that would suit their exclusivity desires.

The although fictional, this thinking was in my historical, Love Waits-- the desire to set up a militia, who will make things better than government. Nothing new with it as there are always those willing to take what they didn't work to earn. In Love Waits, the leader manipulated those he deemed weaker than himself. It fed his desire for power. Such people can make all sorts of excuses but in reality, it's always about them and not for the benefit of anyone else.

Historically, what we are seeing in the Malheur is not new. It is just new people leading it, some of whom are religious extremists of the Mormon type. When Bundy claimed he's following God's will in this and the example of the angel Moroni, who was in their Book of Mormon, he pretty well shows where this is heading. Once again, we are seeing religious extremism threaten the lives of others and once again it does not come from the religion it claims. The Mormon Church does not condone what he's doing but there is a history there and he's claiming it as have so many other religions extremists from many religions.

It has been very disappointing that we think we have these issues settled, that Americans see the value of large swaths of land available for multiple purposes, that parks have values, that migrating birds need to be protected, that environmental issues matter to city folk even if they don't know it. We think we settled the value of having parks, places for the public to use, but it seems it's never really settled and each generation has to go through it again.

Below are photos of what it is like to be in places that have been set aside for not only the birds and animals, but for humans to re-create themselves. Think long and hard before allowing such to be taken away for one man's profit over the value of such places to benefit all men.

I guarantee you if the United States federal government lets Bundy and his ilk get away with this, such places will not be there for future generations. This is not a good time to be distracted by minutia. It is a time to pay attention to terms like sagebrush rebellion and Posse Comitatus because where this is going is beyond one refuge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


 recent sunrise looking out our living room window-- not very showy
 but you gotta take what you can find when the weather is like this ;)

Last night on Netflix, we watched the documentary on the history of the Eagles. Naturally it would have an appeal for anyone into their music, but I also recommend it for anyone into creativity. I related to it as an example of not only the creative life but life itself.

The documentary took the men in that band through their youth, as their art took form, to when they learned how to sell it, finally to where they were old, discussing what had been, and still playing their music for large crowds. There were interviews and videos from their shows as well as them goofing off or discussing the work from years back. The connections they had with so many other musicians of that time was fascinating to me. It really was a zeitgeist time for a certain type of music and Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, Linda Ronstadt were part of their story.

What got me about it was a kind of irony, a bit of personal serendipity. During the day I'd been talking to Ranch Boss about how I was feeling right now with my writing. It's an odd feeling to be in the midst of a book, not sure if you are writing crap, unsure if you've missed an important point, sometimes having to make yourself keep going. I had mentioned how I look back at those books I've written and sometimes wonder from where all of that came. They feel like-- of course, it had to be written that way, but at the time, it involved angst, uncertainty and yes, some eureka moments. 

And then that night listening, as Glen Frey and the others in the band talked of their creative process, of how they got where they were, the breaks, the good things, the doubts, and all that goes with any creative process when it isn't about craft but about bringing something new into its own form of reality. I imagine any creative person, who has experienced a lifetime of creating, would feel the same things watching the documentary.

So my creative work has been the writing, then watching that show. My physical world involves gray days, occasional bursts of sunlight, lots of birds, ewes looking as though lambing will begin near to Imbolc, a back that is telling me-- get away from that computer, and smatterings, from the world beyond this valley, which come through reading or watching a bit of news (also two political debates).