Wednesday, May 27, 2015

only in my imagination-- for now

Maybe spring is a particularly effective time for writing. Last year I had some of the same experience as this-- one book led right into another. This particularly happens with secondary characters who excite my interest enough to find their story, which can be novella, short novel or long novel. Beginning a new project, at least if you don't have a contract, I don't think most authors know which length it will be. The story lasts as long as it takes to tell it.

If my writing work year was structured, as I feel is probably best, it would mean-- write a rough draft, edit the last one, edit the new one, etc. Then time for promoting the book that is due out, which means images for trailers and writing blurbs, not to mention articles wherever I have the opportunity to have the book seen. One for sure on writing-- if you can't get it seen, you can't get it sold.

Lately my writing process is not structured. It is unpredictable (last month at this time I had no idea I'd be writing what I am right now), fun (always neat to get to know new characters); but more driven than seems wise-- and not driven by the outside world but my inside one. Constantly writing new material tends to suck me into their world and out of mine. When I am not thrilled with my world, that can be good but on the other hand-- I wake up thinking-- if I had this happen, what would they do? And where my back and neck are saying-- are you insane? 

Well, I might be. Some say all writers are a little insane because it is a calling where you are off in someone else's life a lot of the time. Now, your own life might be just fine, but you have to set aside its needs while you figure out those of these characters who never existed, never will, except in your imagination; and if you put that book out there-- the imagination of others.




Saturday, May 23, 2015

dreams are part of my night


Perhaps I have mentioned before that I write once a month for a writer's blog, Smart Girls Read Romance. There are fifteen writers, posting every two days. I was invited into their group this year. In some ways coming up with a topic for that blog is harder than for this one because I am trying to fit into a group that I didn't form. I don't want to disappoint the founding members. Adding to it, the group is aimed at readers as much or maybe more than writers.

So I came up with a topic for May, [dream power], wrote the blog, had fun with it, and then had a vivid dream that almost made me totally redo it. Instead, I decided to leave there what I had written and bring the new addition to dreams here--
I was invited to be part of an online discussion on dreams. The two women who were also part of it are celebrities, actresses, and well known. It seemed in the dream I was not me but was inside someone else. She was not much younger than the two women but was less famous. So the idea was we would discuss our dreams, maybe write about them and analyze their meanings. I was having a problem with my end of it, as although usually I dreamed interesting dreams, as soon as I was supposed to dream an interesting dream to discuss, I was remembering none of the dreams.

The most vivid sequence was me in the car with one of the women, sitting in the front seat beside the driver when the second famous woman came up and I quickly offered and moved to the backseat. So dreams were being discussed and I was looking at what they had written about theirs and feeling mine was not nearly so interesting when I had a good dream also.
The rest of the dream is lost to the vagaries of the mind. The gist of it though was about the very subject I had written about. Waking to consider it, made me think about why we get the dreams we do and even more so why are the ones in it who are? I didn't used to do this but lately sometimes celebrities are my characters. Yes, they are celebrities I've read about but often not my favorite or those I might be thinking about.

In some ways, I understood why these two women would have been in this dream. They are much in the news right now although I have yet see the series they filmed together. The reason I didn't use their names is one of them is not only famous but in some circles-- infamous. Wherever her name is mentioned some old white guy (they almost always are old white guys) is going to say something about her that is mean, ignorant (he knows only the truth he's been fed), and angry. Until that age of men die off, and she probably will go with them, this won't change. What I don't like about mentioning her name here isn't that I mind people saying something angry to me, but rather how easily I know readers can be distracted from the topic that I had in mind. Whenever I write one of these blogs, I have something I want to be its topic and why I wrote it. Any distraction to something that had little to do with it will lose that point.

Our dreams seem to me to be the mind playing with us. Sometimes what has seemed perfectly logical in a dream almost has me laughing when I wake and it made no sense at all. What appears in a dream can be whatever we have seen or read somewhere and juxtapositioned with something from years back. The whole thing is thrown into the pot that is the mind and brought back together in ways that can mystify me when I am awake. From where on earth did that come is a not uncommon thought as I wake.

Only on very rare occasions have I had a dream that answered a question I had during the day. (Part I of [Diablo Canyon] is one of those exceptions.) Usually my dreams seem to come from out of nowhere, and although I always look to see if there is meaning to them. Once in awhile there is. Because I like writing books with a kind of mystical element, a dream can help it be.

Dreams for me are generally relaxing and fun times (but not always). My dreams can be so vivid, I guard what I put into my mind during the day. I cannot even imagine watching something like the popular series Game of Thrones. Just reading about what goes on there is taking it as far as I want.

Mostly, I don't think I am in control of my dreams, which is a nice break for my brain where it's going all day long. I have done some lucid dreaming, but it's not the average. Lucid dreaming is where you realize you are dreaming and it's going somewhere you don't like or where you prefer a different direction and you take it over-- knowing you did it.

Sometimes I do a digital painting from a dream. The above image was one of those from some years back. I could not remotely tell you what that dream was but the little sketch looked like fun and it kind of says a lot about the kinds of dreams I often have-- full of images and who knows from where they have come.

To see if I had anything about that one, I went back through the journal I was keeping at that time-- not a dream journal but just general-- this is how I'm feeling and what I did. I came across some amazing dreams, which I had long since forgotten but didn't find that one.

Since in the background is a rustic cabin but the subject is a goldfish in a bowl, looking toward the open sea with waves crashing, I wonder if perhaps it was about feeling limited in my own options by what seemed like security. If so, it's no longer true of my life. It does illustrate one feature of all my dreams-- I dream in full Technicolor. The dream dictionary link has a place to explain what those colors might mean...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

old age issues-- or not


Every now and again I have said I'd write about aging. It's a logical topic for a general issue blog like this one-- especially where I am old woman who will be 72 in the fall. The truth is though-- I rarely think about my age. I don't 'not' think about it but it's not something that involves me much. It takes someone bringing it up for me to think-- well, how do I feel about that? 

Of course, I am very aware of my bodily changes, the fact that I am definitely in old age territory, but most of what I do has nothing to do with my age-- other than the benefits I receive from my experiences.

I know those my age who claim they are still girls (it seems to be mostly women who say that as how many men want to be boys) at heart. I have to admit. I never thought of myself as a girl at heart when I was one. I have always more or less thought of myself as just me. I do relate to activity related aspects to an age. For instance, when I was a girl, I couldn't drive; then I could. I couldn't vote; then I could. Activities defined me more than a number. High school. College. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Rancher. Writer. Things I was doing (or others did) mattered more than whether I was 45 or 60. 

There are a few bloggers who center their writing on old age issues. Some are concerned about ageism or that the old don't have enough benefits. They want the world to look at them as it did when they were young or they want benefits that they now need because they are old-- issues that seem contradictory to me.

I read some old age blogs, but mostly I don't share their concerns. Yes, I like having SS and Medicare. Those are benefits that help all elderly. I particularly want to see SS stay meaningful for future generations, as it's why most old don't have to live with their children these days. As for Medicare, I like having insurance and wish the country had gone for Medicare for all. It's not just the old who have health problems.

More or less, my cultural concerns don't relate to my age. What worries me are things like making college more affordable for American youths. How about jobs for them when they are ready? Will the climate change make the world very different than we have known? Why aren't we more concerned with infrastructure, and heavens, please don't start another war right when my grandchildren are the age to be impacted by it. My issues are not those of an old woman but of a grandparent or citizen of a nation where I worry as to which way it's going.

Soon, I'll be caring who runs for president and will one of them be better for the long-term health of the country? Will they disappoint me as has happened so often-- even if they sound good when they run. I am looking ahead for where is this nation going. I worry about that. I had my life. It was a good one, and I was born during a very good time to be a woman in this country. Have we got a ways to go for women-- definitely it seems when a Congressman can say that rape can be good when it gives a woman a baby. Say what!!!!

One old age blog recently asked if readers (most are old) felt they had missed their chance? I didn't go back to read all the comments; but for me, I don't think that way. I did what I felt was right to do at the age I did it. Certainly I missed opportunities. There are times I wish I'd been kinder or more caring. Would my life be different today if I had done this or that differently? Maybe, but I am pretty satisfied with where I am. My life is not perfect, but it's definitely satisfying. I can still do much of what I want to do-- if I want to do it enough. I admit though I am lucky to want to do something like writing novels, which isn't more difficult for being old.

At my age, to be living the life I want to live, to live on the land, have room for a big garden, raise livestock, and be able to write the kind of complex, romantic stories that are in my heart, I know how lucky I am. I love that I can put those books out and nobody else can dictate to me what they must be about. This is a rare time for a writer to have that kind of choice. However, I also know life can end very abruptly, things can change fast. So I live in this moment and totally know it's the life I am very happy to be living.

Personally, my biggest concern is how I've let my weight get out of hand-- worsened by getting out of the habit of regular exercise. I could change that. But, both those things go back to the thing I do, which is most satisfying-- writing romantic fiction. Spend a lot of hours writing and guess what happens. Sure, I could get up and walk away from this computer for a hike. I do go for walks but not as often as I should. I admit-- writing is a passion and can be an obsession. I get into a story, and I just don't want to quit. I don't want a break. 

Then the story is finished, and I come up for air and look around wondering-- where'd the world go and uh... who is that fat woman in the mirror? *s*
  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Adding an historical character

One of the interesting parts of writing and editing is the possibility of new discoveries, which may come through letting fictional characters fully develop. As the writer sees how these people would live, what they may have known, new ideas emerge. That experience enriches the writing both through research and the more complete view of the lives that these people led-- fictionally speaking. This happened to me in a surprising way as I was doing the next to last edit for Where Dreams Go, and I found something to add to the book.

Because I am a native born Northwesterner, my schooling had a lot about the settling of this region from a land of many tribes, to the first fur trappers, then the British control, followed by Americans who were encouraged to come out at the behest of their government and free land. One of the towering figures (literally) in its development was Dr. John McLoughlin. The state of Washington regarded him very much as theirs-- as much as Oregon, at one time, tried to disown him.


McLoughlin led a fascinating and varied life, bigger than any movie could possibly portray given its diversity. For us out here, he was famous for being the factor at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. He was the law in Oregon before it became Oregon Territory. For the twenty years that the land was under his rule, there were no Indian wars. He dealt fairly with the Native American peoples as he did with the new settlers streaming in, some on the verge of starvation-- where instead of turning them away, as Hudson's Bay would have preferred, he followed the Christian precepts he had based his life around. He gave food, a place to stay as these immigrants adjusted to their new home. For that, he was rewarded by eventually being fired by Hudson's Bay, who was concerned that by helping these settlers, he was shortening the time Britain would have sway over the land (they likely were right). 

Fired from the job he had held so long, McLoughlin returned to Oregon City where he had first claimed land in 1829. He had early seen its potential with the falls as a source of power and being on the Willamette River where ships could get to it. He had established a flour mill and built a beautiful home on its bluffs. In 1851, he was elected Oregon City's mayor.

Although he had wanted Oregon, which at the time encompassed what today are Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, to be an independent nation, all his life he helped all arriving settlers, some in conditions of virtual starvation. While Oregon bounced around with where its capitol was to be, there were homestead acts passed that brought in increasing numbers of Americans, which eventually made it very clear Oregon would be part of the United States. 

Not everyone appreciates a man who towers over others. Because McLoughlin had been born in Canada, he was a British subject-- although he became an American citizen. There were those in Oregon's developing government, who claimed he had no right to his land. When Samuel Thurston and Jason Lee wrote the Donation Land Act, they inserted a clause that took away most of McLoughlin's land. They made false claims about him to the Supreme Court to further discredit him. 

Despite being personally attacked, McLoughlin lived the Christian creed. As he had when a factor at Fort Vancouver, he continued to provide aid to new settlers. He built houses, sawmills, gristmills, and a canal around the falls all with his own money. He gave away 300 lots for private and public use. On land he had donated, churches of many denominations were built. 

With failing health and a heart broken by many tragedies, Dr. McLoughlin died in September of 1857 before he had regained title to the land that had virtually been stolen from him. He was buried in the cemetery of St. John's Catholic Church in Oregon City. 

For the moment, all he had done for so many seemed to be forgotten. Except it wasn't in that Oregon did finally make right on the land. It took time but in 1907 Oregon Historical Society President Frederick V. Holman, gave the following eulogy at the dedication of the McLoughlin Institute at Oregon City: 
 "I shall merely mention that conspirators against Dr. McLoughlin took for themselves parts of his land claim and, by means of malicious misstatements, caused Congress unjustly to deprive him of all the rest of his land claim, and thus humbled and humiliated and impoverished the grand, the noble, the generous Father of Oregon." 
It took until 1957, for the Oregon Legislative Assembly to agree and officially declare him to be The Father of Oregon. 

When I was editing Where Dreams Go, I realized that one of my important secondary characters from Round the Bend, St. Louis Jones, would have known McLoughlin. St. Louis had been a trapper, lived with the Lakota when he married a Lakota woman, been a wagon master who brought settlers to Oregon-- his last such trip being in 1851. There is no way he'd have not known McLoughlin. When St. Louis settled, along with the Stevens family, near Oregon City, he would have reconnected with what was likely an old friend. They shared a spiritual, hands-on view of what Christians should do for others. 

My own connection with the stories of McLoughlin had pieces of his life in them in several ways. Where I grew up in Washington was twenty miles from Fort Vancouver. When my parents sold our farm and moved, at the end of my senior year in high school,  I ended up not many miles from where McLoughlin lived out the end of his life. The Methodist church where I was married was a few blocks from his home on the bluff. My husband and I took our early instruction in becoming adult converts to Catholicism in St. John's Catholic Church, where McLoughlin returned to his Catholic faith at the end of his life.

In my historic books, I generally stay away from real historical figures. I do this because even if someone is famous today, it doesn't mean my characters would know them. I did not directly bring McLoughlin into Where Dreams Go, where the story begins in 1855. I did it through St. Louis talking about him. St. Louis doesn't have a point of view in the book; but his philosophy on life pops up now and again as a friend to the heroine and hero. I could have brought McLoughlin literally into the book, fascinating character that he was, but this book is almost too long as it is. I'd have to have had my hero or heroine connect with him. It seemed better to tell a bit of his story through my characters rather than add this larger than life man into the manuscript. 

For anyone interested in more about this part of the history of the Pacific Northwest, there are  excellent museums in Oregon City. The McLoughlin house can be toured (some claim it's even haunted). Downtown Portland has the Oregon Historical Society and museum. Fort Vancouver has been turned into a place to get a feel for the history of an area I have called home all of my life-- not only for its great natural beauty but also its rich history on many levels.





Wednesday, May 13, 2015

larkspur

Wildflowers are amazing with their appearance only where it suits them. Some will be along country roads, while others are far more particular and only appear in very select places-- a certain elevation, certain amount of moisture, and for a time to suit themselves. There are a few that will bloom all summer, although never in as much profusion as their first bloom. A few make their fans work for any sight of them.

One of the things we always aim to do is get to Beazell Memorial Forest when the larkspur are at their peak. I've never been anywhere with so many forming a lush garden. We've made it there some years and others arrived too early and then too late. This happens to also be a busy time on the farm. 

The larkspur are in lush profusion in one main area right alongside the small creek. This year, we were there a few times, ahead of the bloom, thought we might have missed it, but finally hit it just right. They are almost impossible to photograph because their blue is very similar in value to all the green surrounding them. 

After reading the above link, I may try again to get them started along our creek. At one time it had livestock foraging along its banks. Pretty well the death of any such plants. Now it's fenced off; so maybe...














Saturday, May 09, 2015

ups and downs


Sitting here at the keyboard, I am enjoying the sight of the columbines out my window, allergy season not so much, and re-edited an Oregon historical manuscript that is due out June 21st. 

 this is not the cover, but I played with it as a possibility

Where Dreams Go has been edited, time and time again. This edit is the one ahead of when I hand it over to a beta reader. He has read a lot of my books, maybe all of them, been a friend, knows a lot about Oregon history, and has proven to be good at finding errors I missed. I think the first time I experienced his skill was in Desert Inferno, where I had a heroine, who didn't care much for coffee. She was sitting on her patio, enjoying a desert morning-- sipping coffee. Okay, I might have gotten by with that if she hadn't been sipping tea only a few lines down. He caught that one, and he's been good at it ever since. 

Finally it dawned on me to ask if he'd consider being a beta reader. There is no money in it, but beta readers do get many thanks, the book free, now and again a paperback or bookmarks, and the satisfaction of telling the author-- you goofed. Mostly they are looking for inconsistencies in the author's logic, but anything else they find is a plus.

Besides not having beta readers, I also haven't had editors. A major no-no to the ePublishing world. The experts, and pretty much everybody else, are adamant that you must have editors as no writer can edit their own work. I believe they can, but it takes hours and hours, doing it many times with distance between the reads, and is a pain in the neck job as it's a word for word job. It has none of the excitement of writing the first draft or reading a book for the first time.

This week, our ranch lost a calf. Fortunately Ranch Boss saw the problem and was able, with a lot of muscle, to pull the dead calf and save the mother. It was too big for her. These things are tough; but on the same day, another heifer had hers without problem, but that was due to its being smaller. 

Currently we are trying to get our shearer out here, but this is his busy season which means we work around his schedule. They are doing okay although we did have one lamb break its leg, something that is generally fixable. The question in such cases is always-- how on earth did it do that?



Weather in my part of Oregon has been a mix of gray to beautiful blue skies. We are now though in a warm streak with temps up to 80ºF this week-end. The garden is tilled and ready for planting, even if it is 33ºF in the morning. Normally, I buy bedding plants about now, but this year I can't buy from any source that will not promise me that the plant was not grown using neonicotinoids or their ilk.If you are not familiar with the concern, here is but one link: 


When you think about it, it's not hard to figure out that if a product becomes part of the plant and kills insects, why not bees. With the great concern over hive collapses, it seems to me that we home gardeners must do our part to see this product and those like it are no longer used. Petitions are nice but kind of do nothing. When you vote with your dollars, growers and manufacturers hear you. In my case, if I can't get guarantees of the plants being safe, it's the year I'll grow them all from seed. 

I have also read that these products are not healthy for pets. We would like to think we can trust our nurseries or stores. The truth is-- we need to ask questions. If they say they don't know, then bye-bye. I am grateful for the researchers who reveal such problems to us and give us a choice. Science is wonderful for what it can do-- Of course, the science that told me of the dangers of neonicotinoids was used by a corporation to develop the product to begin with... 

What most of us want as consumers is full disclosure, and that for all those working to come up with new products, there are others assessing them for their safety. I know not all people value science. Some even want to cut budgets for any research. That's where consumers again need to be educated and vote their personal ethics and concerns.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I know... another review, but give it chance...


Previously, I have mentioned how beneficial reviews are for writers. The happy ones, of course, feel best, but even the unhappy ones are pluses for a writer. Usually, they are the only live connect a writer has to readers. The bad part is not being able to argue with a reviewer and tell them-- wait, this is why that action made sense.

Quite some time back, I had submitted one of my books to the only professional place where I have ever asked for a review (only did it with two of them). Literally I never remembered to look back for the review. But recently I had noticed they had it listed as a book I submitted. I went looking and there was it was from 2013.
"While out in the desert working on her latest landscape painting, Rachel O’Brian sees something off in the distance - something that shouldn’t be there. Going off to investigate, she finds a nicely dressed man taking his dying breath. Later that day a Border Patrolman knocks on her door and she is knocked for a loop. This rugged-looking man has her heart racing and her body tingling, which has never happened before. 

"Border Patrolman Jake Donovan, shows up at Rachel’s door to investigate the body in the desert.  He soon realizes that the man’s death is tied to a bigger crime ring and possibly to someone in his past. Ramirez has a debt to repay and he doesn’t take kindly to being betrayed. He has also sucked Rachel’s father in to his illegal dealings. Setting his sights on Rachel he plans to make her his wife, regardless. Rachel however, has made Jake Donovan her prey, and she plans on making him hers, if they can survive the madman and his unstable mind.

"Ms. Trueax sure knows her way around the Arizona desert! Her attention to detail regarding the landscape, and sunsets is so spot on it makes an Arizona girl homesick! The relationship between Rachel and Jake is a bit unrealistic, and one that falls into the insta-love category. It’s also unlikely that a woman who is extremely close to her father would marry without him being present. Rachel and Jake are both strong characters, and with a bit more realism and a little more editing, this story would be as stunning as the sunsets the author paints."
That was a pretty nice review for Desert Inferno. Wish I had read it way back then. It didn't get as many stars though as I would have liked based on the reviewer's character analysis that falling in love at first sight isn't as believable and the heroine would never actually marry without her father there. I could not make my case to the reviewer (even if I had read it back then), but I can here. 

One thing I should add first. Romances are primarily stories about relationships. They are of the hero and heroine, of course, but also secondary characters. The writer is always looking to make the relationships feel very much like real life. The question for a reviewer or the author is-- whose real life?

I fell in love at first sight. I met him in college. I went home that night and wrote in my journal that I was in love and had met the man I wanted to marry. Now he was attracted but certainly wasn't thinking love. He probably would have been scared off if I had let him know then. I didn't. I also wrote in the journal that while the attraction was instant, I wanted to know more about him before I knew if it would really be a permanent relationship that I would want. We didn't actually marry until two years later as we were in college and economics were a factor. 

My in-laws met during WWII. She said she saw him and thought wow. When he noticed her, it was the same for him. One month later they were married. My husband said he asked his mother about the courtship since it had been so fast. She was in her 90s by then. She said-- It was hot. Woohoo! They didn't marry with their parents there although they were still alive. Their marriage lasted over 50 years and was still happy when he died and then she a few years later. We also celebrated a 50th wedding anniversary last year-- with no idea how long ours will go but we have no intention of ending it-- today anyway ;). 

In Desert Inferno, Rachel felt that kind of instant attraction. Bang, but she wanted to get to know him to see if they had what it takes. She had to be the one to push for it to happen. His doubts were greater than hers. She had never felt this way before, and she was relieved she could feel it as she wasn't a girl. Now if he'd turned out not to be the man she thought he was, it would have ended. Artist or not, she was a practical lady.

As to the other objection, Jake was antsy enough, that Rachel was willing to marry him whenever he said yes. Her beloved father had been remote and acting strange when he was around. With a very sudden wedding, she was married in Scottsdale with the aunt who had helped raise her after her mother died. She had never wanted a big wedding. She was twenty-eight and ready to marry without a father's permission. She figured they could have a second wedding if her father had a sentimental reason to be there. Ritual though wasn't a big deal to her. 

Despite the reviewers unhappiness with those two features, this was a good review with a mix of think about-- you can be better and attaboys that always make a writer feel good-- less stars or not :). Some think if they can't write lengthy reviews, they should not write any. That's not how I see it. A short and pithy review is appreciated also.

Okay, for awhile, I promise I won't do another review blog, but when I said I'd be writing here about writing, I meant it. Reviews and what others think matter. It's like valuing comments in a blog. Every blog writer loves them, but we don't all get them. Readers really should think about putting their comments out there, anywhere they can, as what they think is true-- for them. It's of value.

The cover changed since that review but the story has not. I liked its other cover, but the new one, above, more suits Jake's uneasiness and Rachel's belief this would work. It takes awhile for him to come around to her opinion. Below is the one the reviewer saw when she read the book. I liked it but it doesn't really show as much of the dilemma Jake faces when a beautiful woman, out of his league, decides he's the one. :)