Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oregon history and novels

This is the season of change for the farm, for nature, for life as it's part of a cycle that is both familiar and always new. In my part of Oregon, we eagerly awaited the first real rain in quite awhile. It was a dry summer.

The garden is winding down and has been a lush one with a lot of produce to process or let the sheep eat. Fall is here, and the land and air would tell us even if we didn't have a calendar to do so.

 photo from Ben Kern wagon train used with permission

This last month, for me, was about finishing the editing of my published and unpublished books. Three unpublished led to finally getting back into writing the one unfinished in the Oregon series. 

The historical Oregon series began in Independence, Missouri, at the start of the trail west and a big wagon train led by a wagon master, which was not how it would soon be for many heading out. It is the story of that trip and two young people, who have been friends since childhood. She is full of dreams. He has known mostly nightmares. One of them has wanted a relationship that went beyond friendship. Does that ruin the friendship? The book is my longest novel, with the trip west as what might be seen as a metaphor for our internal trip as we mature into responsible adults. 

Then came the next book in that series about getting to Oregon and the pitfalls awaiting. That one had a surprising heroine (to me anyway when I got the idea for writing it). Set mostly along the Clackamas River (an area I have spent a lot of time in my own life), it also takes the story to Oregon's own Trail of Tears. This plot takes our growth a further step forward as we get what we think we want and then find the pitfalls in it. As we overcome these difficulties, we grow.

Because these books are about the Stevens family of women, the third book was a logical one for another of the sisters. This one picked up the family after the Civil War. Again it is a love story but also about overcoming and how a cataclysmic event, such as the Civil war was for the United States, takes time to heal. It delves into what that time meant to the state I was born in as well as have lived most of my life. 

In researching, I learned some ugly truths about my beloved Oregon. Human nature isn't always pretty, but I guess I knew that. Always though hypocrisy amazes me for how we can fool ourselves with righteous words accompanied by disgusting actions or looking the other way to avoid facing what others are doing.

Finally the fourth where I will be writing for at least the next month to nail down its rough draft. It takes the Oregon story forward into one of Oregon's most violent and dangerous Indian wars-- little known, I might add. I found a lot of information for what happened in The Deadliest Indian War in the West by Gregory Michno. 

Like my other three books, lots of research was/is involved with this one. It requires digging and often coming up empty handed in terms of finding even good maps from that period. The nice thing about Michno's book is he records details from the newspapers and reports from the time describing the various battles. Quite handy since my fictional hero is an cavalry officer. I did also create a plot for the period but based on what happened many places-- just not historic in the region about which I am writing.

Basically the decision on publishing these books is still hanging out there. I do think they will be paperbacks-- once they are all four finished to the satisfaction of my editor and me. Even though I was and am unsure about the publishing end, I created four covers and backcovers. Creating covers is recreation for me. It blends together my interest in photography, painting and sculpture into a new medium-- book covers. 

So for now, my life is all about research and writing-- well and seeing the end to this growing season and getting our place ready for the coming winter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

some thoughts

This has been one of those weeks that hasn't worked as I planned as much as I plan anything. I had an idea for writing the weekly blog but frankly lost track of what I'd say. 

My outside-activities involved the dentist for a cleaning and exam. No new cavities, but I have another tooth that eventually needs a crown because of a crack. It also though will need a root canal, which complicates it as it's a wisdom tooth. My regular dentist will do the crown but not the canal... Given the trouble I had with the last crown, I want to put this off until I have my schedule more planned-- which is not now. The dentist said it should be fine if I just don't chew with it on anything hard or sticky. I think I can resist-- especially on the sticky part. That, with taffy, used to lead to broken teeth before!

Involving my work, the main project was finishing the editing of Diablo Canyon. I am happy with it and its three novellas making one book; plus the idea Farm Boss (their publisher) had for putting the three novella covers in front of each chapter. 

Being someone into metaphysics, dreams, and mythologies, I am pleased with how this book came together. The ideas blended so well that you'd think they had been planned all along. Well, if anyone planned it, it was my muse-- not me. Anyway the editing is done, and I hope its last edit. I caught no more errors and neither did Amazon when it went up. Next step is getting the paperback version ready to go.

Fall is finally beginning to look as though it is here even though officially the equinox is Monday and it's still quite warm outside. This week we had a delightful, light rain but need more to get past the fire danger. We are though heading into the time of shorter and shorter days, fires in the fireplace, cleaning up the garden, selling the lambs and calves and looking forward to the Solstice when it will all start again. Frankly we had a great summer here in my part of Oregon if we can just avoid fires now.

Farm Boss and I celebrated a big anniversary or one that used to seem big-- a 50th. It doesn't seem so big to me anymore as I know so many who have been married 50 and more years. We didn't actually do anything special for it partly because I don't know if a long marriage is so much to someone's credit as it is luck. If you stay together all those years and are still best friends, that's very fortunate. Do you then throw a big party and take credit for it or is it pure fate? Yes, I am a bit of a fatalist. No, I'm not more of one after writing Diablo Canyon. That book just reflected a lot of what I think anyway. Happy endings are out there but life can take some very abrupt left turns.

Otherwise, I am into editing the third of the Oregon historicals and enjoying this one a lot as I have found a few nuances to the story that I missed with its first draft. I had forgotten some of the details and that has made editing a time of discovery. It won't be the last edit if I do opt to publish it-- still undecided on the Oregon historicals but they will come out as paperbacks when the fourth one is ready and after a LOT of edits.

What I had planned to write about for this blog was what it's like to have a creative friendship, where you share interest in each other's work. I haven't had a lot of those. Many of my friends have been into many interesting things but not the fine arts or serious writing. It's not essential for a friendship; but when I have one where we share the pitfalls and joys of creative work, it does make the work seem less lonely. It is someone to bounce ideas off and have them truly understand the complexity of what is being considered.

I am not sure why I've had so few deep friendships that involved creativity (maybe living a country life is part of that), but when I have one, I consider it something to protect. Of course, if you have a creative friendship, you know it can also be argumentative as you discuss the work and disagree sometimes. It's though argumentative in a good way, not the angry but rather the debating kind.

Anyway a few pictures from such a friendship and last week. When we were at the beach, while Farm Boss and Fisherman went off to the river, Diane and I had some great times to chat about a ton of subjects. She also said wanted to paint me. She has done this several times over the years. I figured all I had to do was sit, and we could talk as she worked. Of course, she had her own idea on the exact pose, but it only required a slight adjustment in terms of how I would naturally sit. Ours, with this couple, is a fifty year friendship that has woven past two weddings, kids, grandkids, and finally to today when we get together sometimes on mini-breaks.

 A lovely time at the beach...


Saturday, September 13, 2014

a beach interlude

With all but one of my books re-edited, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. In another week I can begin to write something new again-- yahoo! Or maybe I'll take a break from my own writing and read some of the many books i have accumulated on my Kindle. I do love those devices where I can set them into folders and have something for any mood. I like reading on it but when I am doing my own writing/editing, I don't read much for pleasure although I read non-fiction and research. Some of the avoidance of pleasure reading is not wanting to be influenced by what another author wrote. It's easy to have that happen and, when writing, you are even recommended to not read at all in your own genre.

While editing, I like to take breaks to avoid words running together. Recently I got the idea of finding one word to depict the challenge in each of my novels as well as the one each couple faces in their relationship if it's to work out. That is not easy to do, and maybe I can't do it justice, but it's been a useful word exercise. As a writer, I think it's beneficial to narrow down as much as possible the reason each book exists. Coming up with few words can be more challenging than writing a lot of them. Words are a writer's tools-- but lots of them usually ;)

We had a break in the middle of this week, as Farm Boss was invited to go out on a friend's boat. The salmon are making their fall run up the coastal rivers. The couple are long term friends. They head down there every year for a month or two, staying in their motor coach. She paints, and he goes out almost every day-- often taking friends or family members. Needless to say after all those years on this river, he makes a good guide.

For Farm Boss and me to stay, I found a house right on Gleneden beach. We invited our friends to spend time there with us when not fishing. So I had a very enjoyable time watching the surf as it changed throughout the day. There is something so incredibly soothing about the ocean. I enjoy it in storm or as this was with sunshine and some breeze. We even got to see whales spout which can entertain a person for a long time as you have to constantly look for that telltale spout. Farm Boss captured them with the telephoto but so far out that it didn't make for a good photo. Still a fun thing to see them and imagine the pod out there circling and finding their food-- maybe also migrating as they do.

Although this is a long sandy beach, it had more interesting wave action than I was expecting. The house was perfect for photos as it looked down on the waves with the light changing all day. September is usually good weather on the Oregon Coast. Our three days were absolutely perfect. I didn't do any editing but a break was a good idea before I dive into that last book.

The photos below are from Gleneden and the Siletz River. As always it's hard to narrow it down to just a few. I am going to save the ones of our friends and us for next Saturday where it will accompany a discussion of what it's been like to have a friendship over over fifty years between two creative women, with different interests, but who encourage and enjoy what the other does. Let's just say it's not predictable-- in a good way.

 faithful dog watching his owner trying to surf
 Siletz River-- early morning

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


For my blog, Rain Trueax, I wrote about something writers use but also that we find in life. With it, was a brief moment from the farm, which depicted what I meant. For those of you interested in ranch life, check it out-- the WWW of life.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

what we know and what we don't know and what we think we know but don't know

My summer was mostly involved with the farm here and my editing. I'd say it was writing but editing is anal, word by word analysis of writing. It's not the fun stuff but it's necessary-- unfortunately repeatedly. 

Summer held some wonderful times with grandchildren here at the farm-- always a big deal for us.  The garden went gangbusters, best, most productive garden we have yet to have. We had a very warm summer with less rain than many years and a lot of blue sky 80º+ days. Where that might not seem unusual in some regions, for us, it made for a very summer-like summer with far less rain than usual. Which does leave us with concern for fire danger but alas that's how it goes-- for every up there is a down ;).

Does it seem my writing in this blog mostly involves weather reports? I feel that way about conversations with friends sometimes too. What else is safe to talk about? And even that can be dodgy if someone starts wondering if warmer leads to talk of global climate change. It seems simpler to not talk about much that matters-- partly, of course, because who agrees what does matter.

Beyond my personal life and my community (lost several elders out here this year), my country has had many turbulent events to calculate what they mean. The situations range from shockingly unexpected local violence (some involving the police)-- to immigration concerns (handwringing on both sides) to a plague that could take out millions in Africa or is it going to come here also-- to a radical sect, which thinks it is the second coming of a religious event and hence entitled to behead and rape whoever they wish in the name of that religion-- corrupted of it though their use of it may be.

On the immigration with thousands of Central American children and teen-agers coming to the United States without their parents and most of the time without a plan, that leaves local municipalities and schools scrambling for how to deal with this-- especially in a time where finances are already challenged. It leaves the police trying to figure out how to protect these kids from the exploiters, and separate out which ones were gang members coming up here for new ground to take over. And yes, some of it is that exactly. Just because a kid is seventeen does not make him incapable of committing adult scale crimes. 

I read an interview with a Massachusetts police chief as he discussed the problems that had come just to his district. For all those who say we should take all who want to come here, I want to hear also how to pay for it? That's what this policeman was trying to figure out-- and likewise the schools where the kids will be going-- often speaking no or little English. The police officer by the way believes it all goes back to 2012 and the law that enabled those, under the age of 18, to come here from Central America with no immediate deportation. He said all the crime down there, which some say led to this influx, was going on before 2012. What changed was a belief if they got here, they could stay. The question has to be-- stay and do what? 

ISIS or ISIL is a potentially deadly problem as this involves the kind of thing that has come like a zeitgeist through mankind time and again (as has pretty much everything I am mentioning here). The group, who believe they should rule the world, believe this is so based on their religious belief-- or the exploitation of their religious belief. I've read some experts saying they cannot attack the United States hence are no danger to us. I keep wondering where were they on 9/11. They seem to think 9/11 was a sophisticated operation because it succeeded so well. Actually not all that sophisticated but just those determined to destroy and not minding giving up their own lives in the doing of it.

Stepping back from the global issues, of which there are many, suicide has been discussed because of the suicide of comedian and actor, Robin Williams. For a week maybe less, suicide and depression became a subject of interest. In our country, a week is a long time for any issue and this one seems to have slid off the page because a new subject thrust its way onto it (probably ISIS or ISIL).

Joan Rivers recent death brought forth another big story and for now it's mostly about who she really was-- and most of us didn't know. That's the irony that we get all the bad news about anybody but all the sweet and kind things this woman did for others, not a word went out to the public. 

Yes, her wit was acerbic, but as I've read recently a lot of what she said was funny but taken out of a broader context where it was also insightful. She liked to ridicule life and the ridiculous aspects of it. She called things out as she saw them. And personally, it appears, that she was a very warm, loving Jewish mama to a lot of friends and of course to her daughter. The kind things she did now are being told but why not when she was alive? 

Personally I don't care much for humor that ridicules others, but I have to say after reading stories about her by those who knew her on many levels, I literally had no idea of how she had to struggle to get where she was nor what a good woman she was on a personal level. Did she get held to a higher standard because she was a woman?

I wish her good deeds had been told when she was alive because I read one place she didn't want to be loved. She wanted to make people laugh. I don't buy it. I think everyone wants to be loved. We just want to be loved for who we fully are-- warts and all.

So read this link if you haven't already as it says a lot about life, our culture and Joan Rivers.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Changing fast

 Elena Ray image purchased from Canstock

It is amazing how fast the mornings and evenings are changing with shorter and shorter days. Summer went by way too fast. This has to be one of the best for my part of the Pacific Northwest with a lot of delightful warm days, sometimes hot but always cool by evening. The skies have mostly been an intense blue that means there is little haze, almost the color I'd more expect to see at higher elevations. The last long week-end of the summer is here with the last chance for most families to get a three or four day break somewhere other than their homes. 

Once someone no longer has children in school and is retired, these 'official' breaks are less significant. We can go anytime not just on long-week-ends. 

Because of our operating a cattle and sheep operation, because of having two kid-cats, because of working around vacationing crowds, because of managing our own projects (his consulting work and my writing), it's not as though we don't also have to plan for breaks, but they aren't limited to long week-ends.

We are limited to some degree by the business of life. This month there are a couple of dental type appointments to work around, one of us is using a new hearing aid with appointments to be sure it is properly fitted. They have improved a lot what a hearing aid can do. Then we are debating whether we want to do something special for our 50th wedding anniversary which comes in mid-September.

I think I have mentioned before that I am not a celebrator of birthdays or commemorative dates. I note them and try to be sure that the appropriate things are done when they involve others (except when I forget), but it's not really my thing. I know those who celebrate a birthday for a week, and they have great fun doing it. That's not for me although I don't object to birthdays. They don't depress me, but they seem more of a so-what kind of thing. To do any kind of life evaluation, I am more prone to use a full or new moon, a Celtic celebration, an Equinox, or Solstice. And it's not like I do a lot for them either.

Maybe this comes out of being an in the moment type of person. My goal is to be right where I am, not anticipating a moment yet to come-- nor congratulating myself on those in the past. Of course, there are times scheduling cannot be avoided. I am not sure if I miss something by not planning further ahead, but we are what we are.

This month, one thing I am doing is evaluating how the Botox worked. After years of saying I'd never ever do Botox, when I was going through the complicated root canal, the orthodontist told me he saw evidence that I grind my teeth. He suggested Botox as one solution to that. I told him all the reasons I didn't like that idea, but he explained this is a different use of it. It doesn't impact the face itself, but is injected into the muscles along the hairline and jaw. The theory is you weaken those muscles a bit by a low dose of Botox-- then they quit bringing the jaw together at times that serves no purpose except to break off teeth. 

Now, I had known for years I clench my jaw. I had earlier tried a night guard, which was not good for its results, but would not solve this problem anyway because I do much of it during the day-- or at least am very aware of it when awake. 

Why the gnashing of teeth? I have no idea, but it does not seem to relate to being unhappy, upset, or anything other than-- I do it. When I asked my husband if he brings his teeth together frequently, he doesn't; so it isn't necessary and sure not good for the teeth or jaw.

Earlier this summer, I worked for a month to see if I could stop myself from grinding. Wasn't happening. That led to a decision to try the Botox with a doctor I trusted. The theory is that you repeat it every three months and in a year, you will form new habits and quit gritting. Some people swear by how effective it is and great for tension headaches-- which I don't get (I get migraines which come from the neck). 

Anyway, I felt this was worth a try. Once I became fully aware of how often I bring my teeth together, I saw the value of stopping it. September is for checking on how this is going as well as my usual cleaning and dental exam. There is also the need for one more crown and root canal. I know I am lucky to have my own teeth, but it is an age where they are seeming to wear out! That is not fun.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

one thing leads to another

sunrise here one morning
When it comes to reading books, one might well ask where the story is taking you. Can you really read books and set them aside with no impact on your personal life? If that impact is negative, where will that leave you?

When I had finished re-reading Diana Gabaldon's historical fiction novel, Voyager, I knew there had been one potential disaster after another. It was a good read but definitely high stress with a lot of emotional moments as well as physical violence. She wasn't forcing those things into her plot. It was that kind of historical time period where some had absolute and abusive power over many.

That night I had a dream where flood was coming around my home. When I first saw all the water, it was already up to our driveway with a lot of current. I realized my idea to protect the house was already too late. We do get floods from our innocent little creek but they don't come up that fast and our bulwark is fence posts with half plywood sheets wired to redirect the fast flow. Too late for that.

This flood was fast moving and going the opposite of the direction from which a flood here generally comes. In the dream, it was soon nearly to our foundation. I was worried how we'd get our cats out when we had to leave. Also I worried about our outside dog (which we had years ago but who also died years ago). I went into our bedroom, and the flood had caught a hot tub (which we used to have but no longer do), outside our bedroom and slammed it against the wall causing it to crack and knocking me almost over.

Next I realized water was on the other side of the house also which meant getting out of the house was no longer an option. That is about when the dream ended. 

Here's what the Dream Moods Dictionary said that meant: 
"To dream that you are in a flood represents your need to release some sexual desires. If the flood is raging, then it represents emotional issues and tensions. Your repressed emotions are overwhelming you. Consider where the flood is for clues as to where in your waking life is causing you stress and tension. Alternatively, the dream indicates that you are overwhelming others with your demands and strong opinion. Still another interpretation could be your desire to wipe everything clean and make a fresh new start."
Not hard to see from where that came after reading a book with exciting and violent energy. In Voyager, the hero and heroine go from one catastrophe to another barely escaping death even if sometimes left battered. There are threats hanging over their heads from the start of the book. Good read, exciting read (if you skip the long descriptive sections), but stressful. I don't think the flood related to my personal life right now but instead illustrated how I had been impacted by what I had read. It might not always be that immediately obvious, but this time it was.

It's also not hard to see how just reading and thinking about the newspaper could lead to bad dreams considering what is in it these days.  Just the brutal slaying of the journalist by ISIL would be enough to lead to nightmares-- even in avoiding the worst of the photos, which I did. It's too easy to relate to the young man, to his parents, to the horror. This guy was the hero of romance books except real life doesn't reward heroes quite the same.

What I think my dream told me is how quickly what we take in impacts us. The information does not stop with my head but carries over to my personal emotions-- even when I don't realize from where it is coming.

Sometimes what I've put in my head turns out to be good-- like the dream I had last night which was impacted by our having just watched Dirty Dancing and my making a new cover for my contemporary story of cults and love-- Hidden Pearl. To do that, I had spent time with Jimmy Thomas' images (tried two) to put the photo into a background I wanted (up the Umpqua River). That requires a lot of cut, paste and then clone to hide the evidence.

Time with this guy's face is never a bad thing ;)-- well, his body's not bad either *double wink*. Regarding that dream, let me just say I woke up smiling. Totally unrealistic, as was the other one, but the energy was the opposite. 

Here's the thing. Take in positive information, and we get one kind of energy. Negative leads to another. Yet how can we totally avoid the negative and stay responsible? We cannot put our heads in the sand, much as we might like to at times-- that leads to places like Ferguson. So how do we reduce the stress from what we can't avoid? I liked the suggestions here: