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Saturday, February 22, 2014

the dark side

Finally I am back to writing on my next novella. It's been hard to have enough time to sit down at the keyboard what with weather, adjusting to not traveling, no power, etc. etc. and a million things that stand in my way of concentrating on the story I need to develop. 

During the time away from my own writing, I've been working on a blog that will introduce a western short story anthology. That was a lot more complicated than I expected when I volunteered. I had seen it about selling an anthology-- easy. But it really was putting together fifteen authors (me included) and showcasing their work in such a way they would like what they saw. Eek.

So the blog is done and will go live shortly before the anthology is released as an eBook and I think paperback, which will be March 15. I don't know the details as Susan Horsnell, an Australian writer is putting together the actual book. Boy was that a big job with all those writers, their bios and then getting it formatted. Double eek. 

Writing the short story had actually been fun. I am happy to be with this group of authors who I met through the MOA at Amazon. I don't have a lot of places I am part of any group (by choice) but it's one (also by choice).

The new novella will follow When Fates Conspire even though that novella has found very little reader interest. I think it's hard for readers to get their heads around what it's about as it doesn't conveniently fit a genre. The closest would be paranormal romance.

Anyway interested readers or not, some stories you just have to write. I think I have mentioned how the first one came out of a dream. When it was finished, I knew there was another story to be told. I would have loved a dream to help me with the structure for this one but so far no luck. Lots of dreams-- but none relating to this story. Nevertheless, the story is coming together. 

It is taking the dark side of the spiritual world. You know if you create a story about the positive side, there has to be a yang to the yin, a thorn to the rose, balance to what is real and isn't. There will even be a third as each explore an aspect of the human condition-- and spirit. Of course, with romance and adventure as all my stories have that.

The image above is putting together two of our photos as inspiration for the new novella. I had written a story before that dealt with the dark side, Sky Daughter, and felt uneasy with how to address spiritual evil in the plot and as a character. I always am uneasy when I decide to write about monsters or demons because what if my thinking about them draws them to me? How Stephen King stays a normal person and does it is beyond me. Anyway I finally have a grasp on how this evil will work and what it's limitations will be. Not surprisingly, it's a very similar conclusion to what I had in Sky Daughter. I suppose my concern about drawing something, that might not exist, to me is a little superstitious-- although since I have two black cats, probably not too much.

Otherwise life here on the little ranch is doing just fine. Animals are healthy, no more losses although we had more than our share this winter and are still evaluating why the heck that happened. We have had to buy extra hay due to the inordinately cold weather as well as having someone else putting out the hay not necessarily as Farm Boss would have-- but quite competently for the animal's sake.

Anyway, overall we and our animals are back into a routine of being here-- as if there ever is an exact routine on a small ranch where it involves nature and livestock ;)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How wolves change rivers

Ecology is an ongoing question for humans mainly because we have the ability to change life forms dramatically. Do we always know in what way it will be going? Do a lot of people, who live in cities, think that what happens out there, in the back of beyond, it doesn't matter to them? This is a great little video about balance in nature with Yellowstone and the wolves as its example. Oregon will soon be asking if it should support wolf packs. Educating ourselves to the cost and benefit is important-- or should be.

I was in Yellowstone before the wolves returned and have been there many times since. Even I observed how much they changed animal behavior. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

weather and the land

Getting back to the farm left very little time to think about anything beyond what needed to be done. We had not even totally unpacked the trailer when the snowfall began. The weather reports changed by the hour as to what we should expect. Very cold. No snow. Snow. Some snow. A lot of snow. Besides weather we came back to the main lambing time. 

So looking at weather maps more than we have in years, we had feeding, lambing, unpacking, the joy of such a beautiful snowfall, and finally, as happens so often in the aftermath of such a storm, a power outage. 

Photos and memories are all that remain of the storm as the snow has mostly gone into the ground. The power was finally restored. We have a lot of live lambs but lost more than we had in the last three or four years-- never this many in one year. Some is the weather. Some maybe the wrong ram for young ewes. It is part of the nature of raising livestock but not a fun part. It was complicated by no electricity from Saturday afternoon until about midnight Tuesday night--followed by another power outage Friday morning from 3:20am until 7:30am (likely due to a downed tree across a line as a lot of them haven't looked good since the storm).

When you are without power, it's amazing how it changes living. Surprisingly, light was the thing I found myself missing most. Yeah, the internet, but we could get online sporadically with long extension cords attached to either the trailer battery or a generator (original one stopped working one day into the outage). What we couldn't have were electric lights, the refrigerator, stove, water for flushing or drinking (well pumps run from electricity). 

What we had was heat thanks to the fireplace and a good wood-stove. We lit candles, but they provide pools of light. It feels like living in a cave when the only light comes from flames. It was a good reminder, when I get back to writing something historical, although likely people didn't think about it so much as it just was what they experienced.

The power company was the most disappointing it's ever been as they kept giving updates when we would call in and each one was the same-- we're working on it. Be back in 48 hours. Here are the places still without. Who believes anybody when they say it'll be 48 hours? That just means they don't know. These days they operate like so many businesses, you are never allowed to talk to a real person. A computer runs it all including the crews from what we can tell.

Finally Tuesday night when Farm Boss called their recording, it said, all power is restored in the area. that's when he got angry and told them as much. They were on our road later that night, just before midnight with three trucks to restore power. It could have been done Sunday and saved us the cost of a new generator-- if they had listened to their old timers-- like us. We've been through it before. Their computers are clueless as they go by whatever info was typed in!

When you live out and through this kind of storm, you totally appreciate the crews that go out in the worst of it and try to bring it all back to normal. The road crews worked steadily not only removing snow but the trees and branches that went  across the roads from the ice and snow load. 

Of course, I can't be sure what went wrong with our power company, but I am blaming their computerized system that cuts jobs and frequently fails pretty much in an emergency. When the guys out here were the ones deciding what to do, they got the job done. When they are forced to depend on a computer to tell them where to go, the story is not the same. 

Anyway all is well that -- at least temporarily-- ends well (other than the cost to us of that new generator as we didn't have time to get the old one repaired if we wanted to save what was in our freezer as it began to warm up). I am just very glad we were here for the whole experience. It was a snowfall my part of Oregon hasn't seen in probably ten years-- beautiful, intense, filled with opposing emotions, colors and feelings. For someone like me who remembers these kinds of storms when I was a kid, I enjoyed it-- even to some extent the power outage as it does challenge us to bring out the best we have. I am not yet ready to live somewhere that the temps never change and there is no challenge. I'll save that for my 80s... maybe ;).

Anyway it's more or less back to normal, and the snow is gone all but for patches. We are back to rain, which our land badly needs; so we welcome it. Some people kid Oregonians about how so much rain must be depressing. It isn't for most native Oregonians-- especially those who have lived their lives the west side of the Cascades. We do what we want in it. We know it's what makes our land what it is. If the rain goes, so will go a lot of our vegetation. This is a drought year in our area and even this amount of rain hasn't gotten our snow-pack or river levels to normal. It's not as bad as California but we had already been experiencing forest fires. That's not good when it's January and February; so I am glad to see it raining.

In the house there has been a lot of color with the roses earlier, the fires in the fireplace, candles. In the midst of the rest of this, I have been trying to get good photographs of a gift we were given in Arizona. They are carved bookends of two buffalo heads by a talented Bisbee artist Thomas Suby who does phenomenal work as you can see if you look at this link or this one Bisbee sculptor in wood.

The detail and personality in his work is amazing, but the glossy finish has  made them a challenge to photograph on the mantle beside one of our Navajo rugs, some pottery by a local potter, and candles. Because of the shine from the flash, I gave up and moved them to a table where outside light helped to cut down on the glare. You can enjoy the grain of the wood and detail finally this way.

The wood is ironwood which we happen to live near quite a lot of it in Tucson. Ironwood doesn't flourish everywhere as you'd see if you were in Tucson. Our home there is in one of its regions. We have several healthy trees, lost one big old one since we moved there. I tried every which way to keep the biggest and another younger one alive but lost them both. They had reached the biggest size possible for their settings, I guess. That area has caliche in the soil and maybe it was a factor. The big one might have lived its life expectancy but it was a big loss, such a lovely tree.

Ironwood trees are beautiful all year but especially when they bloom. They also have fine little slivery leaves and limbs. Unless you have worked around an ironwood tree, you have no idea how insidious those tiny slivers can be. I wouldn't have one near the pool but in the natural vegetation region of our property there, i love and treasure them. I am though thinking maybe the stump from that big one we lost... maybe just maybe some of it should be carved ;). I used to carve stone but bloodied my hands so much that I gave it up-- not to mention the soapstone dust is bad for lungs. We left the old ironwoods where they were as the hawks, doves and other birds love to perch on them as they survey their world.

 May 2012

Saturday, February 08, 2014

snow in February

The reason I can enjoy, even relish a snow such as we've had this week is-- wait for it-- it will be gone sometime on Sunday. It began Wednesday, has snowed prettily most of the week off and on to accumulate on our farm maybe 8". If it was more, then I'd be worried as our biggest floods come off snow that melts fast. This amount can melt fast and should do little more than raise the creek a bit. There has been considerably more on the Cascade side of the Willamette Valley which means flooding may be a factor there.

Last year we spent December in Tucson and when we got back had missed the only western Oregon snowfall. This December the farm got a little snow. We were gone for January (loving the Tucson sunshine) and were not sure if we'd get snow once we were home. You never really know as I remember one really intense snow came in March. It's an erratic process and the weather guys have changed their minds all week for what we would get.

It's still snowing-- so that's an uncertainty for the total amount and whether flooding will be a problem as it begins to melt. We needed the moisture and I love watching it snow. The flooding part though I could do without. I am glad we are here though and not trying to get here from somewhere else.

A snow like this is a delight as it changes the whole world. Looking outside, the snow is still falling, the branches of the oak trees are highlighted (did I mention I love the looks of trees in winter with their limbs sculpturally exposed).  The ground is a pristine white. I am happy to be here, not have to go anywhere and able to just enjoy it all. Since people aren't driving any more than they must, it's very quiet with almost no traffic and definitely no log trucks. Snow is so quiet.

The photos below go from when it was first starting 'til Friday when it was coming down gangbusters all day.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

a time for dreams

If you like speculation and dreams, head on over to Rain Trueax.

My part of Oregon is supposed to get some snow today, but the weatherman has been throwing out predictions all week and changing them the next hour. They don't really have a clue is what it it looks like. But I hope for the snow as it has been too dry. A little snow might keep the temps from dipping into the teens tonight.

Otherwise it's a good time for soup, fires in the fireplace and writing. Yum!

Well except we are into lambing with twelve already and more to come... a lot more. That doesn't require driving though ;).

Sunday, February 02, 2014


Whether Imbolc was February 1 or 2 (calendars differ on it), it is now and an encouragement to us all that spring is here. The roses were purchased yesterday to do a still life for the short story that will be in an anthology come March. They are though symbolic of the joy of spring. Today we'll have a fire in the fireplace as some consider fire to be part of Imbolc (candles work too).

The Celts who chose this day were agrarian people. All Celtic celebrations are cyclical and seasonally oriented. This one means ewe's milk for obvious reasons. The first ewes have lambed but we always have a few that lamb early with the majority to come a week or even two later. We are due for another real cold snap later this week with temps down to 17°. But we should have sunshine with it. We need more rain though-- although nothing like California.

Driving north through that state, taking Highway 99 this time, which had us closer to the cities and homes, I was struck by the unhealthy lifestyle we have as a people. It's no wonder the bees are dying when you go past the hives in boxes waiting for almond trees to bloom. They are imprisoned to make them serve and it's unnatural to be gathering only one kind or live where so many pesticides and herbicides are in the air that it's not clear and frankly often stinks. Then there are all the feedlots and dairies where again we, as a people, treat other living beings as though they were machines. If we aren't a healthy people, can we not see the why of it? 

All of that agriculture is at risk anyway with the terrible drought where evidently some towns will not even have drinking water soon. Our culture is for the most part unconnected to nature and the earth. We have thought we could control it all and again it looks likely that we will put a pipeline right through our heartland with one purpose-- to make money for the shale oil producers in Canada and our refineries in Texas. I read also they want to increase the amount of oil we can export and fracking does that. Are we crazy or so out of touch with reality that all we can see is us as the ultimate powers of the earth.

Oh I know some see it being a religion that has the power to manipulate a god into protecting them-- and yes it is manipulation to use rituals or prayer and that is the real truth behind most religions. Do they though have power over the drought? Oh wait, they do because again through manipulation of political goals, some say the drought is punishment for displeasing God-- their concept of a god anyway.

In my opinion, the power is not money. It's not some religion. It's nature and we don't mostly have a fricking idea what balance might be overreached and consequence then set in motion. Driving through California was a real reminder of all that.

The other frustration I felt was with this business of the wealthy who have taken so much out of this system (85 individuals with as much wealth as one half the world's population-- and that's not all the wealthy, just the 85 richest). What does that leave for the rest-- even in a rich country like ours?   Well, along the freeways are a lot of shacks (and there is no better word for those buildings) where families live, often with more little sheds to raise a few animals for food. In the RV parks were some who live that way all the time. Not a bad life in a way but it's mostly those who can't afford other choices and have to go from job to job.

I woke up this morning thinking especially of how competitive our country has become. It's not even competitive to make a fortune but just to make a living. It's kind of a dog eat dog world with people struggling at all levels to live a decent life. It was not something I remember from being a child even though my father was out of work one year, never was a high income earner with a stay at home mom. It just feels different now for how I see families that would have been like mine. They are struggling to keep food on the table with a certain part of the country having riches beyond their needs. Is it enough money? It never is.

In the United States, the wealthy do not have the power to have done this. They have one vote. Yes, they manipulate bills and they get bigger cuts of the pie by their buying of Congress, but Americans can vote to change it. Why don't they? I think based on ignorance of what is going on and a ridiculously violent and often vile form of entertainment. People using people and tragic ends to the stories and that's what many want. Or to what they have become addicted. I don't know.

When I wrote When Fates Conspire based on a powerful dream about the meaning to life. it was an encouraging dream despite tragedies in it. I'd like to believe there is some form to what seems chaos as the dream told me. I don't know though. It was a depressing drive home-- and that didn't count the traffic into the picture...

So we will have a fire in the fireplace and hope that we, as a people wake up. It's nice to think there is some kind of plan in place. In case there isn't, let's make one ourselves. We can change it. It's not yet too late. Start with putting pressure to block that pipeline. Let those oil moguls figure out another route to ship off oil that is only to line their  own pockets. Americans won't even be using the oil. They will just be used!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

When Fates Conspire

Although I do not generally write here about my books, I am making an exception with my newest release-- a novella. This eBook had one of my more unusual paths to creation. It isn't exactly a romance in the more traditional sense. I've written quite a lot about how it came to be in Rain Trueax. So here is more about it just in time for Imbolc (yes, we have our first lambs). It offers something for those who might like a little speculation with their morning coffee ;).

When Fates Conspire, set in Montana and South Dakota, is a contemporary, paranormal story, of fate, soul mates, and fairness. With humor and pathos, this novella tells of two couples and three spirit guides—all with very different ideas as to what life is about.
Lauren returns to Billings looking for something that never happened for her in high school. When the man she wanted then re-enters her life, all the ancient energy between these soul mates is aroused. Can it be they will finally get a happily ever after or will it end as it always has?
In Bozeman, Jessica is frustrated that the man she promised to marry won’t give her the advantages his riches could provide. How far will she go to get what she wants? Tragedy is the only possible result or is it?
This story came directly from a dream, with several powerful images and concepts. Writing the novella incorporated many things I have read. The question, that I hope readers will be asking when they finish, is what do you think life is about?
I’ve never used quotes at the beginning of a book but I wanted some to enrich this story. I went looking and surprising me, everything I could ant came from Dante, whose full name was Durante degli Alighieri born 1265 and died 1321. His poetry and books spoke so much to the mysteries of life. As I went through my chapter headings, time and again his words set them off perfectly. I am glad I hadn’t found him first or I might’ve thought he influenced the story that began with a dream.

“In that book which is my memory. On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.”     Dante Alighieri

“Follow your own star.”   Dante

Billings, Montana
“Did you see what she did?” His lined face showed disapproval perhaps more than his words.
Remus laughed and shook his head. “She is uncontrollable, Justus,” he mocked.
“You seem pleased. My God, Remus, you don’t deserve being a guide.”
“I deserve it as much as you, you old prude.”
“We should both be concerned that she accomplishes her life goals, the ones she agreed to before she came back. Naturally I am more concerned about his—since he is my charge.”
Remus laughed again, this time sounding faked to Justus’s ears. “The ones all souls are encouraged to agree to as a condition for even getting to come back? Rules taken as such by some.” He gave Justus a look. “They are not gospel, Justus. They are suggestions-- not laws.”
“Suggestions for their own good.”
“Well, she doesn’t remember that. She’s operating from instinct.” He looked down from their lofty perch and smiled softly as though remembering. “And I might add youthful instincts-- although in her case they are subdued by her insecurity. That is inherent in her or has been.”
“You are encouraging this,” Justus accused in a brittle tone.
“Not a bit.”
“Well at least he’s maintaining control.”
“For now.” Remus moved a bit, to observe the young men playing football in the middle of a long field, and in particular one of them. His smile broadened. “Oh yes, he’s a rock.” He giggled. “It will work fine, until she comes too close, then it’s all over.”
“So we make sure it stays that way.”
“We do?”
“Remus, dear God, you will be sent back to working with pastors. You need to straighten up on this. Get a grip, man.”
“I’m not a man. Of course, I once was, but I did choose to become a guide eons ago—or so it seems now. I find I have better judgment for being further from living a human life. I like helping others avoid the snares, the pitfalls.”
“So why aren’t you doing it?”
“Mainly because I am not one bit sure she isn’t right about what is needed.”
“The problem will take care of itself sooner than later,” Justus retorted.
“If you’re so sure of that, why are you acting worried?”
“I always worry.”