New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

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

Imbolc

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

serendipity

 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).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

romance with an edge

As my writing becomes more at the center of my work, I've been doing a little more marketing and trying to put forth what I try to do with my books. Where romances get so little respect from so many people, I think it's important once in awhile to get into what they are about--what my books are about.


This business of finding a way to get across the philosophy behind my stories is particularly important for writers like myself, where our books don't tidily fit niches. While mine are love stories, romances, generally with sex, they aren't just about that. I think of them as hybrids-- running between romances and novels. They are always about things that interest me from lessons in life, to rural living, to art, adventure, and societal issues. Writing lets me spend time with what I love.

Romance is falling in love. The edge is what stands between the couple and a happily ever after. It is not only fiction that has that edge. It is in life. The most praised literary works are mostly about that edge. Romances like mine have it in them but it's not at the center of their purpose.


Romances with an edge are stories of two people coming together and finding something more than either would find alone. It is the soul mate desire to believe we are more when we are with that special one, the other half of ourselves. It is a romantic dream that some find and others dream of. 

Of course, in life as with fiction, as much as a soul mate love matters, it's not the only thing that does. Whether someone has it in their own life, they can taste it and get the energy from it through movies, music and books. You can feel it and enhance the energy of your own life by letting it flow through you.

I believe, and it is my goal that it be so, that I write stories of darkness and light, hardness and softness, light and dark, safety and danger; the rose and the thorn; yin and yang. I aim for these stories to be the wheat without the chaff-- stories where the readers don't skip words because they all matter--
 romances with an edge.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

a life path


 In 2001, I read about making inspiration boards. The goal was that from magazines, you'd cut out images that spoke to you-- without thinking what they had to mean. You then glue them to a board in patterns that are pleasing.

Over the next couple of years, I did three of these boards before it no longer was the right thing for me. I did not know it then, but I had said all I had to say. I framed them and hung them-- one in Tucson, one in Oregon and the last one ended up relegated to the attic. When I made them, I didn't know why I was doing it.

Only when I arrived in Tucson in the fall of '15, did I see how they spoke to my writing. The images could have come from any of my books. Were they pointing me toward writing or just showing me what was of interest to me? One thing I know for sure-- I'd been creating romantic stories all my life. It started way back. 


As a little girl, my idea of playing with dolls was making up stories. These weren't baby doll stories but boy meets girl. There were no Barbie dolls; so I made my own adult paper dolls with wardrobes to match their time period-- often historic. I was pretty good at it too and created my dolls nude, guessing a bit on the males. Unfortunately, when I got into my teens, I felt paper dolls were not quite the thing, and I burned them. A shame or maybe just as well as I may remember them better than they were.

Short stories followed, some of which are in a box somewhere-- maybe that attic. I doubt they are worth looking for as they were immature meanderings but clearly romances.

My first full length novel was written in my twenties. I didn't try to get it published. The goal was to finish it. Through the coming years, I wrote more manuscripts, most ended up on boxes under beds or in closets. Painting and sculpting came into the picture and looking at them now, I see the romantic themes.


The books accumulated, but I didn't feel any need to get them published. I did send off one or two and always got them back with a -- good writing but something was missing that they wanted for their readers. The quickly written notes indicated it was the angst of the heroine, her in danger, victimized, on the run, or somehow vulnerable if only emotionally. I didn't write that sort of heroine and wasn't willing to change it. My heroines might be leaving one life for another but never as a victim who needs saving.

The arrival of eBooks changed the game for writers. An author could choose from many small publishing companies, which were popping up everywhere. Authors could do it on their own. Whether they sold books would depend on the right readers finding them. It would depend on marketing-- something authors like myself had little knowledge of but were about to learn. 

Amazon and eBooks, had been out there a few years before I thought-- I have a lot of books, maybe time to see what I can do with them. It was in late 2011, that I brought out the first and have never looked back. If you are a writer, let me say, this is a great time for going independent. Writers can tell their story their way and sink or swim based on finding readers or not.

Looking at those early image boards, I see them all aimed at writing these novels. I realize that all my life had been aiming me in this direction. No one thing did it. All of it came together to show me my heart and what would be the passion of my creative life. It took some time but finally I got it and began to listen to my muse (discussions of that is have been earlier and doubtless will be again).

This board shows the love of nature and animals that always is in my stories. It shows the relationships that make up romance novels. They are not just about man and woman falling in love but about their friends and family, all the things that go into making up our own lives. 


The interesting part, for me, about this board, is how I didn't recognize what it was telling me when I created it. So often that's how life is. We aim in a direction but don't quite know why. When I am writing a book, I think inspiration comes from the muse. Others might give it a religious name. Whatever it is, whether from inside all along or outside, I believe life has more meaning than some would give it. It is full of lessons for those looking. 

The key for each of us is finding the thread in our own lives. For some, that thread will change with the years. For others, it's a straight shoot.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

moving forward... or was that backward

For those of you who dislike when I write about my writing, you will be skipping me for the next week or two as it's what's on my mind. The main reason for that is I've begun the seventh Arizona historical. It's been germinating in my head for over a month as ideas began to gel. Finally the 4th, I could not find excuses to avoid setting the first scenes. 

If you have yet to write a book, each writer has their own way of approaching it; so what I do won't necessarily help you. I write a scene, then come back and look for color and more details. Scenes all arise from the characters because I consider my books to be character driven. 

Character driven writing allows the characters more freedom to see where this or that goes. For me, these fictional people do not get to take over, as some writers claim, but I do pay attention to their point of view, which can lead to events I hadn't expected on the way to the ending I did expect. Writing a book tends to take over a life-- especially since Ranch Boss is doing some research for me and reading the sections as I finish them. I might add, he's really into the story's premise. That makes it fun for us both.

Wait, I should revise that. Beginning a book, getting my characters set into their story, is never fun for me. I am insecure when I begin, worried that I am just putting out drivel, and that I don't yet know enough to write the story. Generally speaking each morning I delay getting into it with any excuse (like writing this). In the beginning, I am doing well to write 2000 words a day but when I get more into it, it is closer to 5-6000. Somewhere around 10,000 words, I begin to have a good feeling for where it's going, which makes the writing flow. When I get to writing 5000 words a day, then it's fun for me. That should be next week...

I don't always read other people's fiction but right before bed, for the last week, I've been reading what is considered a 'sweet' romance. Giving this book a try appealed to me on a couple of levels. One was curiosity as to what a popular 'sweet' romance was about. The other appeal was the story is based in Oregon where I think the author also lives-- although I know little about her beyond she's considered to be best selling and proudly writes sweet romances.

It's been interesting to see how much emphasis is in this book on the physical attraction between the two principals. They are constantly mooning over how beautiful the other one is. In order to keep it sweet, there is no point A going into point B, but there's sure a lot of wishful thinking. For me, there is an almost boring emphasis on how beautiful each of them are. I get it. I got it in the first chapter. I do not need to have it droning on and on. Is it to make the book romantic without the sex? I am not sure what that's about.

Yes, in my books, I do have the sex but not pages and pages of it nor of them constantly thinking how beautiful the other one is. I like to have my characters working on the emotional ties that bind a couple together or tear them apart. Because I put suspense into my stories, that takes up space too as the couple must solve a problem together-- sometimes a life threatening one. Anyway, it's been educational to see what some readers are looking for-- not that I am about to be the one giving it to them.

Onto the weather report: cold, sometimes foggy, and often rainy. We had a bit of freezing rain, not quite enough to be pretty and fortunately not enough to knock out our power.

The hot water heater went out again but got caught by Ranch Boss before more water damage. He's now fixed it, but it's not a permanent solution. That will require a new hot water heater, and we are still debating what kind to get. This one is at least forty years old, which means a new one will probably need all new wiring and plumbing changes to fit.

From the earlier flooding, some of our flooring was damaged. In the kitchen that means taking up tile and laying down new-- but only when we are sure everything is stable. The hardwood floor warped a few places too but we aren't sure what we'll do about that. It's livable but not permanently. We did not contact our insurance agent on this as we carry a thousand dollar deductible, and it won't remotely get over that. Still nuisance time.

Outside, the cattle and sheep look miserable. The sheep got the last of the apples, which were still hanging on the tree when we arrived back home. The foxes have come back, but we don't yet know if they will deign to have their kits under our porch, available to them as it is now. I don't feel guilty either way as we aren't blocking them at least.

 One of our more enjoyable daytime breaks is to watch the many birds coming to the bird feeders. We banned the cats from the hummingbird-bird-fox yard, and brought the bird feeders into it. Just to watch the birds flitting around must lower a person's blood pressure-- which reading any newspaper article right now tends to risk its rising.

In terms of luxury, we bought a 60" TV. We had put off doing that because the 47" was still working. We thought we'd wait until it gave up the ghost. Then we bought the 55" for the Tucson house and that decided it. For those who have had little reason to know, they now have TVs up to 75". Hard to believe. I might've gone for the 65" except Ranch Boss convinced me that the wall bracket would not let it extend far enough to turn it to watch from the sofa. We are loving the 60".

The sofa is where we sit most evenings to watch a movie, sometimes one we've seen before. That has been our routine for the last few years. We choose a film that suits our mood, sometimes with popcorn or a small dish of ice cream with peaches but one way or another we watch something. Since Netflix streaming, we have more options. 

For anyone who has yet to discover the Miss Fisher mystery series from Australia, I might recommend them or Sherlock from England. Sherlock, an updated Sherlock Holmes to today, is probably familiar to most. Miss Fisher, set in the 1920s maybe not so much. It has what might be called a cozy mystery or just a tad noir as Miss Fisher is a very hot female of a certain age. There is a solid cast of supporting players. Sense of community always enhances my enjoyment of a film or book. When we don't watch that or one of our DVDs, we find a documentary. It is a nice way to relax in the evening before heading to bed with a book (mine these days are always on the Kindle).

We may have decided one of our issues-- the rental house in Tucson. Difficulty of communication with the new cleaning agency is making us decide we won't rent it for '17 at least and decide after that about the future. Finding it difficult to know what's going on with the ones doing the work down there makes it more stressful than it's worth. Maybe next year, we'll use it for the winter. It would give us time to make some major changes we've been considering, clean it up more, and maybe even have some fun while there. To do it would require delaying breeding so that the lambs would come in late April. We could do that maybe...

Up here, this is the bleak season, gray days, constant rain or fog, and cold-- but generally not cold enough to snow. Days for fires in the fireplace and wood stove. We are past the shortest day of the year. We are heading toward Imbolc, the real first day of spring in the Celtic calendar, Ewe's Milk to some-- like the lambs we soon expect. The first seed catalogs arrived and we talk about possible trips to make this summer. It is a time for dreaming.


"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer." Albert Camus. 

I am more in what seems the invincible winter...

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

2015

In thinking about the coming year, I put together a board, with some photos symbolizing 2015 for me, not about the people in my life but about nature, the farm, the trip we made through Lava Beds, and Arizona. 

To find images, I looked at it seasonally. There were months we took few photos and months when we took hundreds. Cutting them down was tough. 

The clay wagon train represents not only the book I brought out in March, but my growing up. It was always on my parents' wall until they both died and now it's on mine. I am not sure who added the paint to it, but I had a grandmother who painted oils. It could though have been my mother.

It's pretty easy to see, that for me, the big moments are the small ones.

Monday, January 04, 2016

give it a try-- it's a new year ;)


This is an interesting article and says a lot of what I feel about writing romance novels. I know it's not respected by many people and yes, as the author of this piece said, most often denigrated by those who have never read a romance novel.


Now I have friends who had never read one, gave it a try and found out it wasn't what they expected and liked them. I have friends who gave the genre a try, but it still wasn't for them. At least they gave it a try.

The best romance novels are not about the sex. (That's erotica for those who didn't know). Romance novels are about relationships-- yes, the primary relationship is usually the sexual sort of love between two adults. Sex though won't be in all of these books. Plus, the relationship issues go way beyond that one to all the things that either bring a couple together or tear them apart. Life and romance novels aren't that simple.


"Romance encompasses fantasy, suspense, comedy, history, mystery, coming-of-age, and crime. The only difference between romance and just about any other kind of fiction is the promise of an emotionally satisfying ending. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think readers are lazy or stupid because they want to feel uplifted at the end of a book."       From the article above.
Well, literary critics do think that's vapid, and the attitude of bleakness has spread into the movies. I cannot count the times I've tried to find a film to watch that would make me feel good when it was over. Often I had to return to classics to find an uplifting ending, as the 'make me feel bad' mantra seems a factor in films too. This is crazy. Isn't reading the newspaper enough to satisfy that need???

My latest book has gotten some nice reviews. I particularly liked this one for what the reviewer said at the end. 
"You really need to read all four books. Everyone seems to be in dire need of something or someone. Also unrequited love along the way. which is remedied along the way. The author is so interesting about the information she gives. If you like good historical fiction with a little romance thrown in, you will like Raine Trueax books."
 You see, I think of my books as novels as much as romances. And when she said a little romance thrown in, I think she was saying the same thing :). I like the romance part. I like writing about people falling in love and working against anything standing in their way. I think it's uplifting to spend my days thinking of that instead of all the ways a life can go wrong.

As the article said, there are dreary and boring romance novels. There are a few writers who turn their books out by formula, but you can avoid those by reading the sample chapter and blurb. There are also a lot of very interesting romances out there; and just because they weren't written in the early 1800s, as Jane Austen's romances were, doesn't mean they won't someday be regarded as classics.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2016

It's a new year and as I sort through my thoughts and plans for it, I often use quotes I find inspiring. Those shift with the years. If you have ones that are helping you this year, please share.


Man's main task is to give birth to himself.   
Erich Fromm

Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but 
to inspire yourself to life. 
 Adele Brookman

The longest journey is the journey inward.    
 Dag Hammarskjold

I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply molding one's inner life. and that too is a deed.   
Etty Hillesum

I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self,
 unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.     
Ralph Waldo Emerson

But what is happiness except the simple harmony 
between a man and the life he leads?          
Albert Camus