janet fisher~writer

Following strong women through history

Talking Genealogy

I’m happy to be giving a talk about my books this Wednesday, May 10, at the Cottage Grove Genealogical Society meeting at the Cottage Grove Community Center, which shares the Library building at 700 E. Gibbs Avenue. The program starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Shepherd Room with a salad bar lunch, and is open to the public.

This is the same room where I had a speaking engagement with the library in January.

My talk will focus on the search for my great-great-grandmother Martha, the subject of my first book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. The book offers a creative nonfiction account of Martha’s life. Interwoven in this portrayal are four Interludes, which describe my search for her story.

Like many people who begin looking for their ancestors, I knew very little about Martha at the start. As a historical novelist I’m used to the need for research to learn about the settings of my stories, but the research into a real person’s life added another dimension. I want my fictional people to be realistic, but I can create the situations that drive them. With a real person I needed to ferret out the actual events.

I had the advantage of discovering cousins who’d done much of the genealogical work ahead of me, particularly a third cousin on the Maupin side, Linda Maupin Noel. Linda generously copied me on all the information she had gleaned. Then I did some digging on my own.

Wednesday I’ll share some of these efforts, the frustrations and the triumphs.

Along with Martha’s story, I’ll talk a little about my other book, The Shifting Winds, a historical novel set in the same time period, which was written before Martha’s and published after. The research for that one provided a good background for understanding the world in which Martha lived.

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Portraits of a Century Farm ~ Into a Magic Wood

Yesterday my photographer son-in-law, Robin Loznak, walked into the wood on the ridge across from my house to take pictures with his big camera and I went along. I came away inspired to write another “Portrait of a Century Farm,” the series of posts I began after my first book came out, A Place of Her Own, the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha, the founder of our family’s Oregon Century Farm. The series combine’s Robin’s exquisite photography with some poetic words from me. My work is prose, not poetry, but scenes sometimes verge on poetic prose. Robin caught me in one shot. I’m in the distance in a lavender coat and white hat. This wood shows up in one of the Interludes in Martha’s story. See more photos of the day.

Photo by Robin Loznak

Into a Magic Wood

A walk in a magic wood
Infuses the senses
With spring’s promise,
Life emergent.

Firs and oaks whisper
Above the steady murmur
Of the creek tumbling over rocks
Between precipitous hillsides,
Spilling across a mysterious cavern,
Threads of water veiling the portal,
Effervescing.

Down on all fours I climb the slope,
Heeding the carpet of tender green,
Grasping logs and tree trunks,
Fleecy moss caressing fingertips,
A heady bouquet in each breath
Of waxing growth out of waning decay,
Wisps of ambrosia on the tongue.

The destination appears,
The spectacle
Of white trilliums
Massed across the incline,
Each a delicate wonder,
The whole a coalescence
Of glory.

Rain seeps through the canopy,
Drips in melodic rhythms
On leaves, on stones, on water,
Sheens the air,
Turns trails slippery,
And gilds a rare purple trillium
With a clear gloss.

A walk in a magic wood
Infuses the senses
With spring’s promise,
Life emergent.

Photo by Robin Loznak

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New Manuscript Ready for Reader

Here’s my newest creative effort, all tidied up for my beta reader Carol Beckley. I’ll print out more for my other readers, Judy Emmett and my daughter Carisa Cegavske.

After completing the rough draft in record time, I stepped away from it for a few days, then read it myself to smooth it out a little and correct the typos. Odd things appear sometimes when my fingers move fast. I always go through it twice at this point–once on the computer, once on paper. I still see a lot on paper that I pass right over onscreen.

It will need many more reads and fine tuning, but getting it ready for readers is another landmark in the process.

As noted in my last post, this is the third in my trilogy centered in ancient Ireland. The working title is Pushing the Tide. This trilogy is an offshoot of my trilogy set in Minoan Crete. Altogether these epic historicals cover a 100-year period from 1470 B.C. to 1370 B.C., following families who face profound challenges affecting their world. The stories are filled with adventure and romance–sailing and swashbuckling, thundering horses, moments of laughter and tears and of intimacy.

Just as I was finishing this one another story in the series began to grow in my mind. So the epic continues.

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Another Book Abloom

I just finished the rough draft of a new novel, an epic historical to conclude my trilogy set in ancient Ireland. Spring always puts me in mind of things coming to life, so it seems fitting that this book has come to life for me now as my daffodils bloom.

It seems doubly fitting, given the fertile nature of the island of Ireland–or Eire, as I call it in the book.

My friend Tilly Engholm and I visited Ireland a few years ago when I was researching the first in the trilogy. We spent the month of May there, a glorious time. Scenes I came to know then reappear in this new book–and the stones.

The stone circles of the island hold a special place for the clanspeople in my stories, and I needed to visit many circles on our visit. As Tilly and I headed out one day in our rental car, she glanced at me. “We’re going to look at more rocks, aren’t we?”

I laughed. “Yes, we are.”

She took it in good stride, though.

In this book the characters also travel to Iberia, now Portugal, and to Crete and Thera (Santorini), with other stops along the Mediterranean, places of beauty and wonder and peril.

It has been a great ride and I look forward to sharing it with readers.

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Going on TV ~ Today!

UPDATE: CLICK to see Video.

I’ll be on KPIC TV in Roseburg today at 12:20 pm, interviewed by Donna Spicer for the station’s “Spotlight on Douglas County” on Channel 4. The Douglas County Historical Society asked me to appear on the program to announce their upcoming spring luncheon where I’ll be speaking. The luncheon will be Sunday, March 12, from 1 to 4 at the Roseburg Senior Center.

Here’s Producer Dennis Stewart preparing to tape the show.

1325-kpic-tv-feb-2017-editAfter the taping Dennis took a photo of Donna and me as we’ll appear today–with my two books.

1326-kpic-tv-feb-2017The historical society luncheon will be open to the public for all ages. I’ll be talking about my books, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, which both delve into the history of the area.

The buffet luncheon is $15 for a single meal, $25 for couples. They’re serving turkey and pork. The center is at 1614 SE Stephens Street. The society requests an RSVP at 541-391-5649 by March 4 if possible.

The television show will go online at the KPIC website next week. I’ll update with the link when that goes up.

KPIC is an affiliate of KVAL TV Eugene.

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Back to the Coast ~ To Newport

Update: My speaking engagement at Newport is cancelled due to a sudden snowstorm in my path. We hope to reschedule at a later date.

I’m headed for Newport tomorrow on Oregon’s beautiful coast to speak at a meeting of the Willamette Writers Coast Branch. The location has moved. We’ll be at the Newport Recreation Center at 225 SE Avery Street in Room 105, Sunday the 16th from 2 to 4 pm.

sunset-at-heceta-headPhoto by Robin Loznak

My son-in-law Robin snapped the above photo one spectacular evening on the Oregon coast a ways south of Newport.

I plan to talk to this group of writers and friends about my rocky road to publication with particular focus on the research that brought my work to life so readers would have a sense of the times I wrote about for both The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own.

These two books serve as bookends in my long quest to get published. Although Shifting Winds is my most recent book published it was one of the first serious books I wrote, many years ago.

Both books are set in the days of America’s great westward migration to the Oregon country, with pioneers and mountain men and fur traders from the British Hudson’s Bay Company. When I started the first one I had a lot to learn about the era. I wrote Shifting Winds before we had the internet. No Google. And I didn’t write it on a computer. I used an old Selectric typewriter. Anyone remember those?

I went to the library to find books on my subject, not just the local library, but the Multnomah County Library in Portland and the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland. I visited museums, talked to local museum director George Abdill, who offered a wealth of material. I developed my own library on the history of the period.

Years later when I wrote A Place of Her Own I already had a sense of the era, but still I had research to do on the people, on my great-great-grandmother, the subject of my story. When a question entered my head I had the internet at my fingertips. Such a change. I still read many more books, buying some, using the library for others. I visited courthouses, dug through records, contacted experts. Through the internet I found cousins who had done genealogical research–especially Linda Noel on the coast in Reedsport, who generously shared reams of material with me.

I visited the sites for a sense of the places, not just how they looked, but how they felt, and the kinds of echoes that may have been left by those who walked these places before me.

A Place of Her Own was sold as nonfiction, although it reads like a novel. After it was published I heard that my editor was buying a little fiction and told my agent about this historical novel I had done some years ago, set in the same period as Place of Her Own. She encouraged me to bring it out. I did, but it wasn’t easy. I had learned a lot about writing in the intervening years. I thoroughly rewrote it, and the editor liked it. This old favorite became another published book, The Shifting Winds.

I look forward to sharing my story with the people of Newport–and to my visit in that beautiful setting.

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Rainbows of Promise

I completed a writing landmark last night and woke on this blustery morning ready to celebrate. Look who came to the party, bringing a rainbow of promise.

1321-elk-rainbow-2If I have seemed absent these last few weeks, it’s because I have been immersed in creating a comprehensive outline for my next book. This will be the third in my second trilogy set in the ancient world over 3,000 years ago. The story brings together many threads from the first five, so it hasn’t been a simple project. But rewarding.

There seem to be two camps of writers, those who work from outlines and those who shun them. I’m an outline author because I can’t imagine pulling all that information together and holding it in my mind throughout such a complex story. It’s a guide, not set in stone. But when I do venture off track, letting my imagination veer, I often find myself lost in useless dead ends.

I actually enjoy the outline because that’s where I tell the story from beginning to end in simple language. Once I start the actual writing of the rough draft I will show the story. The draft is the most thrilling part because I live the story then. That said, I have been known to shed a tear even when writing or reading the outline. Many scenes have already come to me by that time, especially when my muse has been generous–and she has been on this one. So I have experienced those scenes as they’ve come to me, and they touch me again when I copy them from the notes.

1295-elk-morning-2The elk arrived early for my celebration, seen here just off my front porch. And they stayed late.

Along with the work on the new project I’ve also been promoting my Oregon pioneer stories that are already in print–A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. I’m continuing to do speaking appearances around the area, the next in Newport, Oregon, on the coast. A lovely setting. That’s next Sunday, the 26th (details on the sidebar at right).

It’s even rumored that I’ll have a short appearance on local TV. More on that later. Now to a short break, if I can quiet my mind.

The rainbow formed a complete arc and lasted more than an hour. I don’t remember ever seeing one last so long. I want to embrace its promise and the power resonating from the magnificent creatures who share my world.

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Speaking at Cottage Grove Library

With the holidays behind us, a new year of book events begins. First stop in 2017 takes me to the public library at my previous hometown, Cottage Grove, Oregon, a small historic town about twenty miles south of Eugene. I’ll be giving a presentation about my books The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own in the library’s Shepherd Room on Monday evening, January 23, from 6 to 7:30.

1280-historic-cgThe above photo shows the entrance into Cottage Grove’s historic Main Street, where the community has three bookstores–The Bookmine, Kalapuya Books, and Books on Main–impressive for a town of about 9,800 people. Just two blocks away at 700 E. Gibbs Avenue, on the corner of Gibbs and N. 8th Street, you’ll find the thriving Cottage Grove Public Library, shown below. A very literary community.

1277-cg-libraryFor my presentation I will talk about both of my published books set in the days of Oregon’s early pioneers, while showing a collection of slides related to the stories. I’ll give some background on the history behind the stories, how those books came to be, and about other projects in the works. After a short reading from the latest, Shifting Winds, I’ll open up to Q&A, then sell and sign copies of both books.

This event brings me to a familiar setting. I lived about a block up from the library, on 8th, so it became an easy place to visit and a particularly vital destination during the year my daughter and granddaughter lived with me in Cottage Grove. The librarians all knew my granddaughter Calliope, an active preschooler and lover of books.

So it’s a pleasure to be offering a presentation there. I look forward to it. Thanks to Pete Barrell, City of Cottage Grove Community Services Director, for arranging the event.

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Alum Attention

oregon-stater-winterMy book The Shifting Winds made the winter edition of the Oregon Stater, alumni magazine for Oregon State University graduates. That’s the magazine cover at right with the leaping OSU beaver.

They didn’t do book cover photos for the article, the way they did for A Place of Her Own a couple of years ago, or the way the U of O’s Oregon Quarterly alum magazine did for both books.

I’m one of those platypus people. I earned a bachelor’s degree from OSU and a master’s from the U of O, so I receive both alum magazines and have been recognized in both.

In this edition I’m included in a story, “Published,” on page 55 among other Oregon State graduates whose books were recently released.

Also on the list is my friend Dianne Kaye Carter from my Roseburg writers group with her new novel, Misled. Congratulations, Dianne!

And there, folks, you have ideas for that last-minute shopping trip for Christmas.

Wishing all my followers Happy Holidays and a wonderful new year. May we find peace and prosperity and hope.

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Holiday Cheer and Best Laid Plans

Oregon authors filled the halls of the Oregon Historical Society’s Portland center last weekend, more than 85 of us, and I was thrilled to be there with my new book The Shifting Winds, along with A Place of Her Own. All day at this lovely event I focused on the delight of the moment, not letting a niggling uncertainty mar the holiday cheer.

2016-holiday-cheer-1Here I discuss my books with a prospective buyer. In 2014 when I took part in the event with the then new Place of Her Own I was seated downstairs with nonfiction authors. This year, since my new featured book is fiction, I had a place at one of the long tables in the great room looking out at the wintry scene along SW Park Avenue. I think the photo below was taken just as I stepped away from my post so you won’t find me, but the shot offers some perspective on the setup. I sat at the table by the window.

2016-holiday-cheer-4Given the distance from home and the midday start time, I had arranged to drive up on Saturday and stay a couple of nights. The plan made sense when I scheduled my trip to Kansas City for an extended Thanksgiving visit with my daughter and granddaughter. But plans don’t always meet expectations.

A Friday return flight from Kansas City offered the cheapest rate, and I found an itinerary that got me into Eugene, Oregon, by 9:30 in the evening. Not so bad. My other daughter and her husband came to pick me up. However, I wasn’t thinking of the long ride home that took until 11:00 and the bit of laundry between trips that kept me awake until midnight–which was 2:00 in the morning in Kansas City, with my internal clock still telling me I was on Kansas City time.

No worries. I had all morning to sleep in and get repacked. I did want to arrive in Portland before dark. My hotel was familiar to me, but I also recalled it could be a little tricky to find. I woke bright and early Kansas City time. But with one thing and another I did not get away soon enough to arrive in Portland in daylight. I told myself the city would be well lit. And the weather looked agreeable–until I reached the Portland outskirts.

As darkness fell, so did a whiff of rain. The windshield wiper that had been giving me some trouble sounded a little sketchy. I didn’t see the off ramp Google maps recommended, and I didn’t want to end up at the zoo. I’ve done that before. Ready for a good rest, I needed off the freeway. When I saw a sign for 6th Avenue, I went for it. I used to live in Portland. I knew I could find my way from 6th.

Up in the Nob Hill area, though, I had trouble seeing signs in the dark. What if I got completely lost up here? About the time that thought crossed my mind, I saw it. My hotel. I checked in and parked, but as I was about to turn off the engine, the left-hand windshield wiper slipped off the windshield with a loud whack, wrapped around, and glommed onto the driver-side door window like the groping arm of tentacled alien. I opened the window and grabbed the thing, which resisted mightily. But by turning the wipers on and off just so, I managed to situate the errant wiper arm back onto the windshield. No time to deal with the issue now.

I had planned a leisurely drive home on Monday. Ah yes! The plan! It’s a three-hour drive. I had plenty of time to deal with the wiper on Monday morning. I proceeded to find a restaurant and had a restorative dinner of Irish lamb stew.

2016-holiday-cheer-5-2The next day, with all thoughts of windshield wipers neatly tucked into the back of my mind, I walked down the hill to the Holiday Cheer party. A brisk walk. As usual the Oregon Historical Society put on a wonderful event. They start by feeding the authors lunch and giving us time to chat with each other. Throughout the day they offer treats and Christmas carols in the festively decorated building.

At the appointed hour shoppers swept in ready to buy, the kind of buyers who appreciate what great gifts books make. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with the customers and with the other authors. My publisher friend Laura Stanfill came. We shared a hug and she bought Place of Her Own for her mother.

2016-holiday-cheer-billy-3I sat by mystery author of Jump the Gun and No Gun Intended, Zoe Burke, also a friend of Laura’s. And on the other side Brooke Barker and Boaz Frankel of Sad Animal Facts and It’s Different Every Day calendar fame, a highly successful author-artist couple who wanted to know more about hazelnut growing on my farm.

My friend Billy Cook was there with her new book about a famous author-artist couple of the early 20th century, Drawn Together. Great to see her. That’s Billy in the middle, at right.

The day turned more chilly, but no rain. Maybe the weather would hold.

Then came Monday. A steady drizzle dampened my optimism. How would I find a place to fix my windshield wiper if I couldn’t see out? When I described my problem to the man at the hotel he nodded and said he did understand windshield problems. He carefully marked my map to show me the way. “You can drive there without a windshield wiper,” he said. “You may think you can’t, but I came to work this morning without wipers. You can do it.”

“Be careful,” the woman at the desk said. “It’s going to start snowing at 11:00.”

“Snow?” It was a bit after 10. A shiver tickled my spine.

If the man hadn’t told me I could manage without windshield wipers, I don’t think I’d have believed it possible. A steady stream of rain poured down the glass. Occasionally I opened my door window and peered out to check street signs. I found the shop, where a mechanic pressed the wiper arm into place with brute force. “Try it now.”

The wipers moved in perfect synchronicity. How easy was that? As he gave me directions to the freeway, the alien arm slipped the traces again and attacked my door window.

Um. Not so easy. He brought out the tools and tightened a bolt on the wiper. That seemed to work. The wiper stayed on track. I could see. I clenched the steering wheel and drove away.

By the time I reached the freeway, icy rain had turned to snow. Everything in me said, “Go south! Go south!” I needed to get ahead of the storm before snow had a chance to stick. My windshield fogged up as I barreled down the busy highway. I wondered if the wiper would keep going. Maybe I could see through rain. Not snow. So much for my leisurely drive home.

Halfway to Salem the snow turned back to icy rain, and by Albany the rain stopped. The wiper held.

That night, safe in my warm house, I read that a polar bear cub at the Portland zoo had a delightful time playing in the snow. Glad he did. I didn’t enjoy it quite so much. I did get home at a reasonable time–just as planned.

Photos compliments of OHS.

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