janet fisher~writer

Following strong women through history

Panel at 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference Portland, Oregon

Four authors of historical fiction with Pacific Northwest settings got together to offer a panel at the 2017 Historical Novel Society Conference held this year in Portland, Oregon. From left to right: me, Kirby Larson, Libbie Hawker, and Janet Oakley. We called it “Historical Fiction through a Pacific Northwest Lens,” which seemed appropriate since the UK-based Historical Novel Society was coming to Portland. They meet in the UK every other year with North American sites in the opposite years.

The idea for our panel started with Janet Oakley and her writer friend in Washington State Carole Dagg. I had met Janet at a couple of PNWA conferences in Seattle, and she invited me to be part of a panel. The three of us put together a proposal which was accepted. We cheered our good fortune. Then Carole learned she’d be unable to attend so Janet found not one replacement but two. And Kirby Larson and Libbie Hawker joined us Janets.

For our session we had a lively discussion about what led us to write about this region and some of the challenges, like writing realistic history without offending 21st-century readers. We also discussed the pleasures of researching and the thrill of discovering actual documents from the times of our stories, about finding the untold stories, about the people who populated this land before the Europeans, and about other facets of history on America’s far northwestern frontier.

As we said in our proposal, “The region holds a unique position as the continent’s last frontier. When nearly every coastline in the world had been mapped, America’s northwest remained a mystery to explorers, a blank wilderness. That untamed edge resonates in the land’s character.”

Libbie served as moderator, and she kept us on our toes with some unexpected questions among the ones planned. We had a good Q & A afterward with an enthusiastic audience. A fun time.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen for taking the picture.

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NEWS!! Shifting Winds a Finalist in PNWA Nancy Pearl Book Awards

Yay! My historical novel The Shifting Winds has just been named as a finalist in the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Awards, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

This award is offered by PNWA for books published in the last year.

Winners will be announced at the July conference in Seattle. Finalists will enjoy excellent visibility throughout that conference.

I’m thrilled to receive such recognition for my book in this highly contested award.

Oregon’s turbulent past comes alive in the story through the eyes of protagonist Jennie Haviland and two men, one British, one American, who vie for Jennie as their nations vie for the rich disputed land of the Oregon country.

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Poster for Eugene Library Gig

The Eugene Public Library provided a poster for my upcoming book talk and slide show there this Sunday, June 10, at 2 pm as part of their summer reading program.

Looking forward to this event at the beautiful library facility at 100 West 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene, Oregon. For more information you can check out my June 2nd post here.

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My Talk at Eugene Library Coming Up June 10th

I’m delighted to be speaking about my books at the Eugene Public Library Saturday, June 10, at 2 pm. For folks in the neighborhood I hope you’ll jot it on your calendar and stop by.

It’s a beautiful facility, as shown above, located at 100 West 10th Avenue in downtown Eugene.

During my talk I’ll present a slide show with photos related to my books, illustrating events and scenes to help bring the stories to life. I’ll delve into some of my personal history that led to publication of my first book, A Place of Her Own, and the door that milestone opened to a second book, The Shifting Winds.

Both are Oregon Trail stories. A Place of Her Own is the true story of my great-great-grandmother Martha who came west over the trail and dared purchase a farm on her own after she lost her husband. Not an easy matter for a woman in those days. I grew up on that farm, the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, and have now returned, so her story touches me on a deep personal level. The book reads like a novel, with interludes describing my search for her, and I’ll talk a little about that search.

The slide show will include old photos like the one above right of one of Martha’s daughters, who I imagine looks like Martha. And photos like the one at left of my book reading in Missouri when my daughter and granddaughter and I backtracked Martha’s footsteps over the Oregon Trail and received a surprising Missouri welcome at the other end.

Publication of Martha’s story led to The Shifting Winds, which I wrote some years before about the same era, a novel with fictional characters who walk through a lot of true history of those early American settlers in the Oregon country. I’ll discuss how the research for that book helped inform Martha’s story and how research has changed dramatically with the advent of the internet–and how it hasn’t.

Photos related to The Shifting Winds include the one at right taken on the reconstructed site of the British Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Vancouver, where a number of scenes take place. During my reading and signing event at the fort, photographer Robin Loznak looks right down the barrel of an HBC big gun in front of the commander’s house, while I stand by in the white hat listening to our tour guide, Dr. Robert Cromwell, Chief Ranger and Archeologist. Not to worry. The guns were spiked, like the originals.

I’ll do some short readings from both books to provide a bit of flavor.

After my presentation the session will be open to Q & A so people can ask what they really want to know about the stories or about the writing process or whatever else comes to mind. I always love the interaction of Q & A so really look forward to that. Afterward books will be available to sell and sign.

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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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