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.
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.
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.
If 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
For 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.
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.
Here 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.
Given 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.
The 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.
I 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.
The Oregon Historical Society has put out a flyer for their upcoming Holiday Cheer Party in Portland, and I’m excited to be one of the Oregon authors invited to join them with my historical novel The Shifting Winds.
It’s a gala for Oregon authors who’ve had a book published in the current year. Besides all these wonderful potential Christmas gifts, the OHS will have holiday refreshments, Christmas carols, and plenty of book talk and other conversation.
I had the good fortune of being invited to this event in 2014, the year A Place of Her Own came out, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A wonderful venue, great atmosphere. Carolers, at left, roamed the many rooms of author tables to put us in the Christmas spirit.
In addition to The Shifting Winds I’ll also have copies of A Place of Her Own for sale.
So if you’re in the Portland area the first Sunday in December, come on over to the lovely Oregon Historical Society building, downtown at 1200 SW Park Avenue. It’s a great shopping place for the booklovers on your Christmas list. I’d be delighted to see you and welcome you to this unique holiday party.
When three authors get together to present their books at the Book Nest Venue in the Indulge! Antiques shop, it’s triple the activity of the former one-author format. And we just had to ham it up a little for the camera.
That’s me on the left of course, then Valerie Ihsan in the middle and Lynn Ash on the right.
We enjoyed the new digs at the Springfield Gateway Mall where Indulge recently moved. Amanda Bird, proprietor of the Book Nest bookstore, keeps a presence there, though not the separate niche she had in the previous location.
Imagine a long narrow table set with candles and knickknacks and books down the center on a bright autumn-orange runner. Sorry, I get distracted easily and forget to take more pictures. Around this attractive table the three of us shared brief descriptions of our books with the guests who joined us. And over a delightful lunch we all took questions and had wonderful conversation.
Valerie talked about her new novel The Scent of Apple Tea, Lynn presented her travel memoirs The Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda, and I discussed my Oregon Trail stories, The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, as well as upcoming work.
The food was delicious, and Indulge is filled with tempting antiques in charming displays. Thanks to Amanda for the invite to a lovely event.
A soft October sun brightened the colors as I rolled into Ashland yesterday afternoon for my reading and signing at Bloomsbury Books. After dropping some books off at the store I had time to take a walk and let the festive Ashland charm wrap around me. I strolled down Main Street and over to Lithia Park, stopping by a pond to breathe in the calming beauty.
Back up Main Street I began to read menus at the many restaurants along the way, confident that any one of them would offer exquisite fare. Even a quick, light dinner had a gourmet touch. Along the street the flags never let you forget the town’s Shakespearean reputation, and music from stringed instruments drifted on the air. It’s no wonder the place drew me a couple of decades ago to live there for a while. So I returned with some sense of a homecoming for this second book signing at Bloomsbury’s. I went there a couple of years ago to present my pioneer ancestor’s story A Place of Her Own.
The staff at Bloomsbury set up a nice display with both books this time. They hold readings upstairs in the store loft, a pleasant spot–the author’s garret, I guess. A good group came up. I read from the opening pages of historical novel The Shifting Winds, my featured book at this event, and the audience clearly appreciated the reading. We had an excellent discussion. So rewarding to find such enthusiasm. And several bought both books.
Afterward I had a long drive home in the dark, but a feeling of satisfaction went with me.
Next stop on my journey to present my book The Shifting Winds is the lovely Bloomsbury Books in the southwestern Oregon town of Ashland, known for its elegant Shakespearean theater productions and other theatrical offerings. I’ll be there tomorrow evening, Monday, October 10, at 7 pm. That’s Bloomsbury’s in the photo below.
I thoroughly enjoyed last week’s visit to Coos Bay at the Coos Bay Public Library for a book presentation and signing. My thanks to Ellen Thompson, Assistant Library Director, for inviting me and making all the arrangements. A very literary audience offered such a gratifying response. Many had already read my first book, A Place of Her Own, and expressed how much they enjoyed it. After my talk and reading with a slide show, we had a lively Q&A session. Many attendees had kinds words for me, but one heartfelt comment brought tears to my eyes when a woman thanked me for bringing history to life. It’s what I try so hard to do, and her affirmation touched me.
Tomorrow night will be a more traditional reading and signing. I’ll say a just few words and give a reading, then take questions before signing books.
I lived in Ashland about twenty years ago and had a wonderful gig there doing play reviews for the Sneak Preview, an Ashland monthly newspaper. What fun! My job meant attending all sorts of plays, including one fantastic dinner theater production, and of course writing reviews.
Bloomsbury Books was my go-to bookstore when I lived there. One thing about living in a lot of places, as I have, I’m a local author in many locales.
If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by. As I recall, my last event at Bloomsbury’s had a lively Q&A too.