janet fisher~writer

Following strong women through history

Books on the Bay

Story.

That’s what it was all about. And lovers of story came out Saturday for my reading and signing at Izzy’s bookstore in Winchester Bay, Oregon.

Talking about books at Windy Bay and More ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

You couldn’t find a more delightful setting than a room circled with soft chairs and couches, walls lined with books, except for one wall of windows overlooking the spectacular beauty of the bay where water rippled in the sunlight and boats rocked on the gentle tide. Behind conversation the soft cries of gulls echoed on the wind, and an occasional bird swept past our view.

Our congenial, partially rotating group munched on cookies and sipped coffee while we talked about books and ideas. I read short passages from three of mine, the two that are already out, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and one I’ve just completed, which isn’t out yet, its working title, Beyond the Waning Moon. All three fit into my theme of following strong women through history, the first two in the mid-19th century pioneer period in the American West, the new one moving way back to ancient Minoan Crete, opening in 1470 BC. Both eras found women facing significant challenges that demanded their remarkable strength.

Signing a book for a new reader ~ Photo by Robin Loznak

My thanks to Izzy for inviting me for her first author reading. It was an absolute pleasure. I wish her well in this new venture of hers. Once known as Conrad Books, the store under Izzy’s new ownership will now be known as Windy Bay Books and More. Her enthusiasm resonates throughout the place.

If you missed the event, you can still visit the store, a great stop in this lovely seaside town. And you can find my books on the shelves there–if she hasn’t sold them already. If she has, we’ll get more.

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Kool Coastal Nights

Winchester Bay Sunset

The beauties of Oregon’s remarkable coast become the focus next weekend when I venture to Conrad Books in Winchester Bay on Saturday, August 24, from 3 to 5, for a signing party and reading of my books.

It’s time for the town’s celebration of Kool Coastal Nights, and Izzy Pescadero, new proprietor of Conrad Books, asked me come share the fun. Conrad Books is a great little bookstore with a big heart and fantastic view overlooking the bay, just west of Griff’s seafood restaurant.

It’s at 156 Bay Front Loop about five miles south of downtown Reedsport, off Highway 101.

Under Izzy’s new management it’s a friendly place with new and used books, even vintage, soft couches, music, art, poetry. And the coffee’s always on.

I’ll be reading short segments from my Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist The Shifting Winds, and possibly a little preview of my upcoming book of adventure and romance in the exotic pre-Greek world of ancient Crete. And of course I’ll have books there to sign and sell.

If you’re nearby or looking for a destination of fun and spectacular beauty, please come join us. Listen to a snippet of story while watching the sun drift low over the bay and share laughs in the good company of book lovers.

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Leaping off the Page

My fiction turned real a few days ago when I was working on a bull-leaping scene for my book of ancient Crete, trying to give the work more dazzle with yet one more edit. The Cretans did leap bulls with long, sharp horns back in 1470 BC, and they painted frescoes to illustrate it, like the one shown here.

Bull Leap Fresco at Knossos Ruins in Crete

I wanted to portray the scene so a reader could live it with me. I was digging through the unabridged dictionary checking on a word for that very scene. Imagine my surprise when a similar bull with very long horns charged onto my property.

Unwelcome visitor arrives                                                                       Photo by Robin Loznak

Now, there’s a little inspiration for dazzle. I had recently contracted with developmental editor Judith Lindbergh to review the first 126 pages. And review she did. She was thorough and incisive. It was a little overwhelming. No, strike “a little.” Edit that out. It was overwhelming.

But I was plowing through, sort of like that visiting bull plowed through fences. New inspiration struck. I became excited, obsessive.

All progress stopped when I looked out my window and saw this fellow coming down my road, wagging his impressive horns.

Bull approaches Trevor

Trevor Cooley, who helps his dad, Ed, run cattle on my place, had a problem on his hands. The bull had already burst into the fields below to challenge Ed’s bulls and steers. Here, right outside my door,  the critter tossed his head at Trevor with an aggressive display. That electric wire gate looked mighty thin as Trevor phoned for help. I grabbed the camera, keeping the front door open and assuring Trevor he could run inside if need be.

The bull kept coming.

Too close for comfort

Trevor flung a little gravel at him and the critter turned away to trot down the grassy slope, tangling himself in electric fencing as he went. But he soon broke through and made his way down into the brushy gully.

By evening someone had located his owner. The man walked right up to him–almost. I was impressed. The owner couldn’t quite catch him and couldn’t drive him into the corral. After many tries he gave it up. The next morning the bull was gone. Last I heard it was on the far side of the mountain at the neighbor’s property.

But the bull did leave me with a touch of reality for the story.

My protagonist leaps a horned bull like that, one that even has a similar dapple-brown coat like the bull shown in the fresco. She has help. Grapplers hold the bull by the horns while two young men kneel in front of him, hands together. She jumps on their hands for the lift she needs to soar up and grab the ridge on the animal’s head between the deadly horns. Then she performs a front flip, her feet going over her head and down on his back–the critical crossing. One more flip and she lands on her feet on the ground behind him, into the arms of her catcher.

Of course, it being a story, the thing can’t go that smoothly. It needs tension. It needs dazzle.

Watching that bull, I was glad my protagonist did the leap, not me.

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Fun at the Fair

Authors and artists gathered at the annual Authors and Artists Fair in Eugene yesterday to share their creative work in the spirit of the holidays, and I was delighted to be among them to welcome a fine crowd of shoppers.

My Author Table at the Fair – Photo by Lynn Ash

My writer friend Lynn Ash stopped by and snapped a photo of me. Then I wandered over and took a picture of her at her table.

Lynn at Her Author Table

I was also delighted to see writer friends Valerie Brooks and Melissa Hart, who were there with their books. Valerie was the first person I remember meeting on my initial visit to the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers in Eugene, and she was always so welcoming. I met Melissa when she was a speaker at one of the meetings and appreciated how encouraging she was for my work. During the afternoon shift yesterday she joined the ring of tables where I was located, setting up right next to me. So good to see these friends again.

I was especially happy to meet Melissa’s daughter, who I’d met previously only on the written page in Melissa’s wonderful book, Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family. I recall being so captivated by that book I didn’t want to put it down. I don’t mean that I couldn’t put it down during the reading, although that was true enough. But when I finished the last page I just wanted to hold onto it. I thumbed back through for a while, then just held it a little longer, basking in the pleasure of the heartwarming story. It was so good to be able to chat with Melissa’s daughter, Maia, who’s almost twelve now.

During the day we were entertained with some music and dance in that holiday spirit. The dancers circled the room with this choreographed number and brought many a smile and a little tapping in place for the rest of us.

Dancers Offer Holiday Spirit

All in all a lovely event. Many strangers shared their stories with me as we talked about my books of Oregon Trail days, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and some familiar folks came by who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Always a pleasure.

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Authors & Artists Fair Eugene

You’ll find me at the Authors and Artists Fair in Eugene tomorrow, Saturday, December 8 from 10 to 5, selling my books, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds. Details on the poster. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by. Should be a great event with some great gift items and all for a good cause.

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Milestones in Rewriting

Back in February of this year I announced in a blog post that I had done a major rewrite on Book One of my trilogy set in early Greece. Having put so much effort into recasting the story, I felt certain I had it ready this time. After all, I had been improving it for 20 years.

Revised Trilogy

I proceeded to update Book Two and Book Three to reflect those changes and wrote a blog post in early April on the whole trilogy, putting a bow on it.

I thought it was done.

With that accomplished I headed out in late April on my trip to Europe to research settings for the full series, having drafted six books so far.

The emphasis on my trip was the second trilogy, since I thought the first was essentially complete. Of course I was open to any tweaking my new explorations might dictate.

My impulses first drew me back to the center of it all, the fabulous ruins of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete. I hoped I wouldn’t see anything that would require significant changes, but I opened my senses to the wonders around me.

Charging Bull Fresco, Knossos

Room in the Palace/Temple of Knossos

On my return home I was happy to report that in the first trilogy my descriptions held up. Except for a couple of additions I wanted to make in Books Two and Three, that trilogy was virtually ready to go.

Then reality hit. I received a harsh critique on Book One. Because of that critique and because this first book is the foundation of the entire series, my agent asked me to focus only on this one now and to give it another thorough revision with feedback from new readers. Another comprehensive rewrite!

I backed up and approached it one more time. I plunged into new research, including discussion with experts on the setting and technology. I gave it substantial new polishing, new scenes, clipping and reshaping of old scenes. I received new critiques by beta readers who never saw it before, did more adding and clipping to address their concerns, and more thorough polishing to see that everything works together.

Last February I thought I couldn’t make it better. Now I know I could because I have.

Remains of Stepped Portico, Knossos

Besides all that clipping and adding and reshaping, whispers of memory infused the pages from my recent visit to the site. I could see it more clearly through the eyes of my characters because I had just seen it through my own eyes.

Yesterday I sent off the new rewrite of Book One with hope that this time is the charm. Fingers crossed. I can say for certain it’s another milestone in the process.

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Oakland Lives Its History

The people of Oakland, Oregon, sauntered back in time this weekend to live their rich history during Living History Days, and I joined them with my books that delve into these early times.

Betty Tamm, Owner, Triple Oak Wine Vault

Triple Oak Wine Vault

Betty Tamm kindly invited me to set up my book signing table in her Triple Oak Wine Vault in downtown Oakland, a unique Tasting Room located in a renovated 1892 bank building. In the photo above she’s displaying the art of spinning, which many in our past have done.

Sign on Front Door

Not every tasting room has a bank vault for wine storage, complete with safety deposit boxes. And despite the sign on the front door you would not have found me back in the deep vault sipping wine. I believe the whole establishment counts as the vault.

I actually had a lovely table in the front of the room to set up my books.

My Oakland Living History Days Book Signing Table

Nancy Anderson and Diane Brown brought historic treasures–exquisite quilts, vintage clothing, old news stories, and more–to be displayed in the Tasting Room, so they joined me at my table and we shared some delightful conversation and a bit of delicious, decadent food.

Me, Nancy and Diane

Things seemed to be going quite well. A good crowd meandered through to taste some wine and check out our handiwork, many of them in costume in this town where history resonates through the streets and in every downtown building. So I gave little thought to the gentleman in hat and boots, a gun on his hip, until he stepped to the door with sudden alarm.

Trouble?

What are you doing out here, rebel boy?

Who knew the North and South would be at it again? But there it was on the historic streets of Oakland, yet one more battle brewing between the union and the confederates.

Johnny Reb is looking for a fight. Tension mounts.

The battle’s on. Blasts rake the ears. Smoke fills the air.

A yankee goes down.

After it’s done, it’s time for fun.

All in all, the weekend event was, as I promised, a rip-roaring good time.

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UV Magazine Spread

UV Magazine, Lifestyle Magazine of the Umpqua Valley, did a story for their Fall 2018 edition on the local Roseburg writers group I belong to, An Association of Writers, and I was delighted to be featured with my books. UPDATE: The online version is up now.

UV Magazine Two-page Spread with Cover Overlay. Story and Cover Photos by Robin Loznak

The magazine is a beautifully produced publication that highlights people and activities in the Umpqua River region. A few days after Contributing Writer Sarah Smith asked to interview me and said they would send out a photographer, I learned that my favorite photographer, my son-in-law Robin Loznak, does freelance work for them. I mentioned that to Sarah, who passed the word to Account Executive Nicole Stratton, and the photo assignment went to Robin. A handy gig, since he and my daughter live on the family farm, just down the hill from me.

It just happened that the issue’s cover also features an autumn photo by Robin.

For the photo shoot on the article Robin and I went up to the top of the property and looked down over the big field above my house toward the setting sun. I used this sweeping view in one of the scenes in A Place of Her Own, the story of my great-great-grandmother Martha Maupin, who founded this Sesquicentennial Farm 150 years ago. I haven’t done the paperwork yet to receive that designation officially, but the farm qualifies. It has been a Century Farm since April 1968, the Martha A. Maupin Century Farm, one of the few in Oregon named for a woman.

Besides the fine overlook from the farm’s upper ridge, there was this perfect weathered stump for displaying my two published books.

The UV story talks about the importance of writers groups to authors who otherwise work in isolation. The mutual support helps keep an author going and the feedback helps in polishing the work. Sarah, who wrote the article, relayed my story of how eight people from my Roseburg writers group surprised me by coming to the launch party for my second book, The Shifting Winds. They had quite a drive up the Umpqua River to the little town of Elkton where I held the party. What a pleasure it was to see them walk in that day! The photo below shows them filling a table along with my friend from Elkton High School Bill Isaac.

From left to right: Arvilla and Don Newsom, Kari Clark, Heather Villa, Bill Isaac (longtime friend who’s not in the writers group but just happened to sit at this distinguished table), me standing, Wilma Mican, Emily Blakely, Dianne Carter, and Marlene Daley.

That’s friendly support! So glad UV Magazine chose to do the article about this fine group and so glad I joined them. Thanks to UV for the focus.

The magazine can be found at businesses in the Umpqua Valley, hotels, restaurants, doctor’s offices, hospital and elsewhere. And you can find them online. This brand-new edition should be up soon.

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Fort Umpqua Days Starts Tomorrow

The British Hudson’s Bay Company fort on the Umpqua River takes center stage every year when the people of Elkton, Oregon, commemorate the historic outpost in the annual Labor Day celebration, Fort Umpqua Days. This year’s event starts tomorrow, Saturday, September 1.

Cannon at Fort Umpqua. Photo by Robin Loznak.

The cannon went off at last year’s event, and the sound reverberated across the valley.

A bass tournament starts off the activities tomorrow at 6 am, then a Lion’s Club pancake breakfast at the Elkton Community Education Center at 7. Pioneers and others will parade through town starting at 10, when most of the other activities begin. It’s a two-day event, Saturday and Sunday.

Folks can find all kinds of fun there. Mountain men with their black powder rifles. Pioneer activities for the kids. Vendors selling everything from candles to jewelry to–oh, yes!–books. And more. Of course there will be food and music and the evening pageant under the direction of Cathy Byle–with a historic flare of course.

Following are a few more scenes from previous Fort Umpqua Days events.

Suffragette Terry Chiodo

Hudson’s Bay Company Man

Pageant Drama

Store in the Fort

Local Mountain Man and Me With Books

It’s all in the spirit of fun–and maybe learning a little about our local history. The weather should be perfect.

COMMENTS

Zambujal Update

Remember these archaeologists in Portugal digging all that dirt last spring when I visited the ancient Castro do Zambujal, and Sónia Cravo and Fábio Rocha gave me that wonderful tour?

Archaeologists at Zambujal in May 2018

Remember Sónia, head of the project, looking over the site on the day of my May visit, seeing the tremendous amount of work yet to do?

Sónia in May 2018 Overlooks Work Ahead

So that was then.

This is now.

Castro do Zambujal in August 2018. Drone Photo by Fábio.

After three months of digging the archaeologists have cleared many loads of dirt to reveal what once lay buried. The citadel seems to rise into a greater semblance of its once-powerful position above the rolling hills near the western coast of the Iberian peninsula. Sónia sent me three photos taken this month by Fábio, for which he used a drone to get some perspective above the site, the photo above and two more below.

Castro do Zambujal in August 2018. Drone Photo by Fábio.

Castro do Zambujal in August 2018. Drone Photo by Fábio.

In these new photos I can see places I walked and more walls I wasn’t aware of. This helps me get a better idea of the configuration of this citadel that plays a significant role in part of my upcoming series. And look how clean the rocks are compared to the May photos. It’s a painstaking process, digging carefully, always alert to what might be found in the next scoop of dirt. They’re still working on it. But they have made impressive progress. What a change!

Sónia also sent a photo of the two of them happily waving. When I visited in May I couldn’t help noticing the camaraderie among the people working on the project. The story of my thrilling May visit is here.

Zambujal Archaeologists Sónia Cravo and Fábio Rocha

I so appreciate Sónia and Fábio sharing these new photos with me and their readiness to answer questions that come up. As I work through my revisions I’m sure questions will arise and it’s good to know I have such friendly sources ready to help me.

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