Event Saturday in Sutherlin

I’m having another book signing event in Douglas County for my new novel, The Shifting Winds, at the lovely Books Gallery in Sutherlin this coming Saturday, April 2, from 2 to 4.

Books GalleryThis is the kind of friendly place where people hang out, do puzzles, have delicious snacks straight from the Lighthouse Center Bakery in Umpqua, along with coffee, tea, or espresso, and explore the latest book selections.

I’ll join that relaxed atmosphere on Saturday afternoon, do a reading at about 2:30, share in a little Q&A, sign books, and chat. I hope some folks in the neighborhood will stop by. I’ll bring a few copies of A Place of Her Own too.


Upcoming Book Event at Fort Vancouver

Woo-hoo again! I have news. But first a little background.

In the Oregon Territory of 1842, the opening year of my book The Shifting Winds, the British Hudson’s Bay Company held sway over the region from their western headquarters at Fort Vancouver in what is now the city of Vancouver, Washington. Several scenes in The Shifting Winds take the reader to this amazing place, and I began to have a dream. What if I could have an event there, to draw others to this place so they could walk where my characters walked?

Ft.Vanc.Big House FrontThe fort has been meticulously reconstructed with a number of the original buildings, like the Big House, grand home of the Chief Factor, then Dr. John McLoughlin.

I called the site and learned that yes, they do host events, and was directed to Mary Rose, Acting Director of the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. She expressed a strong interest in the story immediately. I sent her a book, we emailed back and forth, talked on the phone. Then yesterday, the day after my event at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, I drove up to the fort to meet her.

I am excited to announce that we agreed on the date. The event is scheduled. It’s four months away, a Saturday afternoon, July 16. Right in the middle of tourist season when the fort becomes a major destination. It’s going to happen! A dream come true for me.

Ft.Vanc.McL Office After meeting with Mary in the Visitor Center I went down to the fort, first to the Big House, where I stepped into Dr. McLoughlin’s office. This was a spot of British civilization in an otherwise wild land.

Ft.Vanc.From VerandaBack outside, I surveyed some of the other structures from the long front veranda. Many of the buildings have been reconstructed, not all. This scene faces south. The Columbia River isn’t too far away in that direction, convenient for transportation in those days.

Ft.Vanc.Veranda longLooking west, down the long veranda, one can see the next building over, the Counting House or Office. The British had two different offices built over time. The one in the photo replicates the second office, which came after our story. The one the book portrays as the residence and workplace of our handsome Hudson’s Bay Company clerk, Alan Radford, has not yet been reconstructed.

Ft.Vanc.Dining longHere is the elegant table in the Mess Hall where American mountain man Jake Johnston stops for a quick bite the evening of the Christmas Ball–the tables set up differently of course for the occasion.

I had visited the fort before I wrote the book, but seeing all this again after publication, I reimagined my characters wandering through these places, and strolling out across the grounds. The story and people lived for me again.

What a fantastic place to have an event for this book!

In a quest for accuracy I spent a lot of time here before, and had copies of the two huge volumes of the Historic Structure Report by John A. Hussey providing historical data prior to reconstruction. They did their best to build an authentic representation of the original, using archeological finds (they even found blue-and-white Spode china), and many documents from the period offering description and detail.

Ft.Vanc.Bastion 3.15.16The fort is now a National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. My reading and signing will be held in the new Visitor Center, a beautiful venue just up the hill from the fort. Afterward we can either walk or drive down to the grounds to explore this glimpse of the past.

When I got home yesterday I took my usual walk up the mountain of the family farm described in my first book, A Place of Her Own, and when I stood looking out over the green slopes and the mountains beyond, I smiled. A walk across the historic grounds of Fort Vancouver in the morning, a walk up Martha’s mountain in the late afternoon. All under the same shining sun. What a grand day!


Lovely Crowd at Annie’s

A lovely crowd turned out for my book reading and signing at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. It was such a cold, rainy evening. Icy rain hammered me as I drove into the city. I wondered if anyone would come out on such a night. But Portlanders don’t let anything like a little rain stop them. The people came.

Annie's 3.15.16Here is Annie’s as I arrived early on that wet evening. But a warm welcome awaited inside.

Molly Bloom, the silky black cat who rules the store, soon made her presence known, and I was determined to get her picture this time. I never got my own picture of her last time I had an event there with my first book, A Place of Her Own. So I must confess the rest of my pictures of the event are of Molly. None of the crowd. None of me speaking. Just Molly.

Annie's.Molly hidingShe seemed a little shy at first. “I’m not quite ready to go out there yet.” I knew the feeling. Here she has tucked herself under the table where I sat to do my reading, a little different from other venues where I usually stand. But it was pleasant, conversational.

I do want to thank my cousin-in-law Judy Fisher, who helped with serving wine after my presentation. She and my cousin Jack came over from Lake Oswego, and it was great to see them. And a special thanks to Stephanie, the human at Annie’s who handled the event and introduced me.

I had some surprises. A friend who had known my father came. She had worked with him when he served on the State Board of Education years ago, and even had dinner once at my parents’ house at the farm. Also in attendance was someone who had worked on the archeological digs at Champoeg, a significant locale in the story of The Shifting Winds.

Annie's.Molly checkingMolly kept busy before we started. “I just need to check something over here in the stacks.”

As I began to do my reading Molly started working the crowd in earnest. She traipsed around the chairs. She paused for gentle strokes on her silky fur. She leaped into laps. My camera was on the corner of my table. I considered stopping midsentence to get a better picture, but decided that would break the flow, and it was an intense scene. I could have asked someone beforehand to do pictures, but didn’t. Even with Molly’s antics the reading was well received.

And we had a great Q & A. Many of the people knew the history that surrounds my story, so we had a vibrant interaction. Quite a few were interested in A Place of Her Own too. All in all, a delightful event. And afterward Molly was all worn out.

Annie's.Molly sleepingSigh. “It’s a big job running an event like this. But I am content. It went well.”

My thanks to everyone at Annie’s. This was my go-to bookstore when I lived in Portland, just up the street, and I always love going back there. It’s such a pleasure to be able to share my own work in this warm and friendly place. Like Molly, I was content.

NEXT UP: News on an exciting upcoming event.




Oregonian Feature on Shifting Winds

Woo-hoo! The Oregonian, Portland’s longtime newspaper of note, did a terrific feature on The Shifting Winds. The article went up online last week, and is in today’s print version. You can find the online feature here.

And here’s a photo of the print version, below. A nice spread.

Oregonian.Diane.DunasPhoto by Diane Dunas

My daughter Carisa called this morning to tell me my friend Diane Dunas had posted the above picture of the article on Facebook, and Diane kindly sent me a copy of her photo to share here.

The story of The Shifting Winds is set in and around the area where Portland eventually grew up, and I’ll be holding an event next week at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland. So it’s a great match. And excellent timing. The Oregonian not only covers the Portland area but reaches readers throughout the state. Very exciting!!


UPDATE: Amy Wang, who wrote the article, clarified that it’s a feature, not a review, so I’m editing accordingly. Either way, it’s super.


Friendly Gathering at Museum

A friendly gathering came out to the Douglas County Museum for my first Roseburg reading and signing. It’s a lovely venue, and Karen Bratton, Research Librarian and Collections Manager, put together a pleasant setting for this event. Thanks so much, Karen.

People really seemed to enjoy the slide show of photos related to my book The Shifting Winds. My son-in-law Robin Loznak ran that for me. He has been encouraging me to do visuals, and I was glad we had such a fine setup at the museum to show those. Thanks, Robin. It was fun seeing the pictures on the large screen, especially the ones I had taken when backtracking the Oregon Trail with family.

joyce and meThe highlight for me was having Joyce Abdill there, wife of the late George Abdill, the man who’d offered so much information that infused this book. That’s Joyce and me above. George was the first director of this museum where the event was held and my first source for several books I wrote about the pioneer and fur trade era. Joyce shared some stories about George and how they met.

Years ago Joyce also played a part in advancing my writing career, in that she helped me get my first two agents. As a sales rep in the book industry she knew people and helped make those connections. And while those agents did not sell my books, their acceptance of this early work gave me a hope that kept me going until I did finally break through into publication. I very much appreciate Joyce for that and for her encouragement. I was delighted to have her input at this event, not only her prepared remarks but her contributions to the Q & A. And we had a lot of fun chatting. I was glad to introduce her to some of my good friends there.

bear refreshmentsOur room for the event had a historic display of Smokey the Bear items, so as we entered the room we were greeted by a fine specimen of a black bear near the refreshment table. I knew he was there. I had visited a few days before, but I still stopped short when I walked into the room last evening and met him face to face.

But my biggest surprise of the evening was when a couple walked up, and the woman told me she was my roommate our freshman year at Oregon State. She moved to Roseburg a few years ago and had seen news of my books. I hadn’t seen her since we left college.

Robin took the photo of Joyce and me with my camera, and I took the bear shot.


Event Tonight at the Museum

I’ll be in Roseburg tonight at 6:30 for a reading and signing of my new book The Shifting Winds. I’m looking forward to this event at the Douglas County Museum where this book was essentially born.

900.DCMuseumWhen I decided to write the first of several pioneer/fur trade stories some years ago, I went to see the late George Abdill, first director of this museum, looking for information on my subject. As I noted in an earlier post, he was exactly the right guy to talk to. This was a favorite era of his and his knowledge set my course on these books, including The Shifting Winds. He gave me volumes of information on his own, and directed me to many books and other sources of information. My researches led me not only to the Douglas County Library, but to the Multnomah County and Oregon Historical Society libraries in Portland, the Clackamas Historical Society and McLoughlin House in Oregon City, the backroads around Oregon City, up the river to Champoeg, and to the reconstructed Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington.

George profile jpgPhoto courtesy of Douglas County Museum

I will offer a brief tribute to George tonight, and to his wife, Joyce, who plans to be there and say a few words. Joyce also helped me by connecting me with my first two agents, and those agents gave me a sense of hope that one day I would find the breakthrough I needed to get a publisher. I am thankful to Joyce for that and for her continued encouragement.

Also tonight, with the help of my son-in-law Robin Loznak, I’ll present a running slide show of photos related to the story–Oregon Trail shots taken when I traveled east to Kansas City with my daughter and granddaughter and backtracked that harrowing trail, a few shots at Fort Vancouver the characters visit in the story, as well as pictures of the main setting of Oregon City and a couple of the story’s real-life characters, Joe Meek and Dr. John McLoughlin.  Then, just for fun, we’ll show photos from a signing event I had near the beginning of the Oregon Trail in Lexington, Missouri, when a shirttail cousin, reenactor Robbie Maupin, rode in with a band of Rough Riders to visit the event. The man does know how to make an entrance. In that small town that looked like a place out of the past, these riders helped take us back to a time close to the days of The Shifting Winds.

After the tribute to George and Joyce’s remarks, I’ll do a short reading from The Shifting Winds, then sign some books. I will also have copies of my first book, A Place of Her Own. If you purchased one of these books elsewhere and would like them signed, feel free to bring them and I’ll happily sign them too.

The event will last from 6:30 to 8:30, and folks at the museum will be offering refreshments of cookies and coffee. My thanks to Karen Bratton, Research Librarian and Collections Manager, for setting all this up, and to Museum Director Gardner Chappell. The museum seems a perfect venue for this book, which got its start there.

The event is open to the public. Welcome.




Book Launch Party

A wonderful crowd braved the rain to come out to my book launch party at the Elkton ECEC Sunday afternoon. I was surprised and delighted to see so many from my Roseburg writers group. They nearly filled one of the tables.

book6.author table From left to right (above): 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, President Dianne Carter, and Marlene Daley. Thanks so much for coming.

book5.andrew.musicWe had fantastic guitar music by Andrew Arriaga, Elkton music teacher, here in front of the fur trade display in the ECEC Library, appropriate for my story set in the fur trade days of nineteenth century Oregon. Thank you very much, Andrew. Such great listening!

Book4-1.wineWe had wine with cheese and crackers, the wine compliments of Jim Wood, formerly of Napa Valley, now of Elkton. He offered Elkton wines from Brandborg Winery and Hundredth Valley Winery, as well as selections from the Napa Valley winery that used grapes from the Wood family vineyards there. That’s Jim, beyond the camera’s focal point, standing in the background next to Andrew. Thank you, Jim, for your wonderful generosity and for adding this touch of class to our party.

Book3-1.table.caseyJim enlisted his family to help serve the wine, son Nathan, Nathan’s friend Casey Zarnes, and Jim’s daughter-in-law Sarah Wood, wife of son Chad. Here Casey is chatting with one of my cousins, Karen Maupin Jackson in the striped top, Arvilla Newsom from the writers group in the green coat, and Emily Hunt behind Arvilla. And I love the flowers I found at the Bookmine in Cottage Grove, the deep pink carnations with lavender-colored spray that almost matches my book.

book8.readingThen came the reading from The Shifting Winds, clearly a serious moment in the story here.

book7.signingAnd the signing.

I had a lovely time, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.

All the photos are by Robin Loznak, my son-in-law. Thank you, Robin. And thanks also to my daughter, Carisa, for handling the guestbook and helping at the signing table.

Many thanks to Sue Butkus, Site Coordinator at ECEC, for all your help in setting this up, and to Executive Director Marjorie Hammon and to Kris Hendricks, Education Coordinator, for all your help. And a great big thanks to everyone who came and made this such a happy occasion.

NEXT UP: A signing and reading at the fabulous Douglas County Museum in Roseburg Thursday evening, March 10, from 6:30 to 8:30. It will be a very different kind of venue. I’ll do a tribute to George Abdill, the first director of that museum, a man who helped me so much in my research for this book. We’ll also show photos from the Oregon Trail and other historic pictures related to the story–the visuals Robin has been encouraging me to do. So he’ll help with that and I’ll do a reading–a different segment than I read in Elkton.



The Elkton Connection

The launch of The Shifting Winds happens in Elkton because it’s my hometown—at least the closest town to the farm where I live. So on this last day of my countdown to launch with historic factoids, I want to bring the history home.

The story of The Shifting Winds does not come this far south, but there is a connection. Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin, who we know from the story, sent men to the Umpqua to find a place for a Hudson’s Bay Company post, and Fort Umpqua was built in 1836, a few years prior to our story timeline. The fort became the southernmost outpost of the HBC, and a fine replica, shown below, was built a few years ago a short way downriver from the original site. That replica is on the ECEC grounds, just down the hill from the library where my book launch will take place tomorrow afternoon.


In more recent years Elkton has been designated an American Viticultural Area, and wine and book signings often go together. So we’ll be serving wine at the launch, compliments of Jim Wood, formerly of Napa Valley and now an Elkton resident. Jim will provide selections from the local Brandborg Winery and Hundredth Valley Winery, as well as from a Napa Valley winery that used grapes from his own Wood family vineyards in Napa Valley. The local Wood family is actively working with vineyards now in the Elkton area. Members of Jim’s immediate family will be on hand along with Jim to help out at the book launch, his son Nathan, Nathan’s friend Casey Zarnes, and Jim’s daughter-in-law Sarah Wood, wife of son Chad. My sincerest thanks for their generosity.

History doesn’t tell us if grapes were grown at the Fort Umpqua outpost, but the first grapes in Oregon were planted back at headquarters in Fort Vancouver in 1825. There’s a fun story about how that happened. At a party in London a lady tucked a few grape seeds and apple seeds in the vest pocket of a gentleman planning to visit the Oregon country, and she suggested he take them to Oregon on his upcoming trip. Depending on which version of the story you read, the gentleman was either HBC Governor George Simpson or his cousin Lieutenant Emilius Simpson. Histories often challenge the researcher with these uncertainties. At any rate, when one of these Mr. Simpsons arrived in Oregon in 1825 he gave Dr. McLoughlin the somewhat dried seeds. Dr. McLoughlin happily planted them, and they grew, becoming the start of Fort Vancouver’s first vineyard, as well as the first apple tree in the region.

Music seems to follow wherever people go, and the American settlers and the British of Fort Vancouver were no exceptions. Violins and guitars and other instruments came over the Oregon Trail, and at Fort Vancouver back in the day you might have heard Scottish melodies mingling with French-Canadian songs, or one of those new waltzes which were still scandalizing some folks in the States—though the dance was popular in Britain and France long before our story and was starting to be accepted in some of the more forward-looking eastern cities in the States. At the book launch party we’ll be privileged to hear Andrew Arriaga, Elkton school music teacher, offering background guitar music. Thanks to Andrew for sharing his wonderful talent with us.

ECECSo, tomorrow it is. The launch of The Shifting Winds, my debut historical novel. That’s Sunday afternoon, March 6, from 2 to 4 in the ECEC Library just west of Elkton, by the butterfly pavilion. Welcome to my celebration!




Dr. John McLoughlin

With just two days to go until the launch party for my book, The Shifting Winds, I want to introduce you to another historic personage you will meet in the book’s pages, Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin, commanding officer of Fort Vancouver, the British Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters in the Oregon Country in the nineteenth century. I have mentioned him in previous posts, but would like to focus on him today. Sometimes called “the Father of Oregon,” he was an important man in the days of our story.

John McLoughlin DaguerreotypeNational Park Service

The daguerreotype above offers a hint of the dynamic energy of Dr. McLoughlin. He stood 6 foot 4, with a powerful build and long unruly white hair, and had a commanding presence. Yet he was known for his kindness and generosity. His humanitarian instincts wouldn’t let him ignore the desperate needs of many American settlers, even when he knew their arrival in Oregon meant trouble for his Company and his nation.

He offered them tools and supplies, giving these things on credit if the Americans couldn’t pay. But at the same time he did what he could to discourage their efforts to establish a government, which might stand in opposition to his own powers and those of his country. Before the first American wagon trains came west, he essentially ruled the land like a baron. As long as he maintained his position in the Company, he managed to keep the peace with the Native American tribes. They called him the White Headed Eagle and tended to respect him.

His wife Marguerite was half Cree, and from many accounts they shared a deep affection. Most fur traders on the frontier married Native American or mixed-blood women without the sanction of the clergy. Dr. McLoughlin eventually married Marguerite in a civil ceremony to protect her legal status, then later had a Catholic marriage performed by a priest.

We get a sense of an underling’s awe of the man when Alan Radford, the clerk courting protagonist Jennie, gets a call to come to McLoughlin’s office.

“[Alan] bounded up the half-circle stairs to the wide veranda and charged inside, lunging to the open door of McLoughlin’s office to the left of the entry. It wasn’t wise to leave the good doctor waiting.

“The giant of a man sat fidgeting at his desk, looking out the window. He showed no sign he’d even noticed Alan come in. . . . For a moment the doctor’s unruly shock of long white hair gave Alan the impression of a madman. But of course Dr. John McLoughlin was no madman. While his temper might be as unruly as his hair, he was the most competent commander Alan had ever worked under. And most exacting. . . .

“With a sudden grunt McLoughlin pivoted to face him. The man’s bushy white brows drew together over piercing gray-blue eyes that had a way of holding another man’s gaze. The florid complexion appeared redder than usual.

“Alan’s shoulders tightened. Have I done something? Something to incite his rage?

“Perspiration prickled across Alan’s flesh, and he fought back the sense of inadequacy he so often felt in McLoughlin’s presence, wanting always to be in command of himself. But what man didn’t feel this way before McLoughlin when the old Chief Factor was in such a mood?”

NEXT: The Elkton Connection



Fort Vancouver

In today’s post counting down to the book launch of The Shifting Winds, we’ll visit the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver, a thriving center of British civilization in the wilderness of the Oregon Country in the nineteenth century. When the story begins, this fort has been the center of the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest for seventeen years, having been established in 1825. Today, the city of Vancouver, Washington, has grown up around the site, and with archeological investigation and in-depth study of early drawings and descriptions, an elaborate reconstruction project has brought back the palisade walls and many of the buildings, offering a glimpse into the fort’s glory days. It’s now a National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service.

(Troy Wayrynen/picturesbytroy)

National Park Service photo by Troy Wayrynen

The above photo provides an artistic portrayal of a finely crafted lantern with the fort bastion behind. This fort was no rustic outpost. The commander’s residence, an elegant two-story house which he shared with his second in command, looked like a mansion to protagonist Jennie Haviland. The house included a public sitting room and formal dining hall for gentlemen, where substantial meals were served, sometimes with wine, but no “spiritous liquors.” Within the palisade walls the company was a self-sufficient establishment with workshops for carpenters, blacksmiths, coopers and others, as well as a school house, a chapel, a brick and stone powder house, and more. Outside, farming activities required more employees than the fur enterprise.

Nancy Funk, wearing period clothing, takes care of a garden at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington. (Troy Wayrynen/picturesbytroy)

National Park Service photo by Troy Wayrynen

In the above photo taken at the beautifully reconstructed site, you can see some of the gardens typical of the fort’s past, and behind the gardens, the palisade walls with bastion at the corner. The large hip-roofed building on the far left with the chimney is the Big House where Dr. John McLoughlin lived as Chief Factor of the fort.

When the Company sent Dr. McLoughlin out to the Oregon Country, he selected this site for the Company’s western headquarters because he found a broad fertile plain there and he intended to grow things while conducting the fur trade. Grain, fruits, and vegetables flourished on this land, as well as livestock. He also wanted a site on the north side of the Columbia River because the British had recently made an offer to the United States to resolve a contentious boundary dispute, agreeing to set the boundary between the two nations along the Columbia. That would have essentially given today’s Washington State to the British. I guess we all know that offer was not accepted.

The Company initially built the fort a short distance inland from the final location, but after four years they moved it closer to the river and gradually developed the remarkable establishment it became.


National Park Service photo

The Company employed many people, and while some lived inside the fort walls, many more lived in a village just outside. Some of the reconstructed buildings of the village are shown in the above photo.

When Jennie visits the fort in our story, she’s curious about the houses outside the walls and asks her escort Alan Radford about them. He tells her they’re the workmen’s cabins, and she asks, “‘Do you live in one of these cabins?”

“Oh no. I live inside the fort. The gentlemen live inside.’

“‘Oh.’ She puzzled over that. ‘How do you decide?’


“‘Yes. How do you decide who’s a gentleman?’

“‘Well, the officers and clerks are gentlemen, and the common workers are not. It’s simple enough.’”

Jennie finds that surprising but focuses on the fort as the wagon carries them inside. She’s amazed. “‘It’s like a small city right here inside the walls.’

“Lights glittered around her now, twinkling from the many windows of the fort buildings—glass windows, real glass windows. And the buildings! There were real frame buildings. Not simple little crude log cabins like those at Willamette Falls. . . . The frame house directly in front of her . . . had proper white weatherboarded walls, a proper shingled hip roof, shutters beside the tall glass windows, and a wide veranda that crossed the entire front, with a gracefully curved staircase forming a half circle from the veranda to the ground.”

Jennie has been invited to stay in that house, the Big House, as the guest of Dr. and Mrs. McLoughlin, but discussion ensues about where American mountain man Jake Johnston will stay. He has traveled with their party from Willamette Falls for his own reasons. With sudden decisiveness, Dr. McLoughlin says Jake will stay in the Bachelor’s Quarters next to the Big House. But Alan doesn’t appear to like that decision. When he begrudgingly leaves to make arrangements, Jennie quietly asks Jake what’s wrong.

Jake’s response: “‘With Radford? Well, it’s only gentlemen who are allowed to stay inside the fort, and I don’t think Radford considers me a gentleman.’ Jake grinned at her, and her brows rose. She wasn’t sure Jake was a gentleman either, but she was surprised at the rigidity.”

NEXT: Dr. John McLoughlin