Author Gala Reading

The annual Mid-Valley Willamette Writers Author Celebration happens next week when several members are selected to read from their published works. I’m excited to be one of the readers again. At this year’s event I’ll be reading from my new historical novel, The Shifting Winds.

Pulling up some pleasant memories, here’s the group that read in 2014 at the first of these gala events. That time I read from A Place of Her Own, which had just been released.

WW ReadersWhat a fun evening! It was so exciting to be sharing my very first published book. A great time for us all. I developed some lasting friendships from that gathering. We were at Tsunami Books in Eugene, the regular meeting place for the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers, and the gala will be at the same place this year.

Author Gala Poster 2016Here’s the poster for the event. It’s the first Thursday of the month, the usual meeting night for the group, June 2, from 7 to 9 pm.

We’ll have fewer readers this time, including Valerie Brooks, Bill Cameron, Julie Dawn, Sarina Dorie, and me.

As noted on the poster it’s open to the public. The suggested donation is one new or gently used children’s book or a small cash donation in support of the group’s Books for Kids program. Tsunami Books is at 2585 Willamette Street in Eugene.

I’ll be reading the opening scene from The Shifting Winds and introducing one of the real historic characters from my book, Joe Meek, mountain man extraordinaire.

joe mural smallerHere he is portrayed in his immortal role at the gathering of settlers at Champoeg in May 1843, just 173 years ago.

American settlers were hoping for an agreement that would give them the protection of law in this isolated frontier.

When the vote seemed uncertain, the bold mountaineer called out in his booming voice, “Who’s fer a divide?” And the voters lined up to be counted.

This large mural is displayed in the Oregon State Capitol building. That’s Joe in the red shirt toward the front, rifle in hand, calling for the divide.

He was a storyteller at heart, which I guess all of us authors must be too. I look forward to hearing readings from the stories of my fellow Mid-Valley Willamette Writers authors and look forward to sharing my own.


Prose at Poetry Night

The Axe & Fiddle, a pub in historic downtown Cottage Grove, offers a change of pace this coming Tuesday night, May 17, when the entertainment turns to words. Poetry Night happens just once a month at this restaurant and public house known for its live music and craft brews, full bar, and locally sourced food, and I’m delighted to be their featured guest. But I won’t be reading poetry–or singing it.

1008.Axe&Fid - closeInstead they have asked me to read from my new historical novel about Oregon’s early days, The Shifting Winds. So in keeping with the night’s theme, I’ll select a couple of short excerpts that present a bit of what might be called poetic prose.

1007.Axe&Fid - longYou’ll find the Axe & Fiddle on Cottage Grove’s historic Main Street on the corner of 7th and Main, next door to Kalapuya Books, the bookstore that presents Poetry Night. The building is shown at right.

The show starts at 7:30 pm and is expected to run until 9:30. They open at 4 pm, so there’s plenty of time to stop in beforehand for dinner or a drink, or both, and the doors are open Tuesdays until midnight.

So what’s poetic prose? To me, it seems to show up in description that paints a scene with a touch of velvet in the words. I’ll read one of those at the event. Then it may be a stretch of the word poetic, but I’d also like to read a segment I’ve never tried for any of my other readings.

1005.Axe&Fid - sideIn this book, although my lead characters are fictional, I also have some real people meandering through the pages. It’s a story with a lot of real history and those people sometimes play their factual parts in the historic scenes.

One of my more colorful real characters is mountain man Joe Meek, and the book includes half a dozen or so stories that Joe actually told to 19th century author Frances Fuller Victor for her 1870 book River of the West about Joe’s life as a fur trapper in the Rockies and his life in western Oregon as a settler. Joe’s speech is a mix of Kentucky, the vernacular of a mountain man, and traces that come from a boy who preferred to play with his father’s slaves rather than go to school. Poetic? Well, he was an inveterate storyteller whose words carry a certain ring.

I’m looking forward to a fun evening at the Axe & Fiddle, a very different venue than I’ve tried before. I’ll have books there for sale, copies of The Shifting Winds and also my previous book, A Place of Her Own. A big thanks to Betsy at Kalapuya Books for the invite.


Stories of Story

I spoke at the Roseburg Rotary Club meeting last night. They invited me to talk about my new book The Shifting Winds, and when I began putting together my speech for this I struggled a bit. What could I say in 20 minutes to give the essence of this full-length novel and still entertain an audience? So I asked myself, what is special about this particular book? Well, for one thing, the historical setting stands out. This story steps back in time to places here in the Pacific Northwest–like Fort Vancouver, a historic site you can visit today. And I had stories about that.

Ft.Vanc.Big House Front (3)The Big House was the home of the commanding officer at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver, the western headquarters of the British fur trading empire during the nineteenth century. Much of the fort has been reconstructed on the original site in what is now Vancouver, Washington, with meticulous attention to authenticity.

As I mulled over ways to present this information, the thought came to me that people want to hear stories, so my speech told stories about my story. The Shifting Winds is a historical novel of the 1840s Oregon Territory with a lot of real historical drama set in real places. While it’s often hard to find a historic site unaltered by modernization, the reconstructed Fort Vancouver can take you right back into these early times. Ft.Vanc.Douglas Sitting Room

You can walk into the chief factor’s house where characters from my story walked and see the furnished rooms as they would have appeared in the 1840s.

You can stroll across the grounds where my characters strolled and see the Indian Trade Store and hear the blacksmith’s hammer striking hot metal on the anvil.

So in my speech I told about visiting the fort for research that inspired the book. Then I told about my dream of holding an event at the fort for this newly published book–and how it happened that this dream will come true in July. My stories.

Another way to tell about a book is to read from it. So I did that too. I’ve heard it said that we’re hardwired for stories. It’s how we communicate and our stories tend to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We expect resolution.

But of course if you want people to read your book, you don’t want to spoil their reading by giving away the end. So you stop short, leaving them guessing. The cliff hanger. This jolts their innate sense of story.

Willamette Falls (2)One of the excerpts I shared in the speech showed my characters trekking up the portage trail around the Willamette Falls. Modernization may have dimmed the glory of these falls in what is now Oregon City, but the power of the water cannot be denied. The thrum rolls through you when you stand nearby, and you can see why the settlers rushed to claim it.

That except follows the protagonist as she tells her suitor good-bye at the head of the falls, then decides to take a walk alone in the woods above town. There’s a reason she’s been warned against going into the woods by herself, and when she comes face to face with danger I choose to leave the vignette hanging. The audience reacted with a burst of groans and uneasy laughter as I had hoped. The tension strikes because we need the satisfying conclusion as part of our sense of story. Resolution.

So throughout the evening we shared story. Even before the meeting when I met my friend Laura Lusa who’d arranged for me to speak, she and I sat down together and shared our stories. “How are you doing?” I ask. She answers with her story. I respond with mine. Unfinished stories. How will they turn out? Will there be resolution?

During Q & A I found myself answering questions with snippets of story. And after my speech people came up to talk to me. They told me their stories–about their pioneer families, their interests in history–and I came to know them a little bit better.

Stories. It’s how we communicate. And perhaps that’s why we so need the complete stories in books. When our own stories lack completion, we answer part of our need by reading a well-crafted book with a beginning, a middle, and a satisfying end. Resolution.