Rainbows of Promise

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.

1321-elk-rainbow-2If 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.

1295-elk-morning-2The elk arrived early for my celebration, seen here just off my front porch. And they stayed late.

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.


Christmas With Elk

Merry Christmas, everyone. I had such a good response to my last post with elk pictures, I decided to share the treat I relished on this foggy Christmas Eve Day morning, when my elk friends returned. They came back to the pond and then moseyed up, almost to my front deck. These photos are all taken out my front windows–with a special focus on the big dad. He looked around, as you can see, but didn’t seem too concerned, finally hopped over the fence and enjoyed a moment beneath the spreading oaks. Wishing you all the best in this holiday season and the coming new year!! 🙂

Now, without more comment, the elk:







Visitors and Procrastination

I woke up today ready to start the rough draft of Book Five in the Golden Isles Series, having completed the comprehensive outline at about 10 pm Sunday night and taken a day off to do the mundane so I could charge ahead without too much interruption. Now, I can dilly dally as well as anyone when it comes to starting a project of that magnitude, Procrastination being the flip side of my old friend Perseverance. Nothing harder in writing a book than that first blank page. So, there’s no end of things you can think of that need doing. Cleaning the office. Checking a few scenes from the last book and getting caught up in the story. An extra scrub on the kitchen counters.

But nothing serves Procrastination like unexpected visitors. Like these.

828.elk visitNow, I’m not Robin Loznak when it comes to taking a photo, and my camera won’t do what his will, but I hope you’ll forgive the less-than-crystal-clear shots when you consider my excitement. The above photo is taken through glass, my kitchen window, no less. They’re right outside my fence. That’s a bull on the left. You can just make out the antlers. The cow caught sight of me even through the window, and they don’t stay long if you spook them.

So when these wandered on I kept behind glass awhile, just for the joy of seeing them. And doing my best to record what I saw.

837.elk pondThe photo above is still through glass. And I might add in my defense, the fog was drifting. They’re enjoying the pond and the green grass nearby.

843.elk kickThe center cow above is getting a kick out of it. See her right back leg kicking up the water? They romped around in the pond for a while, but the real action shots are too fuzzy to make out. The antics were fun to watch. Elk seem to have a sense of play, even the old ones. Once last year I saw three big bulls in this pond. I wasn’t sure if they were fighting or playing. But they would dip in the water, shake their antlers hard, and then rush each other. Great entertainment!

848.elk upperAfter enjoying the show and procrastinating for a considerable length of time I finally dared venture outside, knowing that even if I scared them away I had gotten my money’s worth. I took the above shot from just outside my front door. And I was reminded of another wild critter I saw last summer. I had just glanced up the road from inside when a golden-brown critter waltzed down that road above the turn where tall grass blocked my view of all but its back. My first thought was deer, commonplace visitors. But it occurred to me that the animal seemed low to the ground. Was the grass that tall? It meandered around the turn and I saw its legs. Short legs. It turned and went off the road so I could see its tail. Long tail. Oh my! A cougar, about 100 yards outside my front door. I had been planning a walk up that road. I changed my mind and didn’t go just then.

But I don’t worry about elk–usually. There was a time I wondered if I was being challenged, but that’s a story for another day. These didn’t challenge, and they didn’t run. I went back inside and watched until they strolled on.

I did get started on the book. Nine pages, about 2,700 words. Not a shabby start. Not the best either. But with such great visitors, how can you not procrastinate a little?


Outtakes #10 – A Place of Her Own

This Outtake comes from one of my personal chapters in A Place of Her Own, a segment leading to a Tribute to My Father that I’ve already used for a post. The scene describes a day my daughter Carisa and I walked up my father’s mountain and found ourselves in bear country. Most of my scenes were cut to focus on Martha’s story, including this and the tribute, but maybe you’ll enjoy this, and if you haven’t seen the tribute, you can visit that here. Clip…..

Bear-TrailcamRobin Loznak caught one of our bears with his trail-cam one night in October last year, a nice black bear posing for its portrait on the mountain. I prefer to see them this way.


The west hills, September 2010. The golden grass stood so high the dogs couldn’t see their way. One a yellow lab, the other a black lab mix, they weren’t small dogs, but the grass came well over their heads. Heavy rains last spring had produced rich forage for the cows this year, and they hadn’t been on this pasture lately, making our walk difficult, except for a few beaten trails. Deer probably. Maybe elk. Or bear.

The scent of rain filled the air now, and a soft sprinkle started again after scattered morning showers. My daughter Carisa and I tromped through the thick, damp growth behind the dogs. I wanted to check out the most recent timber planting to see how it was doing, and I wanted to check out this part of the farm, wondering if Martha had done the same in her first year here.

When I was a kid we called this pasture Horse Heaven Hills. I didn’t know why the name. Maybe because the grass grew so sweet here, the animals experienced the place as their own heaven? It always seemed a bit sublime to me. For a long time I planned to build my house over here, but when my dad cut the timber that would have circled behind the house, I began to look elsewhere.

Turning, I could see how the pasture meandered up the hill in steps and ridges, down to the bluff on one side, up to Wildcat Canyon above–a deep slice into the forested ridgetop. The land was more rugged on this side of the property than the softer ridge where my house sat. A middle ridge ran between this and my house, beyond our view now.

While I found hills and hollows in the parts of Missouri and Illinois where Martha lived and traveled, there was nothing you could call a mountain, nothing to prepare her for the terrible mountains of the West she had to cross, nothing to prepare her even for the hills of her own farm. This wasn’t anything like the rugged crests of the Rockies or Cascades. I doubted it was technically a mountain, though I hadn’t found a clear definition of the term. This rose about eight hundred fifty feet from the valley floor to the top. But to my dad this hill on our farm was always the mountain. His mountain. Maybe that was because Martha saw it as a mountain and the designation continued with the family. Hills to her would be like the gentle rises in Missouri and Illinois. The farm’s elevated land of sharp slopes and sweeping ridges was in her eyes a mountain. Before my dad, Martha’s mountain.

Dipping under a hot wire to reach our newest timber planting, Carisa and I found new firs growing well despite competition. We approached a mound of blackberry vines crouched on the land like a huge thorny web, and took advantage of its better part. Something had cleared the way into the bush. We had a little snack of the delicious berries. Then I saw a pile of scat full of berry seeds. Big scat. “What’s this?” I asked. We peered closer. Goose bumps rose on my skin. “It doesn’t look fresh.”

We stood taller and looked around. A bear had been here, a large one, but not recently. With all our noise and our two dogs, it probably wouldn’t come back now. We shrugged and happily continued our snack.

Photo by Robin Loznak And of course there’s this all-time favorite Robin Loznak photo of other wildlife on the family farm, one of several photos included in A Place of Her Own. The Roosevelt elk herd ranges across the mountain, and on rare occasions even slips down to the river bottom.