Fort Vancouver Event Coming Soon

My reading and signing event at the fantastic Fort Vancouver site in Vancouver, Washington, is just three weeks away, Saturday, July 16, starting at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. As mentioned in my March post “Upcoming Book Event at Fort Vancouver,” it was a dream of mine to hold an event at this historic fort for my new historical novel, The Shifting Winds, because the fort plays a significant part in the story. Now that dream is about to happen.

599.Ft.Vanc.Bastion -titleThrough my presentation at the fort Visitor Center–a lecture, a slideshow of related photos, and a tour of the fort–I hope to draw people back to the days of my story. The lecture and book signing will be from 2 to 3:30. Afterward, from 4 to 5 I’ll lead attendees on a tour through the fort and highlight some of the places that appear in my book. The bastion in the fort palisade is shown above.

Several scenes in the story take the reader to this amazing spot of British civilization in a wilderness isolated from all that’s familiar to the young American protagonist, reluctant pioneer Jennie Haviland. And one of the major players, Hudson’s Bay Company clerk Alan Radford, works at the fort.

In the early 1840a when the story takes place, Fort Vancouver stands as the center of the British fur trade in the Pacific Northwest, and American settlers have just begun trickling into the area, hoping to gain the land for the United States. For more than 20 years Britain and the United States have jointly occupied the Oregon Country, unable to come to terms on a boundary between them.

Ft.Vanc.Big House FrontGiven Fort Vancouver’s significance in Western American history, the fort has been faithfully reconstructed as a living representation of the times, including the home of the commanding officer and his second in command, above, which is furnished much as it would have been when Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin lived there and essentially ruled the Oregon Territory. The McLoughlin sitting room is shown below.

613.Ft.Vanc.McLoughlin Sitting RoomNow a National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service, the fort offers visitors a chance to step back in history and see what life was like in the fort’s heyday.

622.John McLoughlin Daguerreotype - creditChief Factor McLoughlin, shown in the daguerreotype, is one of the real characters portrayed in the book (photo courtesy of National Park Service).

My story takes place during the historic time of rising tension between the two nations over this one land. Within that true story of conflict, a fictional clash develops between two men–the British HBC clerk Alan Radford, and American mountain man Jake Johnston–who vie for protagonist Jennie as their nations vie for Oregon.

To find the fort and center, their website offers maps and directions. The Visitor Center, where my event will be held, is at 1501 East Evergreen Boulevard.

The Visitor Center Bookstore will have copies of The Shifting Winds for sale, as well as copies of my previous book, A Place of Her Own.

My thanks to the National Park Service and the Friends of Fort Vancouver for co-hosting the event. And a special thanks to Mary Rose, Executive Director of the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, for making the arrangements.

In these next three weeks I plan to offer a series of posts here on my blog to help set the stage for my story and for this event. Because the posts will delve into the historical setting, I’ll call the new series “The True Shifting Winds.”


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.


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!


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.





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!




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