Back to the Coast ~ To Newport

Update: My speaking engagement at Newport is cancelled due to a sudden snowstorm in my path. We hope to reschedule at a later date.

I’m headed for Newport tomorrow on Oregon’s beautiful coast to speak at a meeting of the Willamette Writers Coast Branch. The location has moved. We’ll be at the Newport Recreation Center at 225 SE Avery Street in Room 105, Sunday the 16th from 2 to 4 pm.

sunset-at-heceta-headPhoto by Robin Loznak

My son-in-law Robin snapped the above photo one spectacular evening on the Oregon coast a ways south of Newport.

I plan to talk to this group of writers and friends about my rocky road to publication with particular focus on the research that brought my work to life so readers would have a sense of the times I wrote about for both The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own.

These two books serve as bookends in my long quest to get published. Although Shifting Winds is my most recent book published it was one of the first serious books I wrote, many years ago.

Both books are set in the days of America’s great westward migration to the Oregon country, with pioneers and mountain men and fur traders from the British Hudson’s Bay Company. When I started the first one I had a lot to learn about the era. I wrote Shifting Winds before we had the internet. No Google. And I didn’t write it on a computer. I used an old Selectric typewriter. Anyone remember those?

I went to the library to find books on my subject, not just the local library, but the Multnomah County Library in Portland and the Oregon Historical Society Library in Portland. I visited museums, talked to local museum director George Abdill, who offered a wealth of material. I developed my own library on the history of the period.

Years later when I wrote A Place of Her Own I already had a sense of the era, but still I had research to do on the people, on my great-great-grandmother, the subject of my story. When a question entered my head I had the internet at my fingertips. Such a change. I still read many more books, buying some, using the library for others. I visited courthouses, dug through records, contacted experts. Through the internet I found cousins who had done genealogical research–especially Linda Noel on the coast in Reedsport, who generously shared reams of material with me.

I visited the sites for a sense of the places, not just how they looked, but how they felt, and the kinds of echoes that may have been left by those who walked these places before me.

A Place of Her Own was sold as nonfiction, although it reads like a novel. After it was published I heard that my editor was buying a little fiction and told my agent about this historical novel I had done some years ago, set in the same period as Place of Her Own. She encouraged me to bring it out. I did, but it wasn’t easy. I had learned a lot about writing in the intervening years. I thoroughly rewrote it, and the editor liked it. This old favorite became another published book, The Shifting Winds.

I look forward to sharing my story with the people of Newport–and to my visit in that beautiful setting.


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.


Headed for Tsunami Sunday

We’re headed for Tsunami on Sunday for my Eugene launch of The Shifting Winds.

Tsunami BooksThe store’s banner, caught in the late afternoon light, speaks of a storm of waves rushing fast against a vivid sky. And I guess that’s the hope for every book. May it create its own waves, bringing readers into a world of adventure and romance, or wherever the author’s imagination seeks to carry them.

I took this photo last night before my Willamette Writers meeting. The mid-valley chapter holds its regular monthly meetings here. Our speaker at the end of her talk asked the audience why we write, and many answers were offered, but then she told the story of the 1001 nights of Scheherazade and suggested we write so people ask, “What’s next?” That was Scheherazade’s key to saving her own life and the lives of 1001 other virgins in the interim.

I enjoyed a private smile of my own, recalling that after I read a scene from The Shifting Winds at my launch party in Elkton, I opened it up to Q & A. And one of the questions was, “What happens next?” We laughed, but that’s the key, isn’t it? Getting the reader to ask, “What’s next?” That’s what keeps them reading–not just this book, but another and another. And the waves keep coming and keep storytelling alive.

So I’ll be at Tsunami Books at 2585 Willamette Street from 3 to 5 on Sunday afternoon, April 10. I’ll do a reading, probably around 3:30, open it up to Q & A, and sign some books. We’ll have light refreshments, including some Elkton wines from near my home, and have time to chat. The weather forecast looks good, promising some blue sky again, if not as warm as yesterday.

The event is open to the public. If you’re in the neighborhood I hope you’ll come by and enjoy getting caught on the waves of story.


Friend’s Book Launch

My friend, A. Lynn Ash, launched her second book Sunday, Vagabonda: Solo Camper Out West, a memoir of her travels camping alone through the western US. Lynn and I belong to a small group of writers, mostly from the Eugene area, an offshoot of the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers. We get together for mutual support and the occasional critique. And several of us traveled together to the Women Writing the West Conference in early October. See “Conference Across the Mountains.”

An enthusiastic crowd came out to Lynn’s launch party at the lovely home of Vic and Linda Martin in Eugene.

Lynn read a short segment describing a stormy evening in the mountains with only a nosy bear for company. She seemed dubious about the bear’s intentions, and left us with a cliffhanger.

A happy Lynn shows off the cover of Vagabonda  as she prepares to sign more books. She took the cover photo herself on one of her solo treks. That’s her shadow in the lower left corner. And she has more travel photos inside.

Lynn signs another book and shows a bit of appreciation for cover and book designer Seho Chon.

Lynn’s first book, The Route From Cultus Lake, led the reader on earlier jaunts across the country, while Vagabonda continues her travels, with details gleaned from the extensive journals she kept en route.

With the gift of her background in geography and years as a birder, she shares her adventures with depth and humor.

In naming the book, she saw herself as a female vagabond, thus Vagabonda.

I feel honored that she asked me to do the back jacket blurb.

Congratulations, Lynn, on launching your new book. A big day for a writer. Cheers!