It’s in the 40’s, dark and rainy, but there’s a nice breeze going on outside. I had to step outside. So here I was, standing on our front porch in my bare feet and loving nature greeting me. It was only my human rationality which finally encouraged me to pull the doorknob to reenter the house, even though it was irrational to my soul. What would the neighbors think?
I thought that if I had my dream writer’s shack (a tiny camper), I’d have as many windows as possible, and all of them opened wide as I wrote away to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the patter of rain, the occasional bird and scampering squirrels. Of course, if it were nighttime, there would be deer and racoon and opossum wandering near.
All of my stories are set in the out of doors. For that very reason, sometimes it is difficult to write…inside. It would not be wise to leave windows opened inside the house when the outside temp is below fifty. Inside, there is the constant hum of the computer in the closed-in den. Leaving the room, there is the refrigerator hum, the lights humming, the kitchen clock tick-tocking away, and the furnace or furnace fan clicking on and off. (In the summertime it is air conditioning.) Of course, other neighborhood human reminders include loud lawncare machines, or airplanes or boats or racing cars or motorcycles. It makes it very distracting to ride a unicorn through a mountain meadow, seeing the tiny high-altitude flowers immediately below, the azure-blue sky above with falcon cry, the rocks and ranges extending to the horizon.
Rizzz. Rahhh. Zoom. Hum.
Oh, fiddlesticks. I’m going back on the porch for a while. At least there, in the dark, in the rain, standing in my bare feet, natural noises give competition to the human-created sounds.
2017 was busy; hence, my long silence on my blog. Two of my books were published this year: THE POWDER HORN OF MACKINAC ISLAND (MG time travel, published in March) and WAR UNICORN (upper MG fantasy re-published in October through Books We Love Publishing). Both books need reviews, if you’re so inclined, since reviews on Amazon are like golden nuggets to a book.
I took a sabbatical this year from my War Unicorn series (I’m now working on the third book) to write what has turned into my memoirs. Hopefully, it will come out before Christmas. Yes, I’m talking Christmas of this year! It has the shockingly long title of THE ROAD LESS-TRAVELED OFTEN INVOLVES SMACKING FACE-FIRST THROUGH SPIDER WEBS (subtitle: A Life of Animal Encounters). It includes wild boar, bear, moose, otter, cattle, ticks, snakes, hawks, and bees, to name a few…and me, of course…and often my family. The book is 50K (50,000 words). That’s a lot of animal encounters!
Each of these books require a different marketing plan, different bookstores to contact, online sites, blog hops, ways to promote, etc. I am so foolish, and would never, ever recommend another author to do so. Why, oh, why didn’t I stick to just one genre and age group of readers? Why?
My end of the year writing and marketing tip: Stick to one genre and age group of readers and keep on writing.
Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – is our National Parks’ 100th anniversary. (And all National Parks are free admission for four day. Happy birthday!)
Although not part of the National Parks System, I felt the need to include in this series some shots of Stu Patterfoot along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. Because it’s history. Because it’s Stu. And because it’s so interesting.
During the mid- and late-1800’s, wagon train emigrants stopped overnight along the nearby North Platte River, and many recorded their names and dates in the soft limestone bluff, which has come to be known as Register Cliff.
Registration Cliff is a rock face where travelers could record by carving into the soft rock that they had made it that far. But today if you try to record that you, too, have passed that way, you’ll be arrested for vandalism. So acknowledge the history, sense the history, look at the history, but don’t touch. The near-barren landscape (trees only grow because of the nearby river) gives one a desolate feel of what early emigrants may have felt.
Most impressive (to me) at this spot was the worn rock made from thousands of wagon wheels heading for a new life further west. The sides of the prairie schooners must have scrapped the walls as they passed through here, with each wheel cutting deeper into the rock.
There are also thousands of cliff swallows guarding the wall. (Look above Stu’s head on the Register Cliff sign.)
As you write your stories, visit your settings. See the flora and fauna, and smell the history. Gather hundreds of ideas for future stories. Keep on writing.
Back in March I mentioned in a blog post the up-coming National Parks’ 100th birthday on August 25 (only three days away now). I showed a photo of Stu in front of Mount Rushmore. We lived about thirty minutes from there for about ten years. The scenery and wildlife of the Black Hills of South Dakota is stunning.
History: Many years ago a tourist was horseback riding in the Hills and asked his guide the name of “that mountain.” The guide said it didn’t have a name, so the tourist named it after himself. Fast forward a few decades and a visionary sculpture, Gutzon Borglum, saw faces in the bare cliffs. He designed and started the long process of creating the four US presidents seen today on Mount Rushmore. Can you name the four presidents? One had to be started over during the carving. And the original design was to be full busts, not just faces.
Six more days until our National Parks’ 100th birthday! What awesome places to visit, for anyone, but especially for writers and illustrators. There are ideas at every turn, every look.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are about 1,000 acres of land on the surface with woods, rocks, and animals, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and passages below the ground. You really don’t know the term “pitch black” until you are deep in a cave and the lights are (intentionally) turned off. Even when experienced, it’s difficult to describe.
Eight more days until our National Parks 100th birthday. Here are some photos of Stu Patterfoot in beautiful Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. (Need a different, inspirational setting for your WIP? Visit a National Park!)
One fall, my husband was at a conference in nearby Jackson (which used to be called Jackson Hole until the millionaires in the area decided they didn’t like that historical reference). I’d taken the day off for a photo shoot. Before I’d left the motel, my husband ran through the checklist: driver’s license? wallet? keys? cell phone? Yes, yes, yes, yes, plus jacket and water and snacks for the day. See? I was prepared.
I was just inside this park’s boundary, with the edge of Jackson about three miles behind me when I stepped out of the van to snap my first photo of the day. (See the unedited version below with me holding Stu by the sign.) It was early morning. Very little traffic. And nothing here except a sign, about ten parking spots, and a gorgeous view. What I hadn’t counted on was the wild wind whipping through the valley. The open door banged my elbow. The van door shut. I thought nothing more about it because I was on a photo shoot, not until I went to get back in the vehicle. The wind and my elbow had collaborated to lock the door. Because it was a frosty morning, I’d had all the windows up. I was prepared for the day. What I hadn’t been prepared for was all my valuables just out of reach, but within sight on the passage seat along a very lonely, hardly-anyone-stopped-here, side lot. I could have walked to Jackson, but I was counting on my faith in humanity (and someone to stop help a maiden in distress). Plus, there was my open purse.
45 minutes later, someone stopped. They didn’t speak English. 20 minutes after that someone else stopped and lent me their cell phone so I could call AAA. An hour after that, a man came and in two minutes he got me back into my van and I was off for the rest of day taking photos.
Grand Tetons – a stunning place year round, but in the fall…oh, my, the fall is gorgeous. Just remember to take your keys with you when you stop at lonely wayside lots.
In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond. But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)
Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.
In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).
This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)
Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.
Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.
As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?
In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.
Visit our national parks this month.
P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!
Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.
When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.