Sunday, April 26, 2015

Make Your Soul Happy

My daughter and I have found that when life seems to be a struggle the beach can go a long ways toward fixing it. Rituals, too, have a way of putting cares at rest. Put the two together and Viola’ magic.

Last week daughter and I drove to the beach. The closest to us is about an hour’s drive away in Florence Oregon. Often whatever the weather is here, it will be the opposite over there, so we didn’t concern ourselves with the weather, we were going no matter what. True to form it rained in the coast range, but popping out the other side brought us into a perfect day, sunny and warm.

We wrote affirmations on the soft wet compacted sand. We were in a sheltered cove, where the tide was out, and a little water, perfect for wading, sat behind the breakwater, a dam of boulders the size of small cars. We knew when the tide rolled in and back out it would take our words and concerns and wash them into the sea, the great cleansing system that is that purveyor of life.

Little Boy Darling ankle high in ice water, pushing bare toes into soft said, “This is the best day ever.”  

We were alone until a man and his dog entered the beach about a quarter mile away. There the man threw a ball for the dog over and over, and you know about dogs and balls, more is never enough.

Presently a little lady, all bundled up, sauntered slowly toward us.  She stopped and offered a bite of apple to Peaches.  Some dogs like fruit, but definitely not Peaches. “Lips that touch apples will never…” Well, you get the drift.

The lady was wearing a cannula, with a plastic tube running from beneath her nose to her back where she wore a back pack carrying a small oxygen tank. She said good bye and left. Later on I saw her making her way in the opposite direction. I commented “Wow, you do good.” She said on days when the tide is out she makes four trips down this long expanse of beach. 

I watched as she slowly moved away doing her laps, and I stood there chiding myself for not running after her and asking if she would tell me her story.  Would she have done it? And what might her story be?  She carried the experience of years. She appeared upbeat in spite of her limitations. She could breathe.  She was making good use of it.

That night I read a little of Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles. He said that when he and Mark Hansen were contemplating their book Chicken Soup for the Soul, they realized there was an untapped market for upbeat, uplifting stories.

And the media thinks “If it bleeds it leads.” Imagine.

Do you have an upbeat story?  A happy story?

Send it to me. I will print it here.

We could continue Canfield’s movement.

A kiss for showing up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Won't Talk About it Anymore

I won’t talk about it anymore.

After today I won’t talk about the book I am writing, Song of Africa, until it is published then you will see rockets in midair. I hate it when authors promote themselves to the point of nausea.  I’m just saying the way it is, what I am doing, and where this particular life is going.

In doing research for this story, though, I found the vacation of my dreams. I have to show you.

I have for a long time wanted to go to Africa, but decided against it, figuring it would not be my fantasy, but a heartbreak I could do little about.  

Abraham keeps telling us that the world doesn’t need saving. Saving? Maybe not, but some of the things we are doing to it need to be stopped. Listen to your elder, get a grip, stop dinking with our food, our air, our environment, and the rabid use of chemicals. Move your bodies, eat good honest non GM foods, and not too much of it. Drink a little wine for your stomach’s sake. Celebrate every chance you get. Be grateful whether your glass is half full or half empty—you have a glass and something to put in it.

My soap box offering for the day.

Now back to my fantasy vacation. Its local is in Tanzania and it is a mobile camp operated ts owner—not many are in Africa. Alex Walker's original camp is open all year, but Walker moves his other tent-camps twice a year to follow the migration of the animals. Many hotels, and Safaris are corporate owned, some offer luxury beyond belief. Now, I tell you, I like luxury, but if I were to go to Africa, this one suits my fancy.

One might think that I got my fill of roughing it with Solar Power and generators living off the grid in Hawaii, and could not tolerate spending $800 a night living in a tent. Imagine though watching 1.8 million Wildebeests on migration. Imagine watching 500,000 Zebras trotting along behind, or experiencing the thrill of seeing a wild elephant meandering through camp…

They say at the end of their day Walker's guests, there are only about five tents, gather for a communal dinner--for people, like the animals they came to see, are a social group. At the dinner table the people share their stories. It is a re-living of events. It  makes their experience more vivid, and it is a way of processing the day.

That is what I am doing here. 

Okay, I’m out of here. I still have about 35,000 words to write. 

Now, that's my story, what's yours?

Friday, April 17, 2015

You Can’t Go Home Again

I’m horseless. 

The five hour drive to Hermiston took seven hours (fog), with a stop for dinner, and the rest of the journey with Little Boy Darling sounding like Donkey in the movie Shrek.  “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

This trip was a birthday present from my daughter. In years past we had such fun at the Hermiston Horse auction that we decided we ought to do it again. This time we had a child to take, Little Boy Darling, her son, now six, a child that had never heard the cadence of an auctioneer ringing in his ears. 

And we drove through my old home town of The Dalles, Oregon.

I remember The Dalles as a 50’s “Happy Days” sort of town with a Catholic Church in the center—its steeple being a high point, and serving as a navigation set point. There was a cafĂ© in the middle of Main Street with jute boxes at the tables, where, while sipping a cherry Coke we could flip through the music selections, drop in a dime and hear Elvis, The Great Contenders, The Everly Brothers, or any number of others.  The town had a Penny’s store where people of moderate means shopped, and Williams Store where the high-rollers shopped, and in high school the girl’s sweaters told the difference.

The Granada Theater was grand, it showed a new movie most every weekend, and on Saturdays Ready Kilowatt, presented a free show for the kids. From the open door of the saddle shop the scent of leather drifted out into the street, and the inside sent me into peels of longing, for in those days I was an avid horse person. We cruised the gut in whatever vehicle we could get our hands on, and a “Hand out” on the east end of the main street was a meeting place where we could get “grinders” and fortify ourselves for another cruise through town.  My mother once worked for a couple of “rich” people in town so we had access to some grand homes, and a school mate's parents were doctors who used more than one fork with each meal, and served split pea soup for lunch to two third-graders, and harped at my friend about practicing the piano so much I decided that was not for me.

In the spring The Dalles and surrounding areas popped alive with fragrant blossoms as fruit trees pushed forth pink or white flowers in such abundance the hillsides virtually vibrated. The scent of harvest--of cherries, peaches and apricots, lingers in my nostrils still.

The town was once called Fort The Dalles, where barges floated lazily up and down the Columbia River, and great flotillas of logs followed tug boats to the mills. Celilo Falls, a tumultuous portion of the Great Columbia River, was situated a stone-throw away, where, it is said, that at one time you could walk across the river on the backs of the salmon fishes. Yes, I have written of this before, but I want people to remember what the river once was. The government had signed a treaty with the Native Americans stating that they could fish there forever. That didn't happen. The Corp of Engineers built a dam in front of Celilo Falls, flooded out “The Narrows” which gave “The Dalles” its name, flooded out the fishing grounds, put the Native Americans on government care, and was virtually death to the salmon.



Now a drive through this once quaint town of The Dalles looks like many others, first comes a Walmart, then The Home Depot, then Staples, and the freeway bypasses the town, so you can miss it altogether.

A drive down the Columbia River gorge, though, continues to be, for me, the most beautiful drive in the world.  And I consider The Dalles to be the “jumping off place,” for beyond it the topography of Oregon drops its trees, and replaces them with rolling hills and sagebrush. The highway through pays homage to the ingenuity of the human being, built in a basalt gorge, constructed after much use of dynamite, and much hauling of stone, was built where there was no land before, virtually in the river.  A trip from The Dalles to Portland used to be a day's trip, winding through mountains. Now it takes one hour. The highway is straight, fast, and with few cars.

The Columbia River Gorge

The Native Americans have some revenge from their washed out fishing grounds. Their Casinos rake in great amounts of money mostly from white people. 

And regarding the horses we went to Hermiston to see, the sale ground was switched to the Fair grounds, it didn't have the quaint atmosphere it once had, and the horses had not the character or the variety.  We did find one horse we liked. It was short, white, and speckled with black spots as through black paint was blown from a pea shooter. He was a Gypsy Vanner/Arabian across.  I figured that while he had the look of a Gypsy, with that Arabian blood he was probably smart. Arabians are known for their brains and stamina. Their blood flows through the veins of most all breeds--even Thoroughbreds.  The bidding went up to $1800, but the young girl rider, held up her hand. “No sale.” She wouldn’t take less than $3,000.

When we left the horse was still for sale. There was no fog on the highway, we got home in five hours, The Columbia River Gorge was still beautiful and little Boy Darling played video games never asking if we were there yet.

Truth in Marketing

This is the way I feel today.

The other day, coming out of Fred Meyer’s grocery store, I looked across the street to an Office Max. The store was closing. Rats, I liked that store.

There in huge red letters about two feet high was a sign: “50% off Entire Store.”

Check it out, I thought, so I did, and wandering through the store, I chose a package of particular pens I like, some colored marking pens, some tabs, not much, but something. When the check-out clerk rang me up the discount was 20% and 30%. “I though the entire store was 50% off,” I said.

 “Oh,” she said, “it’s a marketing ploy. It’s ‘up to’ 50% off.” Sure enough, there in small letters about two inches high were the words, “up to.” I had missed it.

 I left feeling taken.

It’s true I didn’t read the small print, but I wondered, “Do you have to trick people to get them to buy something?” I don’t want to do that. And then I realized I had done the very thing I was railing against.  I mentioned in the last blog that I sent a query to an agent stating that the manuscript was 90,000 words in length. (I had only written 35,000 words, but in my arrogance, I thought I could bring it up to 90,000.) 

They want a further look-see—first 3 chapters and a synopsis, and they will take a 75,000 count.  

So while I’m scrambling to write another 40,000 words for the manuscript; I'm having trouble paring the synopsis down to the required 5 pages. 

This is a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Now here is real truth is advertising:

“Wanted, young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

--1860 Pony Express

(These fellows could deliver mail in 10 days while covering 1900 miles and using 75 horses. Imagine.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Get Your Husband to Buy You a Horse, and more...

 Couldn't resist--just for fun...

And now I'm going to get serious--dammit.

On the last blog I mentioned my novel Song of Africa, and that I had 35,000 words to go--still have almost. I don't think I can do it. I’m too cryptic; to afraid I will bore people, too much to the point. I've been discouraged all week, and here I am wanting to spread good-will and a happy life. (Don’t count on me.)

Yesterday I looked up the Gambia online--one editor told me to never use google in your research for people will laugh at you, yeah, like everyone googles everything. I just wanted it to spark something in me. When I began this novel I had no pictures same the Encyclopedia, and talk about cryptic, but there are pictures online. Don't know if I want my romanticized view of Africa clouded with facts, but I looked up The Gambia, a river in West Africa. To ride that river is my character’s dream. She heard it looks like the Hollywood stereotype of an African river—and so that was her choice, her river. (Now it is called The Sara Rose by her lover.) The adventure begin at the river.  Well, no, it began on the first page where the postmistress tells Patrice and her mother that her grandparents are dead—lost on what the world calls the Dark Continent. Strange to call Africa dark when the sun shines for nine months of the year, but isn’t the light level that has motivated the word, “dark,” it is the mystery.

I got to thinking about my characters. The book ends in 1996. That means Patrice, the young 15-year- old girl in Africa would be 34 years old now. And Sara, my heroine was 77 in 1998. I have fallen in love with my characters, which is the way it ought to be with a novel, but I’m feeling sad about them, for with them, like with me, and those around me, time marches on. I wonder what they have been doing for the last 19 years. 

The Gambia River flows through Senegal West Africa.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bird by Bird*

“It is no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” –Mark Twain

If a gun appears on the wall in act I, it must be fired by act III.

It’s a fiction rule, like the one shoe dropping. We hear the man upstairs undressing, one shoe drops, and we wait. No fair if the guy upstairs quietly sets down his second shoe.

Suspense is created by foreshadowing.  The gun on the wall, a palmist gasps when she examines the hero’s hand, you see a torn letter stuffed into a mail box and knows it has significance, but what?

I’m contemplating my novel Song of Africa, one that has been on my shelf, in my drawer, in the computer, traveled from California, to Oregon to Hawaii to Oregon—it’s still in my computer, added to, written over, and finally an ending found. It’s a miracle.

 The problem? I have written 40,000 words and I need 75,000 by the end of the month. I read about foreshadowing, structure, plot, beginnings, middles, endings, style, technique, suspense, all of which is overwhelming. Like Real Estate study, you throw too much at a person and they become catatonic.

“Take it bird by bird,” Anne Lamont’s father told her brother. He was collecting bird names for a school project, and felt there were too many birds, he couldn’t do it. “Just take it bird by bird.” Anne uses that advice in her writing and *Bird by Bird is the title of one of her books.

Right now, after attending a concert and wondering about art, and the artist, and realizing that while they (those authority figures) tell us to “Give our gift.” “To do what you love.” “Built it and they will come.” You know the drift. “Do what you love and money will follow.”That sort of thing. I wonder, though, there is a fine line between entertaining and self-indulgence.