Sunday, June 26, 2011

To Walk Across America - in 1896

I just finished two amazing books - both about the incredible true journey of two women, a mother and daughter, who walked from Mica Creek, Washington to New York City, a distance of about 4,600 miles - in the year 1896.

Wearing long skirts, cumbersome boots, and corsets (!) which was the proper costume of the day, they set out to accomplish this feat to win a prize of $10,000 in order to save the family farm from foreclosure.

WaterBrook Press ~ 2011

Although Helga and Clara Estby kept notes and journals along the way, much of this material has been lost, but there are still newspaper articles and other recordings of their actual journey. Both of these novels were fascinating to read, and so interesting to note how each author took the same set of events and created a slightly different story from it. For me as a writer, it was almost like taking a class in how to write Historical Fiction.

Jane Kirkpatrick has written lots of historical fiction (many about the Pacific Northwest) and I'm a big fan. THE DAUGHTER'S WALK is billed as adult, and also delves into Clara (the daughter) Estby's life in the years following the cross-country adventure.

Carole Estby Dagg is a first time author, and THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS is Young Adult, or for ages 12 through adult. What a great debut novel! Carole is the grand niece, and great-granddaughter of the participants in the walk, and she wrote this book because she believed their story was worth telling. And, oh is it ever!

Clarion Books ~ 2011

You can't help but be inspired by the strength, fortitude, and courage these women displayed. And it is amazing to see how much attitudes towards women have changed in just over 100 years since these events took place.

Can you imagine walking that far?

If you can't imagine, at least you can read about it, and I guarantee that reading about these spirited women's journey will leave you inspired.

Read anything lately that left you inspired?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Name Game

How do you choose names?

Whether you need a name for a character in your novel, a horse, a new puppy, or even a new baby - names can leave people stumped.

Personally - I love choosing names.

When I used to sell horses with my dad, we'd always try to give the horse a great name, like Latigo or Dreamer, because it helped them sell.

When I raised donkeys, we got to use great names like Jasmine, Buttons, Peaches, Chester, and Grace.

But how about characters in the book you're working on? Do you use regular names - like Jake, or Sarah, or Annie? Or unusual names? - like Heron (from my book FINDING CHANCE) or Mandarin (love that name, from LIKE MANDARIN, a new YA novel by Kirsten Hubbard.)

I've used names from geography, and named characters after rivers, or deserts, or cities.

Here are some websites to get you started:

I've used this last one a lot. At the bottom, if you click on Top 1000 popular baby names, you can search by year and sex, which means whether your book is set in 1911 or 2011, you can find an appropriate name.

Also, if you think your book might be published in, maybe 3 years (2014) and will be for 10-year-olds, you can search popular baby names for the year 2004, and find appropriate names for classmates of that era. (Cool trick, huh?)

Or, you can go back in time, and just name your dog Homer (not Homer Simpson - way farther back than that, kids. *grin*)

How do you pick names?
Have any cool ones you care to share?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Garage Sale Faux Pas

I love Garage Sales.
In fact, I wrote a must-read post about Putting on a Successful Garage Sale right here.

And although having your own garage sale is a lot of work, going to garage sales is fun!

If you're ambitiously searching for something, you need to get up at the crack of dawn and hit as many sales as you can - early.

But if you're not looking for anything particular, you can just go from sale to sale, chatting with people and casually perusing merchandise to find that special something. Here's what I bought yesterday:

An old blue pot (I like old things. And blue things.)

What in the world am I going to use it for?

Why to plant more flowers in, of course! *grin*

Oh, but I didn't tell you about our giant garage sale social blunder yesterday, did I?

My friends and I were idly driving up and down streets in a small town, looking for garage sales advertised in the newspaper, but having no luck. Where were they?

There, we said, pointing.

Lots of cars surrounded a house on the corner, with the small garage open and motorcycles, shelves, old bookcases, miscellaneous junk strewn all over the yard. We shook our heads. Looked like kind of weird stuff - and maybe we'd just pass.

But me, ever the optimist, spotted a pretty pot of flowers on top of a shelf near the road. I got out to ask the price - and a woman scolded "This isn't a sale!"

Whoops. I jumped sheepishly back in the car and we varoomed away.

Do you like garage sales?
Are there lots of them in your part of the world?
What great treasures have you found there?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unhappy Campers, or Donkeys on a Diet

Mr. Chocolate (right) and Mr. Big (left) are quite upset. They've been locked out of their lush pasture (in the background.) Cold Turkey.

Here they are sulking:

Not only are they getting too fat, but all this grass we have in the Pacific Northwest is too much for donkeys, who evolved in desert surroundings. They can founder, and I've already lost one dear donkey to founder.

This is not a pregnant donkey - this is Mr. Big, a 7 year old gelding who is now on a diet.

Yes, Mr. Chocolate and Mr. Big are not very happy with me right now. They are restricted to what little grass is left in the corral and dry grass hay.

But hey, it's tough love. Tough Donkey Love.

(Now if someone could just do that for me - with chocolate) *grin*

Ever had to put your animals on a diet?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Do I Blog?

I've been thinking about this question a lot lately - ever since an off-hand remark by a new acquaintance that "People who blog have too much time on their hands."

"But I'm a writer," I retorted. "That's what I do!"

Really, though? Is blogging one of the things that I "do" as a writer?

Now admittedly, I started this blog (as well as my website and my twitter account) to have an Online Presence. Why? Well, to get my name out there, of course. All authors, from would-be authors to struggling-to-be-published authors, to lightly published to very famous authors need to have a Web Presence, right?

Why? Well, so people can Google and find us. It's a given - in these electronic, internet-crazy, online times.

But a Blog, over time, morphs into so much else. Some blogs are fountains of information about books, or agents, or writing. Some are hilarious, some boring, and I have to admit that after keeping up a steady blog for close to two years, there are times when I wonder What in the World should I Talk About?

I mean, I know blogs should reflect your personality, which hopefully will translate into people actually feeling as if they know and like you well enough to buy your books. But it seems like everybody and his brother and sister has a blog these days, so does it really mean more book sales?

When I'm totally immersed in writing a new book - I often post about the writing process, or when reading a lot - books I've enjoyed recently. But I also sometimes get totally immersed in my New Puppy, or my New Donkeys, or Wildflowers, or Kittens or Migrating Birds. All of this stuff fascinates me, and I end up blogging about it because, well I guess because this blog has become a reflection of Who I Am.

One of the most interesting things for me is the Stats that Blogger provides. People read my blog in Australia, India, China, Europe, South Korea, Russia, as well as the United States and Canada. Who are all these people? And why do they read MY blog?

Here's a list of my most popular posts:

  1. Dogs that Guide the Blind (about my trip attending a Guide Dog graduation ceremony)

  2. Meet Ginny Rorby (author interview - and I have lots more on my blog)

  3. Setting, or a Sense of Place (Post about writing)

  4. The Tevis Cup, or Hanging in there for the Long Haul (about Endurance riding)

Interesting. I also get tons of hits when I post about swallows, and swainson's thrushes, and yes, even kittens.

Not always about writing or being an author, huh?

So I guess I'm coming to realize that for me, my blog has morphed from a measly attempt at establishing an online presence as an author (although hopefully it serves that purpose also) to something more. Perhaps a sharing of things that I find interesting and worthwhile in life. And it truly makes me happy if other people enjoy some of these things, also.

Do you blog? Has your blog changed over time?

And if you're a reader (which I truly appreciate) why do you read my blog? I am fascinated to know.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vintage Dog Books - or how I picked our new pup.

After we got our new puppy a few days ago, I started wracking my brain about who she looked like. Some character in a book I read - but what book?

I mean, besides letting us cart home armloads of books from the library, my mother read us lots and lots of books, over and over, while I was growing up. And I'm living proof that it's the way to make a reader. (Thank you, Mom.)

But there were So Many Books, and I kept thinking of a dog I'd seen, like our new pup - Penny. I mean, there must have been some subliminal reason why I brought home such a muttly little black dog. She reminded me of a dog I'd read about.

Was it this one? No . . .

This one? No, I think the dog wore a hat, but . . .

it wasn't this one. In frustration, I called Mom, who still has cartons of well-used and dog-eared (haha - get it?) books that we pawed through as kids.

"Mom," I said. "It was something to do with a fire house."

She dug through the boxes, and found this one -

But no, it wasn't exactly right. It was a Black Dog. And because I couldn't quit thinking of this One. Certain. Book. - I googled, and eventually found the right one.

It's about a black dog, a very famous dog that actually lived and performed heroic duties working at a fire house - and it's called:

Notice the resemblance? All she needs is a fireman's hat and she could be -

Penny, the Fire-Engine Dog.

What vintage dog books do you remember?