Things are still rolling along, and so long as they do I feel like I can actually breathe.

Inspections and exterminations of The House are done. Title search is underway and should be finished soon (at least I hope it will, but The House has only had one owner in all its nearly fifty years - the owner which also had it built, and who happens to be my employer). I may have a closing date by tomorrow; for all that, I might've gotten one today except the closing lawyer was out. Nearly all of my books are packed, and I can still walk through every room amid the cardboard box canyons. I've also had two offers of free-loan pickup trucks, which is especially nice.

Only two of our animals have ever changed residences before, and they've long since gotten used to the idea of all the boxes being packed. The others are blissfully unaware and simply think the stacks are cool places to lounge atop. Or stand guard.




I still don't have my car back, but the engine has arrived and the mechanic has retrieved his engine lifter, so I'm hoping that won't be much longer either.

Book Snatch posted an interview with me yesterday which was especially fun, particularly the question about the weirdest thing I'd ever done. Even filtering it to only stuff I'd talk about in public, that remained a pretty wide field.

The Still-Unnamed For-Fun Fantasy Novel also continues. It's up to 7300 words at the moment, three scenes that will probably comprise chapters 2 (the first scene I wrote) and 3. I'd probably be farther along except I keep going back and rewriting chunks of chapter 2, and sooner rather than later will change and expand the ending. I'm still in Seat Of My Pants mode just as a fun experiment. Today the book revealed that one storyline will involve about half the characters and the attempt to build a giant library and museum on the edge of the desert. There will be politics and cultural convolutions surrounding that, but so far it's different enough from Pillars of the Earth that I'm not too worried about it seeming derivative.

And it's been consistently warm and sunny for the past few days, which always makes me happier regardless of whatever else is going on.

Anyway, I feel change in the wind, I'm relatively happy thus far with the Triple-F Novel, I've caught myself looking forward to the summer. Please, Universe, don't do anything to mess that up. :)

Friday might have been a watershed day for the 2014 As Holding Pattern part of my life, but it fizzled out with a whimper.

The bank approved my loan for The House over a week ago; now I'm waiting for the USDA underwriters to process the paperwork, and they estimated it might be done by the end of this past week, but I heard nothing from them or the bank by Friday afternoon. Likewise, the new engine for my poor car was estimated to arrive by Friday as well, but I heard nothing from the mechanic. After all the shenanigans the non-local branch of the bank I'm dealing with were doing with my loan until I caught them out - nearly delaying it long enough for them to raise my interest rate a second time, which might still happen if this process extends into May despite my ultimatim to get the closing moving by this week - and hitting the one-month anniversary of my car being towed to the mechanic, it's safe to say I was a bundle of nerves.

So when Saturday came with me still stuck in the same Holding Patterns, I decided to try easing my nerves with a bit of writing. (This is a time-proven remedy.) In this case I tried out one of the scenes for the Still-Unnamed For-Fun Fantasy Novel, and wound up knocking out 2100 words. I haven't looked at it since I wrote it so I don't have much of an idea if it's any good at all yet, but those are 2100 more words than I had on Saturday morning. I'm pleased just to have gotten it done at all, and it did help soothe me a bit. It seems like good Chapter 2 material, if I can decide what I want to write as Chapter 1.

It would also be a full chapter. After writing three novels where each chapter was an era covering years or sometimes decades, a 2100-word chapter feels pretty good.

So anyway, some amelioration accomplished. It was warm out too, and I also capped the day with a butter popcorn-filled movie night (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) with my friends Sam, Leah, and Sam's daughter Heavenly-ann, along with some snuggly cats and puppies. All of the above helped calm my nervous wreckness as well.

But now that I'm mostly calmed down, I've got to gear up for a reading I'm giving tomorrow - an excerpt from Lest Camelot Fall, which I'll be presenting as part of National Library Week (alongside two other campus authors) at the campus library. And that's nerve-wracking not just from the whole reading in public thing, but even at this late date I still haven't decided yet what I'm going to read. (I have several possibilities, but I'm fussing back and forth through each one over and over, deciding on one and then discarding it, deciding and discarding, like a manic writer who can't get past that first paragraph until it's perfect.)

I'll probably write some more on For-Fun Fantasy novel tomorrow, then. With the hope that it's warm out. And maybe I'll even get some good news about The House or my car.

In the meantime, Tucker was happily calm today because he got to visit his cow buddies again. He's usually good to go after a short belly rub too.


And it doesn't hurt to get a car ride that doesn't end at the vet, either.


Maybe I should find my Tucker Zen.

As those of you who read this journal know, I have a dog named Tucker, also known by his extended nickname of Tucker the Big Dog. (He's not that large, actually, but this distinguishes him from our other pooch, Weezie the Little Dog.) In his younger years...and he might still try this now at the age of 12...he would stand at our front door, look outside, look at me, look back outside, look back at me, and promise that if I let him outside without leash or line he would be good, he really really would behave himself, no really.

But if he did manage to get outside he would burst away like he'd been blasted off the surface of the Earth by a meteor strike. He would run and run and run and there was no stopping him. He could be a mile away in five minutes. He would run up and down the streets, through the woods, all over campus, all over the mountain we lived on. Sometimes he would come close by us, maybe less than ten feet away, but with a big grin on his face that told us he was playing and had no intention of being caught.

Usually the only times we would catch him were when someone else tricked him into coming to them by offering pettings or treats, if he got stuck in something like a fence, or when he was finally done hours later and would show up on the porch as if he had not instigated a five square-mile dog hunt.

Tucker pretending to be oh so yes-daddy-I'm-just-a-poor-innocent-dog! Rub my belly please?

I'm telling this story because this is what my brain is doing to me now. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you; I just have to remember to chase it.

My historical novels over the last few years, including my historical fantasy To Murder an Empire, have been like taking Tucker out on his leash. Sometimes we go around the neighborhood or campus, or sometimes we go hiking in the mountain woods. They're pretty orderly and methodical. Hiking can lead to a lot of uncharted territory, but there's no wild running off hither and yon to follow every scent or chasing after every little noise just beyond the trees ahead.

But then along comes the for-fun fantasy novel I wrote about a couple of days ago. It's just like Tucker. It stood at the door saying "Please just let me out, I'll be good..." And I fell for it, and it took off. And now I'm chasing it all over the neighborhood and the forest and the mountains, frenetically writing down every snatch and scrap of idea that it comes across and shoots after.

Of course, this time I'm enjoying it. I don't have to worry about the book getting hit by a car, or shot by a grumpy reclusive neighbor, or bitten by a sick animal, or whatever. I've decided just to let it bolt whichever way it wants while I run after it breathlessly, filling pages and scrap paper full of names and places, bits of world-building, and even a plot point or storyline here and there. So far I've been able to keep up with it just so long as I keep a sharp eye out.

Eventually I'll catch up with it and put it on a leash (i.e., an outline)...for a little while. Then once it's rested I'll probably let it take off again. Just to see where it goes. I need the exercise and to whip myself into a bit better shape.

It's been three weeks now since I've done any writing, at least beyond this blog, and this is not a state I'm happy with either physically or mentally. It seems to be one of the holding patterns that have characterized 2014 thus far - in this case, I didn't want to start writing the next Arizona Book yet, I've only just begun researching the Mississippi River Book, and I'm still waiting for a yea or nay on the Secret Project. So I was wondering what I might write next in the meantime, at least when I snatch time away from packing and the other house buying-related rigamarole.

An odd answer came unbidden to me last night: Write something for fun.

This is almost a foreign concept to me. I mean, sure, I have fun with everything I write. If I didn't, I wouldn't write it. But this wicked notion was to write something only for fun. Not with an eye to publishing, with absolutely no self-editor, but just writing whatever I felt like writing and however I felt like writing it and with a minimum (or no) research involved. Like an extended NaNoWriMo.

It wouldn't be the first time I've done this, though it has been a long time. The last time I wrote a novel solely for the pleasure of it was back in 2005, with my so-far one-and-only young adult fantasy novel The Dark Horse. This was also an experiment to see if I could write YA fantasy. I'm not that great at objectively judging my own work so I still don't know whether or not I can write YA fantasy, as I've never submitted the book anywhere in all that time. (Maybe I should now. But that's another post.)

I say the idea popped into my head last night. But I think it's been boiling for awhile.

I've had various bits and pieces of a fantasy novel drifting into my head over the past few months. Characters, scenes, and locales with a bit of world-building. It seems very loosely based on the ex-Roman Imperial world of the 7th-9th centuries A.D., though not so close as to require huge chunks of historical research. I'm particularly fascinated by an assassin with an extremely unusual specialty. I'm also fond of some various ancient locales built underneath modern locales. But none of those started coalescing until last night's idea...and then further solidified when I happened to wake up with the idea of swiping some characters and countries from a couple of fantasy novels I wrote in the early 90s for it too. Not the old storylines, just the populations. (And coincidentally I found my notes for those books - though not the books themselves - today while looking for something else.)

This would be, to say the least, an interesting experiment. I would write a general outline, a file of characters and places, and my standard "Here's What Happens In The Book" pages of notes, added to randomly as I thought of things. But it wouldn't be intended as a primary project; it would be written around other things, most likely. It would be written in fits and starts as I snatch bits of time for it. It would be written with no expectations - except that it was being done for fun.

I wonder if that's even possible for me at this point. No expectations, I mean, and only for fun, and not with an eye to publishing (though reserving the right to try after the book is done). Just free-flowing, no angst, no headaches or heartaches writing.

And something that would keep me from going three weeks or longer without writing again. That's just untenable for me, and it's gotta go.

And really, I kind of like the idea of completely writing a book off the top of my head, rather than one partly driven by research or another author's notes and outline. The Dark Horse was the last time I did that. This may be the most appealing part of all.

Now, since I seem to be behind on my quota of Internet Animal pictures, here is a picture of Tucker the Big Dog visiting one of his bovine buddies:


Don't let the title fool you. I really actually honestly do love snow, quite a lot. I usually complain by the end of each winter that we didn't get enough / any snow, and even after the record-breaking quantities we've gotten this season I'm still not tired of it. (I know, I know. Feel free to throw a virtual snowball-with-rock-inside at my e-head.)

It's just that I feel better and am generally happier in warmer weather. Good things seem better and bad things seem less bad and more manageable. And here in the currently indecisive climate of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I've been teased several times with more characteristic spring-like weather. So I know what I'm missing - and remembering that last year it also snowed in April.

On the other hand, that doesn't stop me from taking lots of pictures (nothing does, except armed guards standing beside signs ordering NO PICTURES watching me watching them). Plus I don't think I've fulfilled my Internet Animal Pictures Quota yet. So here are some dog-and-scenery shots from this morning's walk in the mountain woods, starring Tucker and puffy snow.


+7 )

Copper Heart is finished.

Well, the first draft is. Eventually there will be lots of editing and trimming, and I can already think of a few parts I want to do some general rewrites on. But otherwise...Copper Heart is finished.

And of course, I'm at that typical but momentary post-novel place where "Now what?" is running through my head like a airborne banner pulled by a zeppelin.

There's plenty to claim my attention. I'm still in holding patterns over The House and my car repair (I do need to replace the engine after all - stupid timing belt that hadn't shown any signs of giving out). Then there's the ongoing marketing of Lest Camelot Fall. I got a weird but awfully good feeling from the fact that I suddenly had three interview offers in the last few days, all from book review bloggers.

On top of that, the first book blog review of Camelot went live tonight. I wasn't necessarily planning on reading my reviews, but this was the first book blog review I've ever gotten (as far as I know). So I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, and...was pleased. Very pleased. The reviewer enjoyed the book immensely. He was also one of my recent interviewers, so our Q&A will be showing up sometime in the next few days.

Finally, I'm at am impasse about what to write next. I'm debating if I want to go ahead and eventually start work on the fourth / final / unnamed next Arizona Book, or set the series aside for the time being in favor of doing the next historical near-and-dear-to-my-heart epic, The Great River, my big historical novel (series?) about the Mississippi River. Both Arizona and the Mississippi are clamoring for my attention and love in equal measure, and I love them both in equal measure.

Like the Shenandoah Valley and Arizona, it's not just the history I'm attracted to; I have personal connections with the river as well. And, you know. Riverboats. I can't resist riverboats. I've been hooked on them since I was a kid - getting to play the steam-powered organ atop the texas deck of the Julia Belle Swain as it cruised up and down the Illinois River when I was 12 sealed the deal - and I plan to have lots of riverboats in The Great River.

There's another option. Laurie suggested that maybe my next book should be one written strictly for fun. I'd already been thinking of something that could fit: my alternate history fantasy about young Charlemagne, A King By No Magic. That was the one I tried writing in 2007 and '08 that never really came together, though I've had a number of ideas since about what to do for it. I rather like that idea, although it comes with the logistic issue that I recently packed all of my Charlemagne-related books.

By the way, I'm not complaining about the indecision. I've been through periods where no writing project really grabbed me and the work was half-hearted. I like being in a position where I'm having to decide where to go next.

And honestly? If I wasn't trying to buy a house and pay for an expensive car repair, I'd take Bing Crosby's and the Andrews Sisters' advice, and I'd already have a plane ticket to Arizona in hand. Or maybe somewhere along the Mississippi.

At any rate, I present my last Progress Report for Copper Heart.


New Words: 2800 on scene 3 of 3 of the epilogue. A telegram and some reckless courage save Copper Heart from disaster.

Total Words: It came in at a nice round 170,000. So yeah, like I said, I see lots of trimming in my future.

Reason For Stopping: Finished the book...and I was kind of freezing.

Book Year: 1888.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas ran in just long enough for Hayes to decide she didn't want to come in (since Vegas was there). Once Hayes left, Vegas took off too.

Exercise: Took Tucker for a walk a fair way up the local mountain.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage: I’ll be damned if I let this town die, Harry Boyd caught himself thinking. The sudden thought surprised him, considering that killing Copper Heart was what he had in mind when he came back to town.

But in that time, especially since returning Will Beckett and taking over half the town’s operations in the place of the opium-addled town boss, Harry had sipped more than a few drinks of power and affluence. He discovered that they were a mighty powerful whiskey indeed.

Darling Du Jour: The last sentence - which I didn't think of until I was very nearly ready to write it. It's not spoilery, but I don't figure I'll post it here since it wouldn't make any sense without the context.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Now and again we writers (myself included) mourn what we think of wistfully as the good old days of publishing. There is some truth in thinking of certain eras as good for writers, though like with any such nostalgia I doubt things were completely as good as all that. Groucho Marx just gave me a reminder of this from a distance of nearly fifty years.

I was window shopping for Groucho's memorabilia on eBay when I discovered (for a mere $7,199.10 - discounted $799.90 from the original Buy It Now price) a 1966 letter that Groucho wrote to some fellow named Syd. Syd has just come out with a novel. Groucho tells him that he knows unsolicited advice isn't worth a whole lot, but "since you're an old friend of mine, probably because we don't see each other too often, here's the advice."

If you want to increase the sale, I suggest you go on the Johnny Carson show, the Merv Griffin Show, the Jack Douglas Show and any other show that you can get on. I remember when Louis Nizer had his book out a few years ago, you couldn't turn on the TV set, either locally or nationally, without seeing him plugging his book and, if you didn't see him, you could hear him on radio.

It's not very pleasant work, revealing yourself publicly, but with rare exceptions, this is what writing books has reduced itself to. So dive in and, in the process of doing this, you may become a great actor. With a white wig and a pillow under your vest, there's no reason why you couldn't play King Lear. So think about it.

Groucho himself, living legend that he was by this point, went on talk shows whenever he was hawking a book. Even his brother Harpo did when he came out with Harpo Speaks - and Harpo didn't actually talk, so that was quite a feat of public relations. If Harpo could figure out ways to promote his book by doing nothing more than honking a horn he had tucked into his belt, I could probably come up with some decent ideas myself.

I think the one of the biggest problems with publishing today is just that everything is in so much flux. Whole literary paradigms and ideologies are being rewritten, or outright broken and then glued back together in different shapes. I do understand that for many authors, things were better in the past. But there are also great authors out there now who are getting chances to publish they might not have had a few years ago. I suspect one way or another, things will even out eventually.

Though if anyone can figure out a way to get me booked on the Johnny Carson Show, I'll leap at it.


New Words: 1900 on the epilogue of Copper Heart. This finishes up Epilogue Scene 2 of 3, and wrapping up the murderous Blizzard of 1886-87. Characters survived, though not entirely intact.

Total Words: 167,200.

Reason For Stopping: Finished the scene, and did so just as Laurie was getting the dogs ready for a walk that I wanted to come along for.

Book Year: 1886-87.

Mammalian Assistance: Once again, Vegas the Writing Assistant is flaking out on me, wanting to come in the Writing Room when I start work, wanting to leave five minutes later, and then wanting back in as I'm finishing up and leaving for the day.

Exercise: Walking around the neighborhood and campus with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Turkey Hill Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.

Today's Opening Passage: The snow was still coming down the next day and wagons were long since useless, so the only cowmen going out in the storm were those who dragged a travois behind them. Owen would go out first and come home last, never allowing himself any rest, violating his mother’s rule about coming back by dusk—that third day, wind howling and the cowmen and their wives taking turns to desperately peal the mess bell, Owen and Puck finally dragged themselves back through the snowdrifts, horse and man with head lowered nearly as far as they could go without falling over, well after one in the morning.

Darling Du Jour: Not exactly a darling, but about as plain and stark as the rest of the scene . . .

The bones of the dead cattle left where they fell were ground up for fertilizer. The fertilizer was sold to their neighboring farmers, starting with those who sold Kate hay.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

I made what appeared to be progress today on the two fronts of my ongoing personal sagas: The house loan and the deathly ill car.

I was awakened this morning (at what is a normal hour to decent folks, but not necessarily those of us who work late) by The Bank's insurance division wanting to ask some questions about The House for purposes of homeowner's insurance. I presume this is a sign that I have not been summarily rejected despite my egregious lone late payment out of six credit references, but I couldn't give them an answer when they asked if I knew my closing date. So they went to call the loan officer, who turned out to be out for the day, with the message to call me if she could tell me anything beyond "in process". But I've gotten kinda used to waiting. Admittedly the warm weather makes it a lot easier and me more cheerful.

I also finally gave up on hearing back from the mechanic who told me he'd come get my car out of the library parking lot (where it had been sitting since the end of February--bless the campus police for not giving me grief about it loitering there so long) by last Friday. I left a message on his voice mail last Thursday afternoon to no avail. My father-in-law recommended both a mechanic and a tow truck to chauffeur my car to the mechanic. I managed to knock out some writing between the morning bank call and the afternoon tow. I know it's off to be least this is my fervent hope...but there's still something heartbreaking about seeing your car disappear into the distance at the rear of a tow truck.

People have wondered from time to time over the years how I manage to get any writing done when I've got so many things (these and others I don't talk about because while they impact me, they're not my stuff to tell) going on around, beside, and through me. I can only answer that my alternative in such situations would be a much higher likelihood of a marginal to middlin' breakdown. I'm not sure how I could completely stop writing altogether during such times.


New Words: 1700 on the epilogue of Copper Heart. This puts me about half or two-thirds of the way through the second of the three scenes. This scene chronicles the historically vicious Blizzard of 1886-87 that smashed the cattle industry and swerved the direction of the American West. (It's also where I'm writing about something that James A. Michener wrote about before me, in Centennial, so I have to try extra hard to tamp down the inferiority complex.)

Total Words: 165,300.

Reason For Stopping: Going to meet the tow truck.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: None, although Vegas jumped up on his box pile just long enough for me to take a picture to make all of you good people think he was helping me. Don't be fooled.


Exercise: None to speak of.

Stimulants: Turkey Hill chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Today's Opening Passage: The signs were hidden so well, buried in the thickening bark of trees and fur of animals, they would be easy to miss if you did not think to look. They waited unnoticed by most, by people who had suffered through the hottest and driest summer in recent memory while enjoying years of mild winters, who would not want to see what was coming even if they could. Their blindness would soon be equaled by an unapproachable whiteness no man would be able to see through.

Darling Du Jour: Roberto felt its coming first as a restlessness. An odd discomfort amid spring days already reaching past one hundred degrees underneath a miserly sky. He prayed Catholic prayers and sang O’odham songs, and while the sense of unease intensified there were few hints at the source. As Geronimo rampaged across Arizona and Roberto joined Kate and the cowmen guarding cattle and especially Silverstar’s brood, Roberto turned inward as much as looking out for enemies, walking the Himdag and pleading to know what disaster was approaching them.

The subtle but cunningly laid answers were given by all of those beings who would suffer alongside the people. The cattle and other animals whose coats were growing extra thick for the coming winter. The burrowing snakes and rodents who dug deeper than Roberto had ever seen before. The cottonwood trees thickening their bark. The sparrows and towhees, warblers and canyon wrens who usually lived in Arizona during the winter continuing south without stopping.

Roberto would gaze at the sky as he patrolled the ranch or hunted stray cows; it was clear innocence, not revealing its plans, but everything else betrayed it.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

I haven't posted many pictures of my writing space before...maybe one or two over the years. But I took a couple of shots today as part of my (potential) post-move reconstruction of shelves, and figured I'd post them here.

These are the changeable spaces: The first picture is a shelf by my Writing Computer that has items related to whatever I'm writing, the second is the top of my computer monitor, which has a mix of transitional and more-or-less permanent items.

All of these items came from Arizona, except two:
The laser-cut Kokopelli was purchased locally, and the pottery sherds are from private land in New Mexico.

The stone-looking pieces lining the front of my monitor are half of a set of Cienega phase artifacts
a friend from Arizona sent me. The other half are lined up at the head of my keyboard.

At any rate, I'm one-third of the way through the epilogue of Copper Heart as of today, and once the book is done, all of my Arizona items will be packed up. As to where they'll go if I get a new place, I'll cross that threshold when I come to it.


New Words: 2400 (1300 / 1200 ). The death of someone who's been a character since early in Arizona Book 2 (aka Wolves in the Desert) gives Eva an answer to so many Hispanic families being displaced from their farms and ranches by Anglos.

Total Words: 163,600.

Reason For Stopping: Groggy yesterday from lack of sleep and finally took a nap / Finished the scene and needed to get ready for work.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: None. All the cats were gathered around the open windows letting in the lovely 70-plus degree day.

Exercise: None to speak of.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage(s):

Yesterday: It seemed that half of the Pimeria Alta—or at least half of the Hispanics in the land—were turning out for the funeral. This did not surprise Eva. The one they came to pay their respects to, to pray for her soul's quick release from Purgatory, had been so well known and loved in the land for so long, and on both sides of the border, she might as well have been a legend.

The woman herself would have laughed at that and called those people fools who called her legend. Though secretly she would have chuckled fondly.

Mostly, though, she considered dying an inconvenience, an interruption to getting work done.

Today: But when they were gathered, these stones ranging from cobbles to ones Eva could barely carry with two hands, with enough piled to build a six foot-high nicho, she could only stare at them blankly. What was she supposed to do next? She called herself a fool for thinking the knowledge might magically appear inside her head. Feeling exhausted and defeated, she went to bed for the night, expecting nothing more the next day than what she expected from every other ordinary day.

Darling Du Jour: Nothing springs out at me. Or maybe I'm just tired.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

The one upside to trying to get everything organized and packed for a move (or at least, when you're hoping to move but don't know if you will or not) is the stuff you run across that you haven't seen for ages. Two of the items I ran across yesterday were a couple of journals I kept in 1984, I think as school assignments. The first one opens on January 18, 1984, with a line filled with fate I didn't recognize at the time: "Today I started my story that I based on 'Centennial'".

In January of '84 I'd just been writing for a few months, and the book I'm referring to in that line - I ended up naming it The Trek West, my grandmother's suggestion - was only the second book I'd ever started, and my first historical novel. I'd go on to write something like 500 pages by hand on loose-leaf paper, covering over two centuries of history in the Midwest.

But here's the thing: I was so determined, and so fascinated by Centennial (the miniseries based on James Michener's book--I wouldn't end up reading the novel till that summer), and I was such an eager writer that I started working on The Trek West even before the miniseries was finished. Five days later, according to my journal, I'd written 113 pages, totaling nine chapters. By the time May rolled around and I started my second journal, I'd reached the 1930s and the Dust Bowl.

Now here's the thing. I wasn't exactly a meticulous researcher (though I thought I was at the time). I did a lot of my writing at the expense of school work - not only writing instead of studying and doing homework, but on a few occasions I even wrote during classes. I ended up going to summer school that year so I could move onto high school - and while I passed my summer school class, I spent all of my free time each school day in the library doing research for The Trek West.

And yet, all that said...dang.

Thirty years later, I'm a much better writer (thank Heavens), I'm more meticulous and calculated about the writing and the research, and obviously I still love what I'm doing. I do lean towards being obsessively persistent, especially when it comes to submitting my work to magazines and other publishers. I certainly wouldn't flunk out of school or lose a job or some such thing for writing nowadays.

But when I look back at those entries and the ferocity I attacked writing with when I was thirteen (and for years afterwards), I have to admit that I do miss feeling that way...just a little bit. Maybe more.

So in honor of 13-year-old me, I spent part of the rest of the day writing, determined that I wouldn't stop for the day until I'd finished the final chapter of Copper Heart. I still have the epilogue yet to write, but I did plow on through to the end of "The Renegades". And I could hear my younger self asking me from across that time gulf, "See? That wasn't so hard, was it?"


New Words: 2250 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. Geronimo at last surrenders and is shipped off to Florida forever; Riley decides what he does not want to do with the rest of his life.

Total Words: 161,100.

Book Year: 1886.

Reason For Stopping: See above.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas the Writing Assistant was up on the box pile and all ready to guard it until I opened the kitchen window to the unseasonably warm Outside. Then he was all about guarding the window, primarily from the other cats.

Exercise: Walked around the neighborhood and campus with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Peach cider.

Today's Opening Passage: That night Goyakla sat by a fire with his four best warriors before him. Three of them were also members of his family and they looked at him expectantly, hoping he would say what they did not have the courage to speak first themselves. The fourth was Lozen, her face a determined, stony mask.

Darling Du Jour: I like the last few paragraphs (which came to me right before I got to them), but I'm not going to post them here because they're kinda spoilery.

Submissions Sent Out In February: 13 to magazines, 6 to agents.

Total Submissions Out Right Now: 12 to magazines, 8 to agents, 2 to publishers.

Writing-Related Sacrifice: I'm not just piling stuff together for packing, but also going through numerous items that suffered mild to major mildew damage in our basement. One of these items was a binder with several hundred pages of printouts that comprised my primary research notebook when I wrote The Course of Heaven back in 2002-04 - the novel that got me back into serious, regular writing. I kept a few dozen pages of things I particularly liked or had information that might be hard to find again...I'll figure out what to do with the mildew smell later. But the rest, including the binder, went into the trash.

Other Writing-Related Stuff: Looking over the galley of a short story that was immensely fun and personally gratifying to write. It's for an anthology which I'll talk about when I'm given the OK to do so.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Not much to post about here lately, at least not much I want to - house loan is still up bouncing in the air and mocking me from above, car is still dead and waiting for the mechanic to be able to get to it - and a myriad of great and sundry things have otherwise been commandeering my attention from writing both here, on the novel, and elsewhere. As it is, the Progress Report I'm posting below is four days old - I've only been averaging writing one or two days a week, though at least the word counts are higher to make up for it when I do get to banging away at the keyboard. Volcanic eruptions and all that.

And by the way, if you didn't see this in the numerous other places I posted it, Lest Camelot Fall is the current giveaway on the awesome, fun, and informative English Historical Fiction Authors website. You can enter it by posting a comment with your e-mail address here.

And just because, here is a picture of Tucker the Big Dog rocking out to our recent blizzard.



New Words: 3900 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. Geronimo decides to do his (final) final surrender.

Total Words: 158850. "Yes, the danger must be growing / For the rowers keep on rowing / And they're certainly not showing / Any signs that they are slowing . . . "

Reason For Stopping: The Writing Room is still only heated passively by whatever heat bleeds in from other rooms, so I was kinda frozen.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: Hayes the Baby Cat (splayed across lap, chest, and shoulder) wanted to guard me from...pretty much anything that wasn't her.

Exercise: Walked around the neighborhood with Laurie and the dogs.

Stimulants: Peach cider.

Today's Opening Passage: Gus was back in the desert, back in Mexico…but this time he felt stronger and more vital than before. Than ever before. It was as if he drew his strength and sustenance from the sun and the wind themselves, as he, Lieutenant Gatewood, and only a handful of others rode alone through the wastes to convince Geronimo to surrender one final time.

Darling Du Jour: There was the passing thought in the back of his mind that he was using up everything he had, all the rest of the years of his life, pushing forward with this effort. That once Geronimo was caught and shipped off to prison in Florida, Gus’ last breath would leave him and he would drop dead where he stood. It didn’t matter. He knew this was exactly where he was meant to be, and that he must see this through, for the span of his life had wholly been urging him to this last ride into Mexico and back.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Me, to Laurie: "Hey, you drank some of the toilet cleaner!"

Laurie: "I was thirstier than the toilet."
This week's quasi-Out-of-Context Quote:

Laurie to the World in General: "Ladies, if you don't help your husbands shovel snow, you won't have the muscle mass to fight when the Zombie Apocalypse comes!"


New Words: 1550 on chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. A year after his so-called "Final Surrender", and after seeing some signs that included an accidental leaving from some other characters in the book, Geronimo realizes that he almost certainly have no choice but to give up to the American soldiers once and for all. From here all that's left is Geronimo's surrender, which will finish off the chapter, and then a two- or possibly three-scene epilogue.

Total Words: 155,100. I actually hit and whizzed past the 150K mark back on February 5th (progress I don't think I reported here).

Reason For Stopping: End of scene, and some post-blizzard work to do.

Book Year: 1886.

Mammalian Assistance: Vegas came in briefly to guard his box pile, but doesn't much care for the new box on top. I've switched it for a box he does like sprawling on, so we'll see what happens in our next installment of Danny The Cat Slave.

Exercise: Shoveling driveway snow; a round trip walk to campus.

Stimulants: Peach cider made in one of my old, brief abodes (Frederick, Maryland).

Today's Opening Passage: When Goyakla rode ahead alone as they made for their mountains strongholds, his companions let him. When he took less joy in raids and killing White Eyes and Mexicans, they said nothing. They pretended not to notice when he occasionally glanced to his side where there was no one, and when he sat before a fire facing a companion no longer there.

Darling Du Jour: He asked his Power for a vision of this, but no vision came. Perhaps this was the wrong place. Perhaps he should be alone. He climbed out of the arroyo where they were hiding up a rocky, jagged hillside, where high above him he spotted a mountain goat perched on a ledge as certainly as if it was part of the rock.

It was a good thing to see. Such a sight once before, just outside the cave with the powerful drawings, convinced him that the Dineh were like that goat. Always part of the land and going places no White Eyes could ever reach. Like that goat, it looked down upon everything below knowing that in such a high place nothing could reach it.

Goyakla didn't see the eagle until it grabbed its prey.

It swept down swiftly and with no warning but did not carry away the goat. Instead it sent the goat tumbling off its perch. The eagle feasted on the broken corpse.

Every muscle in Goyakla’s body seized. He had seen the eagle many times before — not in visions, but as a symbol representing America on everything the soldiers carried. Making himself walk back to the camp was more effort than planting barley on the reservation.

Lest Camelot Fall stuff: So far I've gotten five yeses from book reviewers willing to look at Camelot (though no guarantee they'll review it), one interview by another author / book blogger (already done but not yet posted), one giveaway contest (by fellow Musa author Liz DeJesus), and three spotlights (one of which has already appeared).

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen / [profile] time_shark; The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

Multitasking has been coming under a lot of fire lately.

Mother Jones, for instance, recently posted an article about how you can improve your brain by not multitasking. Uberfacts had a line of tidbits last week declaring how much better you perform without it, including something along the lines of how your brain gets three times more dampened by multitasking than smoking marijuana. Numerous studies have demonstrated that prodigies and those we call geniuses tend to be focused hard on their discipline without interruption for X amount of time a day (though saving the rest for Everything Else, including and especially recreation).

And I have to admit that when it comes to making my writing space at home, I go to extremes. "Stop being an internet junkie" says Maria Konnikova in the Mother Jones article. I don't have an Internet connection at home specifically because it's too easy for me to play with a multitude of flickering distractions. Nor do I have cable, satellite, or digital TV; my TV watching is usually limited to DVD and VHS. I only answer the phone if it's someone who knows only to call me when I'm writing if it's important, or someone I asked to call me back as soon as possible.

But you know what? If you're a writer - and I suspect this is true for any kind of creative pursuit - you're multitasking anyway, whether you want to or not, whether you mean to or not.

Because your brain is always firing away. Plotting, planning, and otherwise chasing after what you're writing or want to write. This is often regardless of what you may personally choose for yourself at any given moment. For example, I almost never get bored, because the back of my brain is always plotting out a story arc, or trying out dialogue, or writing a descriptive passage, or figuring out a believable escalation of conflict. This can be inconvenient when I'm trying to do other things, especially those requiring a lot of mental attention, sure. But I wouldn't have it any other way, because by the time I sit down at the keyboard for the day's writing work, I usually know what I'm going to write.

I haven't read a book strictly for pleasure since I was twelve years old. Everything I read I study. I do the same thing when watching a movie or TV show, and in those cases I also try to figure out the visual setting, what the director's doing, and so on.

When I was writing Lest Camelot Fall my library boss, Cy Dillon, gave me the go-ahead to learn and practice our research databases by researching the novel. (He got a shout-out in the acknowledgements for that.)

When people ask me where I get my story ideas and I tell them Everywhere, I really mean that. As oblivious as I can be in other ways, I always try to keep my eyes and ears open to sponge in anything I might stumble across. An overheard sentence fragment from a nearby conversation during an academic meeting once sparked a poem. Another came from a NASA news article I ran across. An oddly-framed photograph became a piece of a short story, while a famous commercial sparked the opening of another. My first professionally-published poem was inspired by the top of a mountain next to campus catching on fire.

All of that absorbing? When you get right down to it, it's nothing more than multitasking.

My point is, I'm not sure how you can be a writer if you don't multitask at least to some extent - just not in the way it's traditionally defined. (When I was in 2nd grade it was called "daydreaming". The only difference now is that I've learned to put it to more productive use.) And I consider it absolutely necessary.

I'll go one step farther. I've heard a lot of people ask "How do I know if I'm meant to be a writer?" I'll put this forward as a test: If you study the books you read instead of just reading them...if you can't help but mentally turn a snatch of conversation or a quirky news article into a story or poem idea...if you're always turning ideas over in your head and can't let them go (or they won't let you go)...

...Then yeah, I'd say that's a pretty strong indicator. So turn off the TV, switch off the network connection, set aside your phone, and ask yourself "What am I waiting for?"
I haven't posted one of these for a long time, so . . .


by S. Fox, Vivarium Press
"Weathering the ups and downs of the news business"

Ever since branching out into the climate manipulation market by purchasing the government's weather-controlling HAARP facility in Alaska last year, the Bruges, Belgium-based corporation Arztubel has been determined to dominate the Earth's weather patterns more cheaply and efficiently than the federal government could manage. Now, with the recent blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow in many places in the Eastern U.S. all the way south to Georgia, the company believes it has hit that milestone.

According to Doug Powers, spokesman for Arztubel's American subsidiaries, the science of global climate manipulation had been severely repressed by government bureaucracy and regulations.

"Some of those standards were simply ridiculous," Powers explains. "No more than one thousand artificially generated tornadoes in the Continental United States per year, with no more than one hundred per state in any given year, except Texas, which signed a waiver in exchange for some special favors in federal oil leases on national parkland. Sooner or later that barrier becomes too restrictive for solid R&D. By buying HAARP and privatizing it, and locating our flagship headquarters overseas, we're able to work around much of that government interference."

The HAARP Research Station, built near Gakona, Alaska in 1993, contains hundreds of tower units and elements broadcasting high frequency band transmissions. Some of their uses include researching weather, facilitating experimentation in radio and microwave broadcasting, heating the ionosphere until it turns into floating plasma, rearranging and relocating storms, planting subliminal messages directly into human brains, blowing up enemy fighter jets impinging U.S. airspace, and retrieving stray decades-old radio and TV signals from outer space to prevent them from being picked up by potentially hostile aliens or copyright pirates.

The several months that HAARP was shut down starting in May 2013 due to the ownership transition, while responsible for the sharp drop in the number of hurricanes striking the U.S., proved costly to Arztubel in both money and research time.

"There's was a lot of pressure from the top down to get some quick results," Powers admits, "but we still were committed to ensuring that our work was done right, in accordance with all current Weather Domination Best Practices. When you need a hurricane to come out of the Gulf Coast and hit Florida, for instance, it's very embarrassing to have it swing around instead to the Atlantic and slam into, say, North Carolina. People have been fired for less, such as when an accidental transmission from the Filled Developmental Prototype caused a sinkhole to swallow the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky recently. Our CEO owns three classic Corvettes and I can tell you that was a bad time, and we didn't want a repeat of that sort of incident. We had to learn to work fast yet continually meet and exceed our weekly meteorological inspections."

Powers was proud to say that they did exceed all of Arztubel's expectations, particularly in the two February blizzards that stretched part of the way into the Deep South. "The CEO himself bought a round of drinks for everyone in the Alaska offices the moment he started hearing weathermen say that the first storm 'came out of nowhere'. That's the kind of surprise that the U.S. military gives preferential treatment to in weather weapon research, and we hit that target several months ahead of schedule."

Then to follow up that snowstorm with another, Powers says, "Well, we weren't certain we could do it, but everyone was really jazzed after the success of the first storm, and HQ promised bonuses if we could pull it off again. So what can I say? The folks in the Alaskan offices did amazing work. That kind of result would have been impossible under the old federal intervention-happy HAARP. Tuesday's blizzard demonstrates the success of privatizing weather domination." Powers' eyes narrow. "That's not luck, that's commitment. We're thinking about making that our company motto."

Their work has been successful enough that they've been subcontracting some of their work to other countries. "The floods that are inundating large swaths of Britain are from a startup that's working out some kinks, but we have faith that they'll get things right by contract-signing time," Powers says. "And as far as the earthquakes that continue to happen near Fukushima are concerned, we say to the Japanese people: Please just be patient."

Powers acknowledges that HAARP has many critics, particularly those who believe that humans shouldn't be messing with the Earth's weather patterns. How does Arztubel feel about its detractors?

"Humanity is all about making innovations," Powers responds. "Granted there is a 1-in-7 chance of HAARP permanently savaging the planet's atmosphere and making Earth uninhabitable for any more advanced form of life than large multicellular bacteria, according to our consultants. But any business comes with risks."

Is there anything HAARP does that causes Powers to lose sleep?

"Not really," he answers confidently. "Although during the six months we were shut down last year, a lot of old 1950s TV broadcasts slipped through our net on their way to the stars." His voice lowers with what could be genuine regret. "I know that if any enemy alien civilizations invade Earth and annihilate humanity because they didn't like some Sid Caesar broadcast, I might never forgive myself."

The author would like to thank the U.S. Air Force for their generous cooperation in allowing this story, even if they did make him endure sixteen hours in radiological detox before allowing it to go to press.

There are still some things about wearing glasses that I'm getting used to even after sixteen months (which followed twenty-five years of wearing contacts, though), especially now that my scratch-resistant lenses are full of scratches. But I'm still grooving on the fact that my vision with glasses is better than contacts. Stargazing has certainly gotten a lot more interesting--a couple of weeks ago, for example, I finally got to see the Orion Nebula for the first time with my naked eye, color included.

And yesterday I saw my first "macro-snowflake". That's my word for a flake that's so big you can see its crystalline features without magnification. This one was large enough, in fact, that I could see some details when it drifted onto Tucker the Big Dog's black back as he waited to go back inside our house. Crouching down beside him (while he wondered what I was up to) I could easily make out that it was a six-pointed star that repeated the star pattern down to the center. Of course it disappeared the instant we walked inside, but it was nice while it lasted.

I can also better see the hawk whose made our neighborhood its home now, including picking her out in the treetops of the woods behind our house and other places she goes hunting.

More than just neat things to look at, though, they're also good metaphorical reminders. I tend to be a lot busier than usual right now, between trying to promote Lest Camelot Fall, finishing Copper Heart, trying to buy a house, packing four thousand books, and still awaiting word on the potential Secret Project. I tend to miss a lot of small details anyway, and when I'm this wrapped up in Stuff being oblivious to them could get downright deleterious. And I don't want to get so wrapped up in Everything I'm Doing Right Now that I look up and suddenly it's next year. That's happened to me a few too many times.

Right now slowing down isn't that much of an option. But I think if I'm a little more observant, I won't necessarily need to slow down for the time being. I just need to pick my eyes up while I'm chugging away to make sure I don't miss any nebulae, snowflakes, or hawks. Even if I have to keep going going going, I can keep from being gone. Noticing all those finer details will make the going a lot easier--not to mention more worthwhile. And somewhere I have a collection of loupes and magnifying glasses . . .
During one of my several passes through The House this past Friday, checking out things inside and out sometimes literally by the square inch, I discovered that a storm window in the master bedroom had been left open. Inside the window was what I assumed to be the remains of an abandoned nest; it was turned on its side and in a couple of pieces. I tossed the nest out and closed the window.

A little while later I was back at the window, gazing out over the woods while taking a break from my various inspections, when two little brown wrens fluttered up to where the nest had been, darted their heads back and forth looking over the empty space, then flew off.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the very next time I was at the window later that evening they came back to look over the empty space again.

I honestly thought about retrieving the nest (now in more than two pieces) where it lay on the ground below the window, re-opening the storm window, and putting it back. I didn't, but I think when I get the chance I just may buy a birdhouse and surreptitiously hang it from the nearest tree.
Signed contract for The House has been sent along to the bank. And so the waiting and escalated hope begins.

Had a reader of Lest Camelot Fall become the first one yesterday to point out historical goofs. Actually most weren't goofs, just places where I probably should've been clearer. I'm still kicking myself over one, though: where in my head I was thinking "herbal brew" I wrote "tea" and then never caught it in three rounds of edits, despite tea proper only coming to Britain a thousand years after Camelot takes place. Le sigh.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I don't know if I tend to be overly slavish to historical accuracy, beverage slips aside, and I do tend to exercise some literary license, but there are plenty of lines I won't cross, and places where I'll stand my ground. I've been digging my heels in a lot lately while writing about Geronimo, just because there's so much misinformation about him out there--or just "things people know that just ain't so", as the saying goes.

Let's start with the movie Geronimo: An American Legend, because it incorporated a giant host of things that just weren't so.

Quick run-down if you haven't seen it: Geronimo (played by Wes Studi) is being brought in to the San Carlos reservation by Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) and narrator Lt. Britton Davis (Matt Damon), but is restless and unhappy there. When U.S. soldiers kill a holy man called the Dreamer, Geronimo breaks out. Gatewood finds him with the help of the Apache scout Chato (Steve Reevis) and Geronimo offers to surrender, but breaks his word again. Brigadier General George Crook (Gene Hackman), head of the Department of Arizona, resigns, and is replaced by the uptight martinet Brigadier General Nelson Miles (Kevin Tighe). Gatewood, Davis, Chato, and Chief of Scouts Al Sieber (Robert Duvall) go hunting for him in Mexico, Sieber is killed in a bar fight, Gatewood finds Geronimo and convinces him to come back with terms of surrender being that Geronimo will spend two years imprisoned in Florida. The Chiricahua Apache scouts are arrested and sent with them. Davis quits the army in protest.

So, what did the movie get right? Well, the names. There was a holy man called the Dreamer who was killed by U.S. troops. General Crook did resign after Geronimo's last breakout, and was replaced by Miles. The Apache scouts were indeed arrested. And, well, that's about it.

First of all, the movie compacts events--the Dreamer's death was several years before Geronimo's final breakout (and Geronimo wasn't there when the holy man was killed). The final straw was, of all things, that the Apache were forbidden to make and drink tizwin, an alcoholic beverage fermented from corn. Gatewood and Davis only rode together in the first days immediately after the last breakout; after that, troops of cavalry and a hundred Apache scouts were sent to hunt Geronimo down.

After a few grueling months in the Chihuahuan Desert south of New Mexico with no success, Britton Davis actually quit the army at this point, not after the war ended. Al Sieber, mostly crippled from years of hard desert service, essentially quit here too--refusing to go south of the border again. Despite his 1886 "death" in the movie, he lived on until 1907--ironically dying by way of a falling boulder while overseeing an Apache road work crew. (Local legend says an Apache rolled the boulder on top of him.)

General Crook is about the only one who is portrayed with more accuracy than not. Gatewood comes close, though the real Gatewood, unlike handsome Jason Patric, was gaunt almost to the point of being skeletal, and that only got worse as he chased Geronimo and his health failed. Wes Studi was about a generation younger than the real Geronimo, but did an excellent job portraying the warrior's perpetually scowling, grim face. Britton Davis was ambivalent about the Apache themselves, but not Geronimo--he hated Geronimo, calling him vicious, treacherous, and intractable. Nelson Miles is portrayed as a hard-arsed martinet, and he gets a bad rap in history books because the history writers tend to prefer his rival, General Crook (as did Britton Davis). But the truth is that Miles was almost as sympathetic toward the Apache as Crook, and had spent years advocating fair treatment for Native Americans and--in his own words--letting "Indians be Indians". He said that our failure to do this was a big part of the reason we had so many problems with them, along with enforcing laws on them that they had no say in, and occasionally being "unmercifully cruel" in our punishments.

Screwing around with history as much as the movie does is way above and beyond literary license, as far as I'm concerned. You don't need to alter the facts this much to make a good story; there are plenty of good stories inherent in things as they really were. I consider rewriting that much not only akin to historical blasphemy, but also outright laziness.

There are other things I'm not writing about, simply because I think they've been overdone. I don't have a long sequence of Geronimo's attacks on whites, for instance. Not that I don't have any at all, but you know it's happening, so there's no need to beat it into the ground for effect. I've concentrated more on other stories that tend to get left out of books and movies, like the story of Geronimo's 2-year-old son, Little Robe. That wasn't his real name, but a nickname given by soldiers who captured him and his family. (They had been with Geronimo--the Apache took their families to war with them.) Little Robe captivated the soldiers at Fort Bowie, and they were devastated when he met a tragic end. Those are the things I focus on more because details like that have always fascinated me.

Of course, nobody may read the book. It may bomb even worse than Geronimo did. But at least I'll have written the book the way I wanted to and thought it should be.


For some reason I had a bit of a hard time getting started with today's batch of writing...


...but when I finally got down to plunking the keyboard I managed a fair amount. Along with my normal writerly impulses I was driven forward by two things: One, realizing that if I'm diligent I might have Copper Heart finished by next weekend. And two, next weekend we're supposedly going to get somewhere between 11-14 inches of snow, and if I'm done with the book I won't feel at all guilty about going out and enjoying the deluge.

Anyway, yesterday and today I've been writing about Geronimo's so-called "Final Surrender", which really wasn't. Despite Geronimo's original offer of surrender--in which he gave the speech that included his famous quote "Once I moved like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all"--he bolted immediately afterward and rampaged through the Southwest and northern Mexico for another six months. This led to the resignation of General George Crook and the ultimate surrender as negotiated primarily by Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, who met Geronimo with only a handful of men rather than an army at his back.

And I've been writing about Geronimo for two books now, introducing him when he was four years old. He will be gone from my Arizona books after he leaves on his prison train to Saint Augustine, Florida, since he never returned to Arizona, and after all that time it's going to feel quite strange for him to be gone.


New Words: 3750 (750 / 3000) on what is now chapter 4 ("The Renegades, 1885") of Copper Heart. I didn't just start a new chapter, exactly. I decided that my original chapter 3 was too long and broke off the last third for chapter 4. "The Renegades" doesn't refer solely to the Apache.

Total Words: 147,700.

Book Year: 1886.

Reason For Stopping: Getting ready for work.

Mammalian Assistance: See above picture for Hayes the Baby Cat's help. Vegas also came in to guard his box pile (and repeatedly grab my right hand) towards the end of the writing day.

Exercise: Walked to work and back yesterday; just a bit of poking around the woods with Tucker today.

Stimulants: None.

Today's Opening Passage:

Yesterday: There were many things you could say about General George Crook, Gus thought. But today it was that he got right to the point.

Today: Gus’ latest meeting with Geronimo came in a peaceful, almost idyllic spot south of the border. Water rippled through a ravine filled with cottonwoods and willows and other lush, almost tropical plants. There alone, or with a girl—not that Gus had a girl, he flushed briefly to remember—it would have been magnificent. But then the Apache arrived decked out with gun belts and colorful blankets Gus guessed had been stolen from Mexicans since the attack that killed Captain Crawford, and suddenly the ravine was more choking than paradise.

It also wasn’t lost on Gus that the name of the spot where they were having the parlay was the Canon de los Embudos: the Canyon of the Tricksters.

Darling Du Jour: The white man’s name was C.S. Fly, and he was from a town called Tombstone — although Kaywaykla had no idea why the White Eyes would be so reckless as to name one of their towns after the site of a grave. It was like they were asking spirits and evil to come down on them. He just relegated that to the back of his mind as yet another thing he would never understand about the whites.

But he did understand their obsession with taking photographs. He knew whites and Mexicans didn’t have minds as good as the Dineh; they couldn’t remember the stories their people told through the generations, and so found other ways to record them, like writing. He hadn’t been surprised that Captain Bourke was writing down everything everyone said; that was the only way the whites would remember it. Kaywaykla almost felt sorry for them.

Their photographs were another thing they used to remember. So he wasn’t surprised when one of them brought a camera and asked permission to take pictures of the Dineh, including sitting down with the soldiers. ...

Many of the soldiers looked horrified — Kaywaykla noticed with hidden amusement — as Fly told Goyakla and the others how he wanted them to look. Whatever the newspapers might do with the pictures, though, Fly was not making the Dineh tell bad stories about themselves. They posed on their horses. They posed holding rifles and wearing their gun belts. They posed alone or lined up with the canyon walls behind them. They posed with their families — Goyakla even stood in the center of one with his son beside him, and the son holding Goyakla’s baby grandson. Kaywaykla admitted to himself that while the posing felt strange, something about it also felt good, with a rightness to it.

At once he knew that even if they all surrendered tomorrow and never saw their land again, they would never be forgotten.

Non-Research / Review Books In Progress: None; right now it's all research and review.

When I posted the other day about truths that Tucker the Big Dog reminds me about, I could've added the personal one of "Don't forget to go hiking every now and then".

That's something else I've let slide since going deep into the Arizona books. But two days ago, with snow on the ground and more coming down, I found I couldn't resist (and I didn't exactly have to twist Tucker's leg to get him behind the idea). I originally only meant to take him for some poking around in the woods behind our house, then we went just a bit farther up into the woods behind the house next door (the one I'm trying to buy), and then a bit farther, and then I thought "It's been a long time since I've taken pictures of Tucker in the snow". So we ended up tromping through another hundred or so snow-filled forest acres.

A happy Tucker spots the mostly-forgotten logging road heading up the mountain and realizes what I'm about.

+4 )



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