Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday Musings on Memorial Day

Charlton Bruce Camp
I have very few memories of my father who served in the Navy during World War II. I remember a kind man with a quirky sense of humor, quick to laugh, and equally quick to flashes of temper. He was a Hollywood stuntman and part-time bartender. My parents divorced when I was 5. Maybe because he gambled. We left post-war Los Angeles behind.

Allen Dorfman, 1968
Fast forward a few decades or so to San Francisco where I met Allen in the 1970s. He was a year back from serving as a front-line grunt in Vietnam. We were inseparable from the beginning and married a year after we met. At that time, he struggled with night terrors. He told me a few stories and he wrote. But then we had our precious baby girl. After a time, he stopped writing.

Last year, for his 70th birthday, our daughter and I published his novel based on his experiences in Vietnam. His book, Reaching, is available on Amazon

Here, in memory of those he served with, is one of those stories he told me. 

by Allen Dorfman

I remember being trapped while serving as a sergeant in Viet Nam.

My unit was sent out to a hot zone. The helicopter was packed with soldiers, and there wasn’t enough room, so several of us lay on the floor. I couldn’t see anything but blackness around me. The floor rattled and shook under me. My helmet vibrated against the bulkhead, and I could feel my pack and gun against my back. No one yelled over the noise, for we were going into battle.

The helicopter in front of us exploded. The captain screamed, “We’re going down. God protect us.” We somehow landed in a blast of hot air, gunfire, and shrapnel. We laid down a round of intense fire. The helicopter got off safely, but we were trapped along a tiny treeline, surrounded by Viet Cong. Outnumbered.

Snipers picked at us. Our young Lieutenant told my buddy Timmy to send out probing fire. He stood up to fire. A shot pierced his forehead, and he fell back into our hole.

“Listen, men,” cried the Lieutenant. “I want us to move across the field to that treeline.”

I felt Timmy’s hand grow cold in mine. “You’re going to lead us across that empty field?”

“Men, move out,” he replied. “I’m staying here with the radio.”

“We’re not going,” I said. “When you want to lead us, we’ll go.”

“When do you think we should go?”

“I’ll tell you,” I said.

We waited until dusk and then low-crawled over the open field. When we reached the treeline where the enemy had peppered fire at us all day, they were gone. Someone said they were probably afraid we were going to bring in cluster bombs. We radioed for a helicopter. 

Some 100 men went in, less than forty returned. Eight of us walked out uninjured, carrying body bags, the others hobbled behind, but we were still in Viet Nam.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday: Just fooling around with videos . . .

Today, thought I would try a new video for Standing Stones, my first book in the McDonnell saga to see which might work best to support my overall marketing.

I could use Vimeo or Youtube. Here are the results of both. Which do YOU like better?

VIMEO: Set up with Vimeo for a "lite" (free) account. Limited to 6 frames and 30 seconds. Took me about 1.5 hours to figure out how to draft, edit and create the following. Cons: No direct link to my Amazon page for Standing Stones.

Standing Stones, Book 1

YOUTUBE. Here's the 30 second version on YouTube. It's been awhile since I used YouTube's uploading/editing features, but I found some neat music from their free music library (Celtic) and liked how I could add more than 3-5 words to support each slide. One negative: I didn't have good control over what would be the 'bookmark' image. 

What took me so long (about 3 hours) is creating the PowerPoint slide show (edit, edit), then figuring out how to export it in video format so I can easily upload the finished 30-second product to YouTube!

TAKE 2 for YOUTUBE. This wonderful two minute version was created by Sandy Brown Jensen as a surprise for me and features beautiful Celtic music by Mairead Nesbitt, "The Butterfly."

So now I'm wondering, of the two YouTube videos, which is easier -- the 30-second version or the 2-minute version?

And of the two 30-second versions, do you like the Vimeo format OR the YouTube format?

Thank YOU for commenting! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Morning Musings: Book Reviews

Frank Henry, c. 1918
My grandfather used to scan the sky for weather changes, the way dark clouds might hug the horizon or riffles suggest a coming storm. 

He was a cowboy, well used to what could happen if he were out checking fence on horseback, miles from shelter.

My most physical labor is keyboarding. I glance at the sky occasionally, when deciding which shoes to wear if it's raining or when to time that dash to the supermarket or those walks in my suburban neighborhood.

As a self-published writer, I confront daily that challenge to balance writing with marketing. Two weeks ago, I signed up for an online marketing class and have been inundated by e-mailed workshops, marketing tips for writers, and exhortations. I should have seen that coming.

My mantra? Divide and conquer. Pick one or two marketing suggestions each week. Try them. See what worked. Rinse and repeat. For the coming week, my focus will be on reviews. 

Why write a review or ask for one? 

Apparently people are swayed by reviews. Most of the time, I read the blurb, jump to scanning the writer's storytelling skills inside the book (whether picking up that book physically or online), and then make a decision. My husband is guided by all those "best of . . . " and reads literary fiction. I read everything else.

But I do subscribe to several e-mails (including from my local library) that send me suggested titles to read in historical fiction. 

Last week's e-mail brought an invitation to vote in this year's "Best Blog Review Blog Award" competition. 

Some 25 blogs and websites were suggested as this year's best. I read through these blogs, considering content, sophistication of setup (some were formal websites; others were rolling blogs), genres covered (and likely audience), clarity of instructions on subbing for reviews, and relevance to my writing. 

And despite that avalanche of incoming e-mail, I found a few new sites to subscribe to and added three more books to my TBR list.

What's next? My goals currently include writing at least one review a month, preferably for an indie or self-published writer. This week, I'm also going to request a review for my books from two of my favorite sites. And, yes, I voted. Will you?  

Have you ever asked someone to write a review? Or written a review -- for an indie writer? Was this difficult? 

Here's my favorite meme of the week from Steven Malone's Google+ site along with a link to this neat article (also from Steven) on "Book Reviews: A Casual Readers' Guide to Reviewing." Anthony Eichenlaub will have you laughing and rethinking how you write reviews.

If you would like to review any one of my books, send me an e-mail letting me know which one, and I'll send you an e-book!  Make it a good week.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tracking down Archie

My quest this month and last has been to research those people Canadian artist Paul Kane met on his trip from the wilds of Canada down to the Willamette Valley around 1842-1847, during the fur trading era.

Kane's journal, Wanderings of an Artist, introduced  a "Mr. Mackenlie'" as a chief trader in Oregon City. Following the winter holidays at Fort Vancouver, the two traveled down the Columbia River to Oregon City, Kane's mission being to see and paint as much of native life as possible.

"Oregon City" painted by Henry James Warre 1845 (Wikipedia)

Kane goes on to write that he spent some three weeks with "Mr. Mackenlie," well entertained by his "stories of Indian life." In one tale, a three-pound caret of tobacco went missing from the store. "Mr. Mackenlie" suspected an Indian had taken it, so had the Chiefs assemble everyone. He told them of the theft and "wished everyone present would place his mouth to the muzzle of the gun and blow into it, assuring them that it would injure no one innocent of the theft," but it would kill the thief (132). "Mr. Mackenlie" began the process, followed by every other person in the room, except one man who said, "he would not tempt the Great Spirit" (133).

That's all the information I had about "Mr. Mackenlie," so I turned to Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek's Paul Kane's Great Nor-West to learn that when they left Fort Vancouver, the temperature hovered around 7 below zero. And "Mackenlie" was Archibald McKinlay. Now the fun begins, and I am very grateful for Google searches. Here's what I've learned about Archie, for each little snippet takes me deeper into what life was like back in the 1840s.

Scottish Archibald McKinlay (1805-1891) came to Canada in 1830 with his sister Ellen who had married James MacMillan.  He began work as an apprentice clerk for the Hudson's Bay Company at York Factory in 1832 and also served at Red River in 1834. Archie was tall, had ginger-colored hair, weighed about 200 pounds, and was by several accounts quite chatty with a flair for solving problems diplomatically.  

In 1835, Archie was transferred west of the Rockies, where he met up with Alexander Caulfield Anderson at Jasper House; they became lifelong friends, later serving together on the Indian Reserve Commission together in the 1870's. 

Archie served as a trader at several different Hudson Bay Company posts, the last being Fort Nez Perces (now Walla Walla). He never went home again. After the Oregon Treaty of 1846, he moved to Oregon City. commenting, "It's no surprise we lost Fort Vancouver. Every year, the Americans came out on the trail, as thick as mosquitos."

On June 15, 1840, Archie married Julia Sarah at Fort Vancouver, one of the daughters of Peter Skene Ogden -- who was Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver at the time. 

Archie and Julia had 10 children, though one report suggests they had 5 children. Large families were not unusual during this time of no birth control. The first, a daughter, was born in 1837 at Red River (a footnote suggests she might have been a foster child), but given that Archie was a favorite of Peter Skene Ogden, and traveled widely, more research would be needed. It was not uncommon for marriages to occur years after the couple married 'in the style of the country.' Julia traveled with her husband, so she would have been at Oregon City when Paul Kane stayed there.
Source: Branwen Christine Patenaude Trails to Gold, Volume 2, page 60.
I also discovered that Archibald McKinlay loved books -- of a certain kind. In 1842, he ordered $100 worth of books through Dr. Marcus Whitman, though these books did not arrive at Fort Vancouver until June of 1845. The books traveled from Boston around the Horn with a stop in Hawaii before arriving on the Columbia River. Mostly religious in nature, the crate of 60 books did not include Shakespeare or any popular fiction! (PDF article by J. Orin Oliphant, Washington Historical Quarterly, 1933).

Interested in reading more? See Paul Kane's Wanderings of an Atist Among the Indians of North America; Nancy Marguerite Andeson's The Pathfinder: A. C. Anderson's Journeys in the West; Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek's Paul Kane's Great Nor-West; Nichole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, Brenda Macdougall, eds.Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History; and Branwen Christine Patenaude Trails to Gold, Volume 2. 

And just one last link: Nancy Marguerite Anderson, consistently writes about the fur trade era on her blog, with much good excerpts from letters and journals. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Volcanoes and my current work-in-progress

When I first started thinking about what Rivers of Stone might include and that connection between the fur trading era, Hawaii, and the Great Pacific Nor'west, I thought about volcanoes and the clouds of ash that fell on Oregon City during Mount St. Helens' massive eruption in 1980, just before we moved to Oregon.

For on March 27, 1847, Mount St. Helens did erupt, and Canadian painter Paul Kane did paint a fiery plume coming out of her left side at night.

Paul Kane, "Mount St. Helens Erupting at Night," 1847
Source Wikimedia

Perhaps this 'fiery eruption' was partly created by the artist's imagination. Volcanologists report that between 1840 and 1850 before entering a long period of dormancy, Mount St. Helens did erupt in 1844, 1845, and 1846, with smoke plumes being most common, as spotted by British spy Henry Warre.  

Paul Kane wrote in his Wanderings of an Artist: "There was not a cloud visible in the sky at the time I commenced my sketch, and not a breath of air was perceptible: suddenly a stream of white smoke shot up from the crater of the mountain, and hovered a short time over its summit; it then settled down like a cap. This shape it retained for about an hour and a-half, and then gradually disappeared." 

Kane further notes: "About three years before this the mountain was in a violent state of irruption [sic] for three or four days, and threw up burning stones and lava to an immense height, which ran in burning torrents down its snow-clad sides."

But it doesn't sound like Kane directly observed that fiery 'irruption.' I did find a fascinating aside reported by Warre in his journals about an Indian, tribe unknown, who told of trying to jump over a strange river of hot stones when he was hunting near Mount St. Helens. He miscalculated the jump and badly burned his leg, which was later treated by a Dr. Barclay at Fort Vancouver. Warre's story contradicts Kane's report that the natives refused to go near Mount St. Helens.

Dr. Forbes Barclay
Source: Oregon Health & Science University
As research threads unravel, I followed this lead to find that Dr. Forbes Barclay, born in the Shetland Islands in Scotland, was a surgeon and fur trader at Fort Vancouver from 1840 to 1850, just the time my characters would have visited there. 

So, Paul Kane would have known Dr. Barclay. 

Further, Dr. Barclay moved to Oregon City, about the time that John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor at Fort Vancouver, moved there. Both men married M├ętis women, and Dr. Barclay built his house next door to McLoughlin in 1849. He married Marie Pambrun at Fort Vancouver in 1843.

Richard Matthews, a National Park Service volunteer at the Barclay House, was interviewed for a series of videos about the Oregon Trail. This five-minute video focuses on Dr. Forbes Barclay.

Maybe I won’t have fiery volcanoes or clouds of ash in my story, but now I’m thinking Dr. Barclay will make an appearance in Rivers of Stone

Another surprise: I’ve also been on the hunt for a quilt to put in my story and just discovered that a 200-year-old quilt is housed today in the museum that was once John McLoughlin’s home in Oregon City. Aha! More research is needed. 

Yesterday, a friend wanted to know when Rivers of Stone would be available. I'm still editing but hoping for this year. Sign up for my newsletter HERE to find out exactly when.  

Questions? Comments?

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

IWSG: The Power of a Writing Community

Most days, the writing itself is its own reward. I know when my scenes work and when further editing/writing is needed. And, most of the time, I can catch those grammatical errors. 

I'm most interested in critiques that help me dig deeper into my stories, spot structural problems, character missteps, plot holes, misplaced images, flat writing, and, perhaps most challenging, straggling or struggling story lines.

But I haven't found a face-to-face writing group that gives this kind of feedback. Yet.

Nile Crocodile (Wikipedia)
I've been in groups where at the end of the evening, I've felt somewhat eviscerated. And in other groups where everyone smiled and told me how wonderful my story was. 

Neither advances my cause. The criticisms that cut to the bone leave me doubting, and the fans who wave pompoms also cause me to doubt my storytelling skills.

What about online writing groups that critique work-in-progress? 

The Internet Writing Workshop offers a listserv exchange for people interested in getting feedback on novels. For every one of your own chapters you post for review, you need to critique two chapters by other writers. I've met other serious writers this way, read and critiqued some wonderful work, and gained immensely from very thoughtful critiques. The sheer volume of subs can be daunting, but I'm nearly ready to join again those colleagues of the pen in NOVELS-L, one chapter at a time.

Just as the Facebook group, 10-Minute Novelists, has helped me write in little bites, so too the Facebook group, Insecure Writer's Study Group has helped me feel connected to other writers. 

Manito Park (Camp 2014)
Writing is a solitary pursuit. I'm OK with that most of the time. But I do want critical feedback, perhaps from beta readers by the end of the summer.

That's my writing goal for 2016. Finish the draft. Find a few good readers for critical feedback. Publish Rivers of Stone this year.

It's spring, the season for optimism. May your own writing and editing go well. 

Find out what other IWSG writers are thinking about this month on the Insecure Writer's Study Group website or on the Facebook page.