Thursday, February 26, 2015

SOTQ Blog: Grand Canyon

“The English novelist J. B. Priestley once said that if he were an American, he would make the final test of whatever men chose to do in art, business, or politics a comparison with the Grand Canyon. He believed that whatever was false and ephemeral would be exposed for what it was when set against that mass of geology and light…”
― Kevin FedarkoThe Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

These two sentences express a truth so close to my heart it had never occurred to me to express it. But as I prepare to send off my thirteen-years-in-the-making book, I realize I’m holding it to this standard. Are the characters and story line true and worthy enough to give readers the tiniest hint of the feeling of gazing at the Grand Canyon? That awareness that things are much more beautiful and awe-inspiring than you recalled, and why hadn’t you looked up sooner to notice? The feeling that you always want to carry this awareness with you, because life would be emptier without it? That’s what I want people to feel when they close the back cover of my book.

P.S. The Emerald Mile, if you haven’t read it yet, is an amazing mix of historical exploration (first third), politics and hydrotechnology (second third), and adventure (last third) that shouldn’t work but does because of great writing. It passes the Priestley Grand Canyon test for sure. Also, the non-fiction characters just happen to be better than any we fiction writers could invent. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Location, Location, Location

by Nib
I’m a sandwich generation. In my case, it means I was raised by parents who had no love for the outdoors, preferred to watch television most evenings, and had it not been for their individual recliners, would have been the original couch potatoes. Somehow, I raised two daughters who, despite all my efforts to the contrary, can watch TV for long consecutive hours and have great tolerances for sedentary behavior.
I have some kind of mutant outdoors genes. From my earliest memories I was outside running, roller skating, riding my bike, all accompanied by skinning my knees, falling from trees and knocking the wind out of my lungs, smashing my tailbone on hidden concrete abutments when jumping into a roaring irrigation ditch.
When I married young and moved to the Nebraska Sandhills, I jogged on county roads or pedaled my mountain bike through isolated sandy pastures. Folks in my community thought I was nuts and couldn’t understand why I just didn’t plant more fence posts or throw more hay bales if I needed to exercise. One old geezer loved to pull up beside me in his rusty sky-blue Dodge pickup while I was jogging and lean out his window. “If you’re not in a hurry, I’ll give you a ride into town.”

When I escaped from Nebraska, I finally felt free to indulge my passion. I moved to Boulder, CO and immediately began hiking and mountain biking. I bought a road bike and enjoyed days of pedaling the foothills trails and roads. I took up snow shoeing, SCUBA and kayaking, cross country skiing, week-long backpack trips in the wilderness.
Then I ended up in Flagstaff, AZ, gateway to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Lake Powell and desert, mountains, prairies. After a lifetime of being considered a freak for wanting to play outside, I was living the dream.
I’ve accidently plopped back down in Nebraska, temporarily. (Only 89 more days of our year and a half sentence) but even here I manage to ride my bike, walk and jog. Again, I’m sort of a freak but not as bad as it was fifteen years ago.
When I left Nebraska I vowed I’d never live anywhere icky again. (So much for vows.) Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan. But here’s the deal about writing fiction: we can always make it work out our way.
That’s why Nora, the protagonist of the Nora Abbott Mysteries, gets to live in really great places. She doesn’t have to face the cloying humidity of southwest Nebraska summers or day after day of milky skies all winter or the raw wind of March on the prairie.
In Tainted Mountain, Nora started out in Flagstaff, on a ski mountain in June. Spicy pines, flashing Indian paintbrush and fiery penstemmon amid the green grass of the slopes. Sunshine and blue skies with mountain air so fresh you’d need to slap it.

In Broken Trust, Nora got to move to Boulder, CO, my heart home. In October, with the oak flashing its red leaves, young people surging on the Pearl Street Mall as another semester at CU is underway. The majestic Rocky Mountains held back by the famous Flatirons and everywhere the beauty and quirkiness that makes Boulder so special.
And in Tattered Legacy, Nora travels to Moab in the spring. The iconic red rocks and hoodoos  (don’t you love that word?) and fins of Arches National Park and the giant spires that march over the desert valleys bring Nora into a landscape so amazing it leaves me nearly speechless.

And I got to go to every one of those places. I got to hang out and be there. So even if I’m spending one last winter in the gray gloom of the Nebraska prairie, I can keep the beauty of the outdoors with me.

What is your favorite place, your heart home?
BTW-- Tattered Legacy is available for pre-order now and will officiall launch March 8. Signed copies are available now from The Plains Trading Company Booksellers

Monday, February 9, 2015

A sweetheart of a day!

    What could be more fun than Valentine's Day in Heart City? Valentine, Nebraska! The first Tattered Legacy event. What a sweetheart of a day!