Blog – Laugh. Snark. Love.

One Thing

We ambled along the edge of the field, not going much faster than I could walk on pavement. When I asked Jodie what this was called, meaning how the horses were walking. She laughed and said, “Walking.” Then she told me about horse gaits, beating them out on the front of her saddle. Clop-clop, clop-clop. She pointed to different places around us and told me things, names of mountains, visible to us here and a little farther away, people my dad knew, and all sorts of other things.
In between we were quiet, listening to the hooves making contact with the pasture and the horses’ breathing as we went along. When we came up to a group of bushes, about 300 tiny birds began screeching and burst out and above us to the left. We stopped and focused, almost hypnotized, by the reflection of the sun on their wings, as they turned many times in mid-flight.
– Chickenshit: Crisis #7 The One Thing
Billie and Jodie spend a beautiful afternoon taking care of Sheila’s horses. Billie grows conflicted over selling the farm, even as more people show interest in buying it. The movies make it seem so easy to figure things out. Real life decisions are a little tougher for one Billie Hatcher.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


The One Thing … Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that simple. If we could just search for that one thing, like the character, Curly (Jack Palance), talks to Mitch (Billy Crystal) about in City Slickers, that one thing that gives meaning and definition to our lives, grab it and hang on for dear life. Of course, we all can, but there are always consequences, and usually our one thing is made up of complicated parts, often at war with each other. Even when we keep the one thing in mind, life forces all sorts of compromises along the way.
With Billie’s dad, Dan, the farm became the one thing he could not live without. Unfortunately, his relationships with his family suffered because his one thing did not mesh with their lives at the time.  His one thing did bring other benefits, though, like the many friendships in the community and building a strong, loyal friendship with Elliot.
In my own life, I’ve searched for the one thing (and, yes, I cannot get the INXS song out of my head when I write about this) over decades that are now mounting into middle age, and had various answers at various times. In my teens and early twenties, it was all about finding love. I went to unbelievable lengths at times to win and keep the affection of another. In my thirties, it was about raising a child. I don’t regret one single opportunity I missed out on because of my focus on parenting. It has been (and still is) the most rewarding experience of my life. And now, in my forties, with my prior priorities still in my life, I have been struggling to focus on one of the one things I wanted to do all along (forgive the grammar) – gasp for air – write.
I just read an interview with Terri Gross, and she said that she never wants to retire, has no plans to ever do so. She’s okay that her career didn’t allow for children because she never had a burning desire to procreate. I guess, when you have that kind of certainty about something, it is your one thing, and it can take you through your whole life. Only being four years into taking this writing thing seriously, I cannot imagine ever quitting this process that both drives me and drives me crazy. Whether that will be the case a few years from now, or whether I will find a new one thing, remains to be seen.  I just know that I am enjoying the hell out of it for now, and, damn the consequences, I’m holding on for dear life. And I hope I make a few friends along the way.

Amazon Giveaway

Thank you, everyone! My book giveaways for Lookout Butte and Chickenshit Volume I have closed. Congratulations to the winners!

I hope to do another in the future. Until then, my books are available on Kindle Unlimited and are for sale at a reasonable price. I am currently working on Chickenshit Volume II. 

Later today, I will send out my weekly blog post which has a quote and chapter synopsis from Volume I.

Thanks, again!

 


 

Serenity Now. Whatever.

“Is that you?” I pointed with my fork.
“Used to be.” Elliot offered no explanation.
“Hmm. Were you in the service for a while?”
“Marines. A long time ago.”
We were quiet for a moment.
“I went to Panama. I was Recon, and I saw some awful things. I didn’t do so well when I came back. My unit took a pretty bad hit and I kind of got messed up in the head in more ways than one.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I’m okay. A lot of guys I knew didn’t even make it back to complain about shit, so how can I? But for a long time I was scared to leave this house. I’d get where I was dizzy and I couldn’t breathe. I even passed out once. It happened while I was driving. So I just gave up driving. I’ve been doing better for a long time. Working on the farm helps me a lot.”
I let his words sink in for a moment.
“So what would you do if I sell the farm?”

– Chickenshit: Crisis #6 Water, Water Everywhere

In Crisis #6, Elliot starts to reach out after his mother’s death. Billie and Jodie spend more time together. When the water pump that serves the animals goes out, Elliot saves the day.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


I hope everyone survived the holidays with their dignity intact. I spent some quality time with Steph and Phil and was able to talk to a relative who is kind of hard to reach. My family and I saw a ton of movies over the last couple of weeks. We just got Movie Pass cards, and, so far, they are fantastic. I am not running an ad here, but the card works on a monthly or annual fee and you can go to go to as many movies as you want, one per day. It was a no-brainer, since it costs less per month than one full price show, and I have already made my money back. Steph and I have been making further plans to turn Chickenshit into a graphic novel, talking with illustrators and honing in on a design and format for it. If it all comes together, the book could come out later this year.
There have been a lot of stops and starts over the last week. We plan on getting to the library early, but our chores run longer than expected. We set up a meeting and have to move it because the repairman comes later in the day than expected, then has to come back because the part wasn’t right.  We plan to get an early start, but someone’s addiction to Dexter keeps us up late, which causes us to sleep later than we meant to. Tsk tsk. So much beyond our control.
I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but I hope the past few days don’t prove to be an omen for the coming year. I have so many plans. Chickenshit Volume II should be published on April 1st, and volumes III and IV later in the year. My follow-up to Lookout Butte, Whippoorwill Springs, is due out for the Christmas season, and I would like to attend a few workshops and do some community events. And I want to go to the coast.
But Ontario, OR is nowhere near the coast. I have to find serenity where I can. Like Elliot, I sometimes find solace around the farm. In the early morning hours, I watch as the sun melts the hoarfrost and the orange-striped mouser stretches, stiff-legged out of her hay bale to wrap around my leg like a garden snake. In the barn, I move a goat mountain (yeah, I said that right) off me so I can throw some hay to her sisters and to the bucks. In the four-o-clock dusk, I snatch eggs from hens who are settled down for the night. They’ve squawked and bellowed the live-long day, but now I am disturbing THEIR quiet time – the gall!
At those times the empathy rises up in me.
“Hey, I just want to write, here! Why are these people/animals/vehicles thwarting me? You and me, Red. We got each other’s backs.”
“Bock, bock.”
Yeah, whatever.

Bah Humbug to Winter

As I stood in line, I could feel somebody watching me, so I turned around. A sawed-off redneck was staring me down.

“Is there something I can help you with?” I asked.

“Oh, shit, it’s a girl. Sorry, I thought you was a queer.”

“Well, I am, by the way.”

“Naw, I mean a queer boy. You mean you a lesbian?” He snickered.

I had just about had it when the cashier said, “Next, please!”

– Chickenshit: Crisis #5 Happy Valentine’s Day, Frodo

In Crisis #5, tragedy strikes Elliot’s household. Despite having a cold, Billie covers all the chores as best she can alone, takes care of poor Frodo, and runs errands for Elliot. Meanwhile, Billie’s mother doesn’t have time for her, Ton-Ton gets back in touch, and Billie can’t think up a good enough excuse to call Jodie. To top things off, two people in town misgender her.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


I hope everyone had an enjoyable week of Christmas. Now that’s done, we can get through New Years and rampage on to Spring. Oh, Spring, my heart yearns for you. As I sit here at the Ontario Library ensconced in my Gilmore Girls sweatshirt, shivering Bob Cratchit style, and downing cough drop after cough drop, I dream of green leaves bursting up towards the sunlight. Of baby chicks and dogs begging to go somewhere … anywhere. My mother always told me not to wish my life away, but, geez, winter sucks more than ever. From I-84 pile-ups and closures to the threat of falling every time I leave the house, I would just as soon deal with mud. To winter I say, “Bah humbug!”

And speaking of that phrase, have you seen The Man Who Invented Christmas? I highly recommend it. Starring Dan Stevens as the amazingly resourceful Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge, TMWIC, is easily one of the best films I have seen all year. We follow Dickens and his best friend, John Forster (played by Justin Edwards), as they scurry about London, trying to solve financial problems and overcome other obstacles, including the publication of a new Dickens novel and family issues. The portrayal of a writer interacting with his characters is witty and heartening for those of us who find ourselves bickering with our own characters over what happens to them and why.  In the movie, Dickens wins the argument with Ebenezer but later loses a debate with his reader and others who say the story is morose.

Writing can be a very solitary experience. For the writers out there, does anyone else have characters that sometimes talk back to you? Does it make it harder to put them in harm’s way or to let them suffer?

Happy Holidays, Ya’ll!

I woke up at 8:02 a.m. to a knock at the door. I took a look at my UW sweatpants and Pixies t-shirt and thought that whoever knocks at this time of morning should have low expectations. I opened the front door, and…

There. Stood. Jodie. From the library.

She was catching her breath and grinning the way girls do in cold weather. She had a snow shovel balanced on her shoulder.

– Chickenshit: Crisis #4 Chickenpooped

In Crisis #4, Billie is worn thin by working on the farm, doing her IT side jobs, and running back and forth to her best friend’s house in Boise. After Billie goes MIA at the ski lodge out of utter exhaustion, Liv decides she needs to put her stamp of approval on the farmhouse. Billie meets a talkative neighbor and a cute librarian.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


This week has a had a lot of stops and starts, but with a lot of help (thanks Traci and Kellen, the chickens now have clean, warm bedding to cozy down into. We still have one rehab bird that I think may be a little emo (every time she is close to reintegration, she causes another injury). All the chickens seem a little on edge this week. Earlier, one rooster (name withheld) who is normally docile tried to attack Steph. Don’t worry, he’s okay. Poor little Red bit my gloved hand when I was trying to give her snacks (it was dark, I get it). The BBS Marans roosters are a little giddy, too, and one little Welsummer hen keeps trying to sleep outside, which is particularly frustrating because we just built a chicken barn with enough room for a few dozen birds to roost and a small pony. Next on the agenda: wild bird mitigation.

Other than chores, we did some last minute shopping, watched A LOT of Dexter, saw the movie, Wonder, and drove past all the lights in downtown Caldwell during the first night of snowfall.

Getting Chickenshit out in paperback was a big hurdle because CreateSpace, that’s why. All the support and good responses I’ve received in the last few weeks has made the stress and annoyance of publication worthwhile. Being a new author AND an indie author can be an insular experience at times, like talking to a lamp post. It is often difficult to get feedback, but I have benefited in some way from each review, comment, or verbal exchange in regards to my writing. Ya’ll keep letting me know when I have spinach in my teeth, okay? I’d rather not walk around all day like that.

Meanwhile, I have been laying the groundwork for my next southern novel, the second book in the Lookout Butte series. The working title is Whippoorwill Springs. The current plan is to have it on pre-release this spring.

I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season! Stay warm.

 

Are You a Sucker for Movies with Great Settings?

If you’re not looking for the movie, Wonderstruck, screenplay and novel written by Brian Selznick and not to be confused with the newly released, Wonder, you might miss it. I had never heard of it, and of the dozen or more trailers I have watched over and over again for the last few months, Wonderstruck was not among them. Although the children are played by less lesser known actors, Millicent Simmonds (new actress) and Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon), it is strange that Julianne Moore’s involvement (she plays two important characters in the film) did not lead to more promotion. One day I just happened to check the dollar theater for movies I might have missed, and there it sat, teetering on the edge of disappearing forever. I clicked on a couple of trailers and thought it was worth watching. Even though it has gotten me into trouble in the past, I am still likely to watch any movie set in a museum, a college, or a library. I chose Wonderstruck over a couple of newer movies, and I am so glad I did. If you are a setting freak like me, stop reading and go watch the movie right now before it disappears from the big screen. If not, here’s what you will miss.

From the trailer, it is clear the two main story lines will merge into one, but as I watched I kept trying to do the math. The lady is old enough to be his grandmother, the mother just died, who is Dad again? Maybe it dragged a little in the beginning of Act II, or maybe a small pizza coma kicked in, but the movie quickly drew me back in and I stayed with it until the end. Unlike many movies I have seen of late, the plot is sound, without any holes or miss-steps. All the important questions are answered by the closing credits. The movie may be a miss for modern tweens who are without a long attention span, but it did connect with my inner twelve-year-old.

The first story line we see is set in 1927, where the main character, a deaf tween girl, rebels against her father, who wants her to study lip reading, ostensibly so she can fit into society better. Her reaction? Flee the house and head off to downtown New York to see her beloved actress, Lillian Mayhew, a woman she scrapbooks and dotes on. When her venture does not work out, she flees once again and heads straight for the Museum of Natural History. All along the route, the scenery, at least to this viewer, seemed flawless.

Interspersed with the first story line, is one about a twelve-year-old boy named Ben who becomes deaf from an accident. He, too, escapes a confusing life to run around New York, but this time in 1977. As he gets bumped around from one street to the next, eventually landing at the museum, as well, I scanned every corner of the screen for memorabilia and setting. From the storage cabinet fasteners to shoes to vehicles, and just the general feel of the film, every inch of the screen felt like the seventies. Although Space Oddity by David Bowie was used throughout the movie, the soundtrack includes other songs and orchestral music that adeptly set the mood. I was immersed in a place which felt like a lot like my childhood, those years in the late seventies that were striving to be the early eighties.

The museum scenes were cool, too. In the girl’s narrative, we get to see dioramas and displays from the twenties, as well as one of the exhibits that serves as a connection between both stories. In the boy’s narrative, we get to experience the museum displays, including another one that ties in with the story, and we get to go to an off-limits room, where the boys hang out and bond with each other.

I have not read the book yet, but I can see the movie strives to include many key points of the plot that would have been skimmed over in a different production. This story is beautiful, with a couple of tear-jerking moments and one of those tingly, realization moments, if you pay attention. The movie is thoughtful and adorable, definitely worth watching.

Next, I want to get a Redbox copy and go frame by frame to look for the digital watch I used to wear, scrutinize the furniture and glassware in Ben’s house again, and see if I can find my dad’s old car, a boat-sized 1972 Gran Torino, in any of the street scenes. In my old age, those things are comforting, don’t ask me why. If you see it, sit up close, and please let me know what you think of it.

 

Chickenshit Released on Paperback!

Seasons Greetings, everyone! 

Just in time for last minute gifts, my novel, Chickenshit, is now available on paperback (as well as Kindle). It’s the perfect present for the reader in your family and Amazon has free shipping through today! I hope you like the little video we put together. Please share with this with all your friends. Thank you for letting me be a part of your holidays!

Buy now by clicking here.

 __________________

Chickenshit, Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong, Volume I 

Billie’s life is right on track. Solid. She has a girlfriend to hang out with and an internship to build her resume until she goes back to U Dub next fall. But when her girlfriend bails on her and she inherits her dad’s farm in Milepost, Idaho, you could knock her over with a feather. Milepost is a world away from Seattle in more ways than one. There’s no good coffee, the locals are a mixed bag, and there is no social life whatsoever. As for the farm – the chickens try her patience, everything she owns is covered in poop, and the goats may prove her undoing. There’s no doubt she is in over her head just getting the place ready to sell, and her mom and best friend are frustratingly supportive without giving her any answers. Luckily, she has help from a hired man of sorts, an attorney she happens to be named after, a gorgeous librarian/cowgirl, and a bunch of people she doesn’t even know. The road to making a decision is definitely rocky, and soon she begins to ask herself: How can she go back to the big city after being down on the farm?

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle, and soon on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.

 

Columbia River Blues

Elliot and I hungrily slurped down our meal, as the weather station on the radio told us about the much needed snow pack and the upcoming week’s highs and lows. I was surprised how comfortable
it was, just eating and listening to the reports. We were so glad to be out of the cold, and the stew tasted like a steaming bowl of heaven. I think I would have eaten it if the bags had said “baby rhino” or “fly larvae” on them.

– Chickenshit: Crisis #3 Steaming Bowl of Heaven

In Crisis #3, Billie digs in and gets her hands dirty. She starts to get to let her dad’s presence sink in.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle, and soon on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


Last week, before Steph and I went on our monthly feed run to Brownsville, we were fortunate to get away to Astoria, one of my favorite places on earth, for a much needed two day break from editing and book promotion. It is so much easier to go there in the off season when the costs are way down, and so are the lines. It was about ten degrees warmer than home and time spent at 3 Cups Coffee seems of higher quality, somehow. I would lament not being able to ride the trolley, but we got to risk life and limb on the overlook to watch a vehicles carriers called Capricornus Leader go by. Steph leaning way out over the railing to take pictures and me clinging to the center posts for dear life, as frigid gusts and choppy waters caused the whole structure to sway back and forth. Way better than a pleasant, poky ride down the couple of miles of waterfront and back. And it’s cool to look these boats up online and see where they have been and where they are going. This one was sitting high in the water (so no or little cargo) and was headed down the Columbia. You can just make out the river pilot attempting to board, but the waters were so choppy they had to follow the ship into the lee of Tongue point to finally make it aboard. I can’t wait until we get back to Astoria.

Anyway, the trip was enjoyable, and we even brainstormed a couple of ideas for novels and wrote a couple of entries in a joint project we are working on.

Now we are back and at the whole writing thing again. The paperback of Chickenshit should be out … Any. Day. Now.

 

Winter Farm is Coming and NaNoWriMo So So

I saw a little grey chicken walking back and forth outside the coop gate. I scanned the farm, but Elliot was nowhere in sight. I know that sometimes chickens get attacked by dogs or wild animals, so I was pretty sure it needed to get back in the coop. Not having a clue how to catch it, I started talking to it. “Here, chick, chick, chick.” It looked like it was about to have a heart attack before I even got close to ten feet from it. I bent over and started to grab it, but it flew straight up, exploded, and then reassembled into a chicken about five feet away.

– Chickenshit: Crisis #2 Laid Back Farm Life

In Crisis #2, Billie slowly figures out that the farm belongs to her now, and it is gradually hitting her that there’s not going to be an easy fix. Still, it doesn’t feel like hers. As she tiptoes into her responsibilities, she longs for the comfort of her old life in Seattle and the easy but superficial relationship with her ex-girlfriend, Ton-Ton.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle, Amazon paperback November 2017. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


The last week has been a mix of last minute farm activity (rearranging chickens and leaf relocation), getting the paperback version of Chickenshit ready for publication, and taking my first stab at NaNoWriMo.

With the cold weather comes special consideration for the birds and egg collection. Nobody wants to slog through mud to grab eggs twice a day, risking slips and falls, so we’ve put down a lot of sand. And now that the babies have matured, it’s time to move them from the grow out pen and feather them into pens of their respective breeds, which requires a lot of shuffling of other birds. I also had to move my pet birds (Buff Orpingtons that will not be under consideration for freezer camp) from their chicken tractor. I initially moved them into the brooder pen, thinking life among younger birds would be easier for their reintegration into society, only to find that the young turks were bullying my girls into staying in the coop all day, and they had to dash outside to get access to food and water, getting pecked and jumped along the way. Now, they seem to fare better in the main pen, where the ladies are mostly older or smaller than they are. Additionally, a couple of weeks ago we finished building a small shed with roosting space and lots of nests, and we have been tweaking it occasionally. It’s a little maddening to build a huge roost space with lots of room and thick piles of pine shaving and still have to shoo birds from the top of nest boxes and off rafters. You’d think they would be a little grateful for all this work on their behalf, but, no, chickens are thankless birds. I mean, I wasn’t expecting a peck on the cheek, but maybe a couple of extra eggs or something.

I will say that Kindle is fairly easy to work with, but Create Space, not so much. I am very thankful that I have Steph to work on the issues that arise prior to publication, as I would surely be pulling my hair out at times. Anyway, I do what I can to assist.

Finally, NaNoWriMo. I was lucky enough to have access to a series of local writing events. Thank you Chris Hollaway, for putting all the events together. I hope it builds every year. There was an event almost every day, and I was glad to participate in many of them. We got into a comfortable routine of initial greetings, settling into writing, and interrupting our work only occasionally for comments or questions. Writing is often such a solitary exercise, and it was great to have another perspective available at times. I highly recommend participation in a group for anyone who decides to do NaNoWriMo next year – especially if you can get to know the group ahead of time. No one wants to sit down to write and be constantly interrupted. Well, except that one guy. But it would also be rough to not feel comfortable enough to speak up every once in a while. There can be a balance.

My project for NaNoWriMo was the second book in my Lookout Butte series. But I found myself still writing copy for ads, announcements, and the first chapter of Chickenshit Volume II to include at the end of Volume I. I didn’t get very far along on my primary project, but I reached 14,745 words with all projects combined (but not including character descriptions an outlines). Not too shabby for someone who used to eek out a small, unmeasured number of words per month. The working title for my next book is Whippoorwill Springs. I plan to have it finished by early spring.

Did anyone else do NaNoWriMo? If so, how did you fare? What inspired you? Did you read the daily posts?