Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tony Hillerman country.

Ever since I picked up my first Tony Hillerman novel I was hooked. His stories about the Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee were a lot of fun to read, or listen to on audio books. One of the many things that made his books stand out in my opinion was the way he treated the Native American characters in work. They had problems just as any of us do, some were looking to the Traditional Ways to find the answers while others didn't believe in them. Leaphorn was the modern policeman using all the technology and psychology available to solve the crime, while Chee was a Traditionalist and used his knowledge of the Navajo traditions to do the same. Along the way were characters with all the flaws of mankind. Then he told us about the landscape and the sounds of the desert Southwest as it is today. One of the reasons for this post this week is because I am in the area of the Big Res, along I-40. I love this part of the country but it is now a little sad because Tony Hillerman is gone. There will be no more adventures with Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, and that is a reason for some wistful thoughts of the books already read. Even the Navajos, Hopi, Zunis and Apaches miss him. I only hope that in my writing I can do justice to the people I write about as well as he did.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Southerners who supported the Union?

While doing some research this morning I asked someone for some help since they were more familiar with a specific area and its history. The result was eye opening to say the least. I wanted my main character to have come from the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia after the Civil War. Because of the time frame involved he needed to be the son of an anti-secessionist Southerner. Thinking that they would have been a very small group it was amazing to find that there were a whole lot of them. As I found out from this site Southern Unionists Chronicles. The whole story got started with two main ideas, a Southern Gentleman sitting in his study reading about the travels of Lewis and Clark, and being taken by the descriptions of the horses of the Nez Perce, and the idea of breeding such horses at extremely high altitudes to increase their stamina. Since the breed was almost destroyed after Chief Joseph's famous attempt to get many of his people into Canada in 1877 it was a matter of getting the details worked out to cover the time gap. Which is why it is the son who is the main character and who came west after his father lost everything to both the Confederacy and later to the Carpetbaggers who came south after the war. Now if I can just get the rest of the story to come together it could be very interesting to write.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Her real name.

This is a rough time of year for me. It is nearing the anniversary of the events that are recounted in Jo Anna. The story came about because of a writing exercise on one of the Authors boards I used to have time for. Someone read a scene that I had written for the exercise and asked me if it was true. When I told the board that it was indeed true everyone encouraged me to tell the whole story. Originally the scene dealt with a soldier standing tall and proud in the sunshine. His uniform is immaculate and he looks every inch the soldier, from the soles of his paratrooper boots to the Beret on his head. On closer inspection the reader learns that there are tears streaming down his cheeks. In front of him is a casket and inside is a female. He yearns to once more touch the hair like spun gold, see the mischief in her twinkling eyes and to feel her kiss once more. To once more hear the music of her voice as she calls him Daddy.

I once was that soldier and stood that watch. When I decided to write that story there was no way that I could bring myself to write it in the first person. So I changed the names and wrote it from the outside looking in. It is sometimes said that a writer should write what they know. Well I knew that story intimately. From being the grandfather who sits in terror watching his granddaughters get their first riding lesson, to the soldier standing in the California summer sun feeling as if the world around him had disappeared and only he alone stood there watching his daughters funeral. In truth there were a lot of people who were touched by the joyous spirit of that little girl not just this writer. They all tried to help ease the loneliness that followed and I thank them for that. It was July 15th 1980 when it all happened and her real name was Jean Marie.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vioce of the West.

When I was very young, I lived in Colorado Springs, and it was a much simpler time. It was nothing for my mother to let me go down town to the movies by myself at the age 7 or 8. She even let me go down to see the big parade of the year, the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. It was a magical time for me. Horses of every shape and size ridden by cowboys and cowgirls from all over, but the biggest thrill for me was to see the Grand Marshall. The one that sticks out most in my memory was Rex Allen and his horse Koko. Well last weekend I found a radio station that took me back to that time. It is out of Santa Ynez California and I stumbled on it through Face Book. I can listen to it on the internet and hear the music that reminds me of the West that I grew up in. Thanks to their Face Book page I was even able to exchange messages with the son of one of my childhood heroes Rex Allen Jr. The flow of old country to the distinct sound of western music makes it fun to listen to and is conducive to my writing efforts. Since this is our Independence Day holiday I can think of very little that epitomizes the Spirit of our country more than the mythos of the American Cowboy and our western expansion. If you are looking for a great mix of music that you won’t hear anywhere else take time to check out Range Radio the voice of the West. Now if you will excuse me I will take a trip back in time and try to write some more.