Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Year, New Dog, New Carpet

Isn’t she a little darling? Sweet face, good disposition, and beginning to feel right at home. I’ve had Roxanne since December 9th. She was timid and nervous at first, and why not? She’d been a stray, rounded up and consigned to a death sentence at a kill shelter in Houston. Then she was rescued, fostered for a while in Texas, and sent North. That meant a five-day road trip to Portland, Oregon in a windowless trailer with eight other dogs.

Now with a steady, balanced diet, she is losing her old coat, shedding enough hair to make a couple of very itchy sweaters (if one were so inclined). Dog bunnies float by on every bare surface. With the new coat she's also getting new markings, and has chewed the corners off the furniture, a pair of $165 shoes, a few slippers, and an appliance cord. I'm ecstatic! It’s great! So great, in fact, that I have engaged a private trainer, endorsed by Cesar Millan–the Dog Whisperer, who will be here on Wednesday to help offset the fact that an estimator came out today to give me a quote on new carpeting and hardwood for the first floor of the house. Apparently Roxanne making herself right at home includes all of the above and peeing in the dining room and living room. Oh, boy! What joy!

The little darling. 
Accustomed to doing research on the job, I have studied this problem from every angle and followed a lot of advice. I bought a crate. I have set the stove timer and taken her outside every 30 minutes to do . . . nothing. If it’s raining, she’ll wait under the eave at the patio door while I stand in the rain trying to coax her out. I've wheedled. I've ordered. I've commanded. I've offered a bribe. If the grass is wet, she might take a magnificent leap over the low garden fencing that keeps the chickens off the patio, run around the yard a couple of times and then come back, having done nothing. She flies over that fence just like Lassie. On walks, she does nothing. She saves every ounce for her chosen spot, the carpet. Obviously, all of this has resulted in a lot of exasperation and some downright horror.

I’d have to say that nothing can snap me out of writing mode more effectively than stopping to clean up another of Roxanne’s leavings.

But. She’s a great watchdog, and is such a joy to ride with in the car. I adored my last dog, Chrissie, as I’ve mentioned, and I still mourn her loss.
She was loving, loyal, and compared to Roxanne, she was a Rhodes Scholar. She never had an accident in the house, but to take her anywhere in the car was a nightmare. She got so hyper and barked so much, I had to leave her at home most of the time. Roxanne won’t stay in the back seat unless she’s restrained, but she’s content to watch the scenery go by and stick her nose out the opened window. She's not a leash-puller so walking her doesn’t require a trip to the hospital for rotator cuff surgery.

The new flooring won’t be installed until she has learned that it’s not okay to use the house for her toilet. So in the interim, the carpet shampooer, the new vacuum, and my Bissell Little Green are getting the workouts of their mechanical lives.

I’m getting by on store-brand acetaminophen for the backaches that come with operating the machinery. Wine works too and is more fun. You can't take both together, more's the pity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

There’s Something About A Western

Sunday afternoon I went to the movies to see True Grit. I didn’t see the original; I confess I’m not a big John Wayne fan. That’s just personal preference here. But on the other hand, have you ever thought about how many criminals and other infamous people have been named John Wayne Something? Just off the top of my head, I remember John Wayne Gacy and John Wayne Bobbitt.

But I digress. True Grit held me captive to the screen for its full running time of 110 minutes. I never once looked at my watch, didn’t sneak out to the bathroom, and I was sort of yanked from my spellbindings (I know, not a real word) when the credits began to roll. I learned from my friend Lee B to always sit through those to the very end because it’s part of the experience, and she’s right. My being a big fan of Coen brothers’ films didn’t even enter into this, except that they've made another wonderful movie.

True Grit reminded me why I’ve so often been drawn to write westerns.  I have studied and researched this part of our heritage, always entertained and sometimes surprised. The American West even now holds a fascination for many people, including those from other countries. It has been my privilege to visit south Texas several times, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada (not just the casinos) and eastern Oregon and Washington. These and other western states were the birthplaces of real heroes, genuine psychopaths who could and did maneuver openly through society because there was no way to really stop them. Life was hard and those people who survived did so without our conveniences and advantages, the lack of which would probably kill us now. Many couldn’t read or write. Others were educated and cultured to a point that a lot of us would not even recognize today. A good example can be found here: US Army Captain Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter to his wife that is so eloquent, so beautiful, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve devolved to a point in time when I read posts on the internet that are simply incomprehensible.

So, my thanks to Joel and Ethan Coen, their brilliant cast and, most importantly to author Charles Portis for crafting this great story.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Video Giveaway

When I go shopping at the store, I sometimes buy DVDs. This has resulted in some misfires because occasionally I forget what I have at home. This time, I meant to buy Eclipse from the Twilight series, and dopey me, I bought New Moon which I already have. All of those astronomical titles can get confusing.

Anyway, this is a Blu-ray Special Edition. I did take off the shrink wrap and the sticky stuff around the edges of the box, but that's as far as I got before I realized my mistake. The disc has never been out of the box. I'll give this to the first Twilight fan who e-mails me at with a name and address.

Free is a pretty good price, huh?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Researching History

Every author gets a stinker of a review once in a while. It goes with the job. Of course—people have different tastes and what a lot of people think is great is slammed occasionally by someone else who has a variety of reasons for disliking a book.

That said, I offer the following. This appeared in reference to Harper’s Bride on Nook.

“It's not the worst thing I ever read, but it's surely not the best. If you don't mind relatively bland romantic writing, then try it. Rather than becoming immersed in the story, I found myself questioning the conveniences used within the time period of the story. Like: Did the Yukon really have access to electricity in the late 1800s? Is it feasible that automobiles were common among the rich in NW Canada during the time of the main character's youth?”

Now then. When I write a book, I do a lot of extensive research. I don’t want to be wrong so there’s a lot of double-checking involved. Because I write fiction, being wrong could be compared to lying or fabrication. Nope, nope, nope. Sure, I've created fictional towns so I could make up what I wanted to. But the Yukon gold rush was among one of the most notable events of the end of the nineteenth century. A number of successful people got their starts with gold they mined in Canada. Johan (John) Nordstrom comes to mind. He opened his first shoe store in Seattle with the money he made on his claim.

Harper’s Bride is a favorite among my readers and most of those readers don’t share the opinion of the one quoted above. But just so there’s no misunderstanding, yes, Dawson City did have electricity. Belinda Mulroney’s Fairview Hotel, which is mentioned in my book, received the electricity for its rooms from a yacht anchored in the Yukon River (The Klondike Fever by Pierre Burton).

“By the end of the year [1898], Dawson had telephones, electric lights, and moving pictures.” (Time-Life Books, The Miners).

These are just two of the references I have ready access to right now. After all, I wrote that book in 1997.

As for automobiles being common among wealthy NW Canadians during Dylan Harper’s youth . . . well, I didn't write that. He didn’t grow up there and neither did Melissa Harper. That reference was to life in Oregon. There isn’t much I can do about how the words get from the page or screen into a reader’s mind.

So—if you like Harper’s Bride, and many of you have told me you do, do me a favor. Let your voices be heard here:

I realize this is an unusual request and one I’ve never asked of anyone before, but I stand by my research.