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Sense of place in the Goddess’s Honor series

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while, but every time I sit down to write about this subject my thinking points go careening off into the glaciated (well, these days not-so-glaciated) peaks of the Wallowas and I decide that maybe it’s a better use of my time to go ride the horse and then sew a quilt or work on a book. So I do that instead of writing the blog.

Then, later, as I’m drowsing off, the points come galloping back, demanding my attention. Granted, the sense of place in writing isn’t the only blog topic that wakes me up when I’m trying to drop off into sleep (or mugs me in the middle of a road ride), but sense of place in writing the topic I grabbed on today.

My recent visit to Portland slammed home hard that awareness of how I use sense of place when we went skiing. These days I don’t get up on the Mountain much, except to visit with my friend Phyllis or the occasional ski trip during the spring ski season. We’ve been holding out for the much less expensive spring ski passes the last couple of years, the ones that pay for themselves after two visits. Some years we go over Hood at least once during the summer to go back to Enterprise, or visit people in Bend before going to Enterprise, but last year wasn’t one of those times. So when we drove up the Mountain and we got into the big cedars near Tollgate Campground, I immediately had the flash of “This is Medvara” when I drove through that grove of old cedars around the rocky point protruding into the Zigzag River. Ever since I started working in the Goddess’s Honor world, that little section on Mount Hood has always been in the back of my mind when writing the Medvara sequences in the Goddess’s Honor books, just like the big Ponderosa pine forests bordering the great grassy ridgetop flats and deep river canyons of Wallowa country inspire the Keldara and Clenda settings.

That cedar grove has always meant Medvara, even when the nation had a different name. Alicira had a major confrontation with her nemesis Zauril there, nothing that’s been put into the books (yet). Further down the river is where Rekaré kills her father Zauril and becomes Medvara’s new Leader. Even though the grove had no influence or appearance in the new Goddess’s Honor book, Challenges of Honor, it’s still an influence.

Of course no one real-world inspiration of a fantasy world setting maps 100% on that fantasy world. Even authors working in realistic fiction with real-life settings will fudge small details of a location to make the story work, though less so than someone working in fantastic fiction. I’m no exception to that rule, though my sense of place can be a bit bizarre and weird when I’m putting together a story. While most of the settings in the first part of Pledges of Honor are drawn first from Northeastern Oregon/Southeastern Washington Wallowa/Palouse country, there’s one section with a hot spring that comes from a real-life hot spring visit in Southern Oregon many years ago, in similar rugged country. And the Dry Line is more than visible when you drive westward on Interstate 84 toward Portland, as you enter The Dalles.

The mosaic of place in the new Goddess’s Honor book, Challenges of Honor, is much more fragmented. While Challenges has some scenes in Keldara and Clenda, most of the action takes place in Medvara and then in the southern reaches of the Saubral lands between Medvara and Keldara. But most of the story takes place in Medvare-the-city, a location shaped not so much by places I’ve been as much as pictures. The Leader’s House in Medvara is a rambling edifice made of wood, with several wings and courtyards that probably owe something to McMenamin’s Edgefield Manor as much as anything else, perhaps with a nod to another McMenamin’s property, the Kennedy School. It has gardens (hello, Rose Test Garden and the Ladd’s Addition rose garden) and shrines as well as a Great Hall. Because it’s on the confluence of the Saktrin and Chellana Rivers, and Challenges is a summer book, it is hot, muggy, and smoky from forest fires (and I should have emphasized that element more but alas, I just don’t write summer settings well).

Then events take another swing, and we end up in a horseback pursuit through the sagebrush desert, culminating in a battle fought in a small river meadow at the bottom of a steep canyon. I recently made a trip down to the area that inspired that setting, and got several pictures of some of the settings as they would look in the spring. That said, I also found more settings that will be playing roles in future writings–not just in Goddess’s Honor but in my Oregon Country and other weird/alt-history Western fantasies.

I’ve tried to find an appropriate label for what I’m wanting to do with this world, because it’s definitely not classic faux-European setting. Ruling structures are one thing that I don’t want to play around with too much simply because those changes don’t fit the story I’m wanting to write. The settings, however, are flexible and fascinate me. I’ve been collecting settings and site impressions for years. They may not always come across in my writing, but I can travel somewhere that’s inspired a story and had that sudden sense of place–this is Medvara–flash across my awareness like driving through that grove the other day did.

Of all my works, I’d have to say that Goddess’s Honor is the one most driven by place impressions, with the Netwalk series running a close second (at least the early books). We’ll see what the books to come bring to the table.

I don’t know. What do you think?

Apologies for the shameless shilling below, but I’ve got more work coming out soon and book babies need pretty new covers!

Like my work and want to buy me a coffee? Ko-Fi link here: http://ko-fi.com/joycereynoldsward

New Releases Currently Available:

Fantasy:

Challenges of Honor: Change is coming eleven years after the events that transformed Katerin Healer into Katerin ea Miteal and catapulted Rekaré ea Miteal to the Leadership of Medvara. Katerin’s daughter Witmara grows stronger in magic while studying under Alicira, Katerin’s cousin and Rekaré’s mother. Rekaré struggles with her mixed feelings toward her leadership and her daughter Melarae. When a challenge to Rekaré arises from a recent Daran Empire exile, Chiral, as Alicira’s health fails, Katerin must choose between remaining obscure, or fully claim her role as a Miteal. The Seven Crowned Gods have their own agenda. What are the consequences of thwarting Chiral’s schemes, and why are the Gods meddling now? Katerin and Rekaré are faced with many challenging choices but not all are honorable—or wise.

Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/3L9PN7

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BYZZMSQ

Science Fiction:

Netwalk’s Children: NEW EDITION WITH NEW COVER! The mysterious war machine device known as the Gizmo is getting restless and trying to use Melanie’s daughter Bess and her nephew Richard as a means of escape from its confinement. Meanwhile, problems arise with potential rogue Netwalkers tied not just to Melanie’s past but to her parents and the original capture of the Gizmo. Can Melanie work with her estranged Netwalker grandmother Sarah as well as Bess to stop the Gizmo and deal with past shadows that threaten to dominate Bess’s future?

Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/b5nw63

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017UZE03A

Learning in Space: Bess and Alex: Bess Fielding and Alex Jeffreys are committed to a future in space with Bess’s family company, Do It Right. But that future comes with a steep learning curve in a place where the simplest mistake can be deadly…and not all those mistakes are naturally caused. Being a leader in new space technologies doesn’t stop sabotage from happening, however. As one of the leading production companies in space, Do It Right can be a target for the disgruntled and the ambitious. Nonetheless, Bess and Alex learn more about space and each other, until…good times come to an end….

Books to Read Universal Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/38gYVL

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077HDTPHP

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Well that was a week

An exhausting, at times exciting, but still tiring week. Husband had some eye appointments in Portland that bracketed the weekend, but there was enough stuff up in the air that I only could really plan one get-together with someone I’ve missed except for tiny grabs for the last few trips. It was probably a good thing I didn’t overplan the Portland time, as I ended up down flat sick from an allergic reaction to all the damn pollen. The same thing happened last year, and I had a less extreme reaction in March, so….yeah. I suspect this means that this is now a thing. On the other hand, I found a cromolyn sodium nasal spray and that’s really helping with things, much better than its steroidal cousin and much less harsh. So I now need to find someplace other than the Kaiser Pharmacy to buy it OTC.

We did spend two days skiing. The first day was lovely in spite of the stormy weather, and the second day was full of the heavy deep powder the Cascades is known for. Three runs and not only was my back done in but my knee was complaining. So we stopped. We’d considered skiing on our way home yesterday, but I was so tired and hurting that I determined it wasn’t a good idea. All the same, everything works really well on the slopes again. I’ve got my control back and I’m not struggling like I was so much of the time last year. I’m now thinking that everything I’m doing to address the lower back pain is paying off in this respect. Yay!

Then we spent two days hunting razor clams. OMG. Both days were hard clamming days. Lots of false shows to fake us out, which meant a LOT of digging. The first day wasn’t too bad as we were four clams shy of a full limit. The lot were amongst the biggest clams we’ve ever dug, though, consistently large. I found a medium-sized cockle on the beach, still alive, and claimed it. That day was also good for finding hermit crabs, a live snail, and sandpipers. At one point I stood still as the sandpipers scurried around me, several coming within five feet of me. Sweet.

It was also a lovely day for April on the Oregon Coast. Very light wind, sunny, and relatively warm. A good day to be down on the beach, but after the hard work clamming none of us felt like following up with fishing like we had planned.

The second day was tougher. We never did get any good clam shows, and ended up with just one limit between the three of us. It was another gorgeous warm day on the beach, though. Not as much bird action, nor did I find any crabs. My back ached so bad that I went back to the truck and brainstormed the latest rough draft work, including a quick sketch on a short story idea.

 

Then we packed up, went back to Portland, and headed back to Enterprise yesterday. Three short story ideas mugged me on the way back. I’m not sure why that part of my brain is waking up again–perhaps being finished with Netwalk, and two-thirds of the way through Goddess’s Honor is a factor? Dunno, but I’m not going to ignore it. I sketched the three stories out last night. They’re all tied to some other stories I’ve been working on, contemporary fantasy or Western fantasy.

And now for the first time in a week I’m not having to wake up and rush around to go somewhere. Later on today I’m going to introduce Miss Mocha to the wonderful world of saddlebags. But spring is erupting in Wallowa County and I’m itching to get on the front porch for a porch writing session. Ah. Lovely.

 

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Another busy day

Whew. Still a little tired from the week of Orycon. A full week? Well, yes, given that we’re based in Enterprise. The drive down on Thursday, then three days of the con, then a quick run to Clatskanie which turned into an extra trip because our friend’s stuff got mixed up with ours…on what is now being called a totally crazy holiday driving day…I believe it! Then back to Enterprise on another heavy traffic day. It was an intense time. Orycon deserves its own post but not happening tonight.

Today was a bit of a laid back day. I got up, looked at the forecast, and realized I needed to hustle and get out to the ranch to ride before the deluge hit. So I did. Miss Mocha actually walked most of the way up to me instead of making me come to her. Guess she missed the week without grain or treats. The roan filly is attached to her pretty strongly and followed us throughout the ride with occasional plaintive whickers. When I took Mocha out of the field she kept crying for Mocha. Mocha wasn’t particularly fretful, though. I did catch her licking the salt block with the roan filly and another weanling, so I guess Miss Mocha and Marshall the gelding are taking over babysitter duties. Or something.

Then I went and set up the table for Jingle through Joseph. Books, crafts, and jewelry. Hoping to do well over the next two weekends.

Still tired and very, very grateful for the new back massager. One way or another I’m gonna beat some of this pain syndrome I’ve been fighting. I can tell it makes a difference, just in how balanced I feel on my feet. But damn, sure is time-consuming. Oh well. If it works….

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Busy week

Whew. It’s been a busy week with a fast trip to Portland for Orycon and early Thanksgiving. Tired but wanted to get something up. I’ll have more mindful posts later…especially Orycon, which was a very good convention this time around. Sold books, had good panels, saw lots of friends…all worked out pretty nicely. Then we went to Clatskanie to harvest more carrots and parsnips, and managed to pick a nice batch of chanterelles. Unusual for this late in the season but it’s been a mild fall with no frost.

And now we are back in Enterprise. I have a lovely new back massager that is making me very happy.

Me fall over now. Well, after I jot down the side story about what happened to Vered during the events I’m working on right now in Challenges of Honor.

You know it’s been a good convention when you come back itching to start writing.

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Riding into fall and getting into the writing mode again

If someone had told me as recently as three years ago that I would be galloping Mocha in a stubblefield with gopher holes scattered throughout, I’d have said they were nuts.

So guess what I was doing today? Well, besides galloping, we did a bit of schooling. Little mare was energetic and ready to go, and we not only galloped but did some regular schooling. She was having problems with left to right flying lead changes in midsummer in the arena. Once she moved back down to the ranch and into the stubblefield pasture, I started working on some of our old schooling moves, including inside and outside bend in circles at the walk, two-tracking, and serpentines at trot and canter. Over the course of the last month, she’s gotten smoother and better at those changes.

I’m still trying to figure out what is going on with her. At one point I thought she might have a metabolic syndrome. These days, I’m leaning more toward a long-term, chronic pain problem caused by improper angles in her front feet and her SI joint and her hocks fusing. Somehow, last November, all of a sudden some movements became easier for Mocha and she’s now running sound on a regular basis. She gained weight back in her topline and she is relaxed and happy. I think everything stopped fusing and she finally remodeled her muscles to fit the new angles–whatever it is, I’m grateful.

She doesn’t necessarily act like a 17-year-old mare, except for the way she responds to schooling. Otherwise, the energy levels remind me of Mocha as a younger horse. I’m the one who has to remember to cool her out and spend time warming up. Left to herself, I think she’d take off and be a real wild woman at speed.

I also spend time trying to figure out what her herd dynamics are. She seems to be a lower-level trickster, liking to get her friends moving and stirred up when she feels like it.

All in all, though, it’s fun.

The last two weeks have played havoc with a lot of my writing stuff, as well as my recording of the books I’ve read on Goodreads. I met my reading challenge over there–150 books. I think that’s a bit of a push for me, but we’ll see what my final count for the year will be.

I finally sat down today and started fixing some of the short story submission stuff that got mucked up in the SpiritOne debacle. Fortunately, it appears that I got a bunch of stories rejected before the old email went belly up, which is good. The remaining market is…swamped, so I think I can assume a rejection. Whew. That’s back to normal. But it’s still just seven stories, so at some point I need to sit down and write some spec stories to be sending out to markets. Then I need to work on the anthology, as well as put together the Learning in Space: Bess and Alex compilation. At one point I thought I’d have that book ready for Orycon, but really? I don’t do a lot of sales there. If I can get it ready for even the last part of Jingle thru Joseph, that would be good. Otherwise…

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Hurricane Creek hike

So today was pretty much a decadent, no craft, no writing sort of day. It was nice, sunny, and a bit cold. So we went up Hurricane Creek for a little hike of about six miles total, three out, three back.

I had to contrast today’s hike with what we were doing in the Southwest just two and a half weeks ago. Then, I struggled up slickrock to reach Delicate Arch, and fretted because my hips didn’t like me, my feet hurt, my knees hurt, and it seemed harder than it should be to make that climb with that elevation gain. It was a pattern that seemed to be constant in Arches National Park, and I eventually decided it must be due to the texture of the sandy portions and the nature of slickrock.

Today I hiked farther, in snow and ice, with much less effort even though there was a comparable elevation gain. The only touchy places were on the return, in several icy downhill pitches. My knee started aching a little, but overall? Much easier to hike three times as far than it was in the Southwest.

Still scratching my head over that. Granted, the last night in Moab, I had something weird pop up in my dreams–this is not your place. That floored me. I’ve liked the Southwest and it was a nice trip, with lovely fall colors against the red rocks and all. All the same, that dream kind of coalesced…something…that kept coming up even though I kept denying it. Granted, Montecello didn’t sit well with me for some reason, somewhat echoing the feelings I had there the last time we stayed in that town. But Moab? There’s a small literary scene, an art scene, I bought new snow boots at a serious discount in Moab…and yet there was that continuing theme throughout my dreams that night.

This is not your place.

Maybe that’s why Hurricane Creek felt so good, because since we’ve been back in Enterprise I’ve felt even more at home. My boots grabbed into the soil, giving me needed traction as we hiked along. I decided along the way that maybe I needed to invest in some hiking poles. But I didn’t struggle the way I did hiking in the Southwest. It was a perfect late fall day to hike up the creek, and we were far from the only ones hitting the trail. Patches of snow intermittently covered the trail, icy in places but nothing too bad. We examined the remains of the Falls Creek fire, studied several impressive avalanche remains, and otherwise had a nice hike.

In contrast, this is definitely my place. Not stark, steep red cliffs but rugged mountains with a whisper of snow on the tops. Gray, white, and brown cliffs with narrow ridged columns instead of flat iron-red slabs. Clouds skittering high over a narrow treed valley with baretopped mountains.

Hubby forgot the sandwiches so we only had a banana for lunch. That was okay. I forgot the big camera so no pictures.

And afterward, we did make one concession to craft and went to Joseph where I got more backing fabric for pillows. I’ll have pillows available to sell at Jingle thru Joseph, some Christmas-themed, others not. The first ones came out pretty well so I have hopes that I’ll have more nice ones.

A nice day. I probably should have worked on compiling Learning in Space but I didn’t.

Sometimes you just gotta goof off. After the past two weeks, I’ve earned this.

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Good intentions

So here we go again. I had good intentions when I was trying to churn out a post a week about writing. And then…well…the heat and smoke of August this year wrapped around me and I just couldn’t get to it. Of course, then what happens is that the intentions of blogging pile up, and up, and up…yeah. So here we are in early November, almost three months since I last blogged. That’s been one of my longest periods without blogging.

What got me started again was a discussion on one of my writer Facebook groups about blogging–how much, when, and where. One person commented that he blogs daily, at the end of the day, as a brief rumination as well as the cultivation of a habit. I thought about this. When I was blogging regularly, I was doing it first thing in the morning before work, after getting words down. I’d also been blogging my ski excursions. Then stuff happened. LiveJournal went weird. Jay Lake died–Jay had been one of my inspirations for regular blogging. I semi-retired from classroom teaching, we bought the place in Enterprise, and since then I’m finding that writing in the morning isn’t always a reliable thing.

So I’m going to start trying to blog more frequently, every night if I can. I figure that might be more doable than the mornings, especially now that we’re getting into winter and daylight hours are already a premium.

We’ll see what happens.

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Adventures of a Hybrid Writer–Hitting the Wall

Between weather, summer obligations, and other things going on, I haven’t been getting much writing done lately. Late summer harvest needs, life needs, preparing to go back to the part-time day jobbe needs…everything clustered about and combined with politics, horrible heat, and all, I just couldn’t get the words down on the screen. Oh, I did get some words down for a possible side project, but other than that? Nothing on either book.

That said, I did get some reading done, and I’ve worked a little bit on promotion. But otherwise, it’s been a lot of other stuff happening and going on, and I see the prospect of a lot more of it ahead because, well, August, and August is somewhat nuts. You’d think I would remember that from year-to-year. Of course I don’t.

Looking at my overall word counts, too, I realize that working on two books might end up slowing down my actual long-term production. I’m not entirely positive about that yet, but we shall see how it flows. But coping with the dog days of summer, the heat, the urgency with which I realize we have to use these long days of sunlight for other purposes…well, alas, the writing isn’t going as well as it should.

But that will change. I know it will. The temps are going down. Soon the smoke will go away. I’ll be able to breathe better, and I’ll be able to do more.

I hope.

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Lots of stuff going on….

As usual, June is flying by. Between MisCon and 4th of July, it always seems like I’m flying around getting things wrapped up for the end of the school year and then jumping into summer stuff. It’s no different now that I’m working online instead of in a classroom. OTOH, I’m less tired from working online, so that’s a win.

The late spring meant we’ve been dragging on getting the garden running and getting in the wood. But at last, we got the garden finished off in early June and it is happily growing at our friend S’s place in Clatskanie. This past week in Enterprise, we did get two loads of wood hauled, plus horse show stuff…

But there’s so much to blog about and I keep putting it off because, well, who wants to spam the linkage? I’m thinking now that I need to write some things but just not publish them. The alternative is not blogging at all…and I am discovering that I really don’t like that option, either.

So yeah. Time to start writing blog posts and timing them. I will post one soon talking about the two short pieces I have available on preorder right now. I also want to post about politics, because I’m contemplating a few things. I also want to write and post something about a few things I’ve been considering about writing process that has solidified to some extent by now. And then I also want to blog about the horse.

Meanwhile, I’m putting this one up. Hopefully we’ll see a flurry of posting soon.

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Coming up on two years

Two years ago we were on the final stages of beginning our new retirement life split between two houses, and contemplating the Big Scary Move hauling the horse on the longest trailer ride she’d had in her life. While we still had things to do with both houses to reflect our changed lifestyle, including moving the son around in the Portland house, and setting things up there, we were taking the big leap and going back part-time to the place we had fallen in love with thirty-four years ago–the place where we started our post-college life, the place where we committed to each other and began our walk together through life. We knew that the transition would take time. In small places like Enterprise, you can’t force your way into the local scene. While we still had friends here, we knew that it would take time to settle in and get to know people and make connections.

What we didn’t know was if we would miss the urban life, or what shape our lives in Enterprise would take. I knew that I needed to do some sort of work, but what, I wasn’t sure. I had hopes of substituting in the local schools, but soon found that there was a lot of competition. I’d considered trying to tutor and offer classes, but early overtures didn’t quite mesh. So I settled back, focused on my writing, and adopted a “let it flow” mentality.

So far there’s been no regrets. I’ve been working online for my old school district for a year and a half now, an endeavor that started when I was called back to do special education assessment to fill in a big hole that circumstances popped up in February of 2016. Sub jobs are starting to drift my way. I may have some other things coming but haven’t signed any paperwork as yet…so….possibilities abound.

And there are more things. Today was the first day this spring where I took the laptop onto the front porch to write, finishing off the Exile’s Honor novelette that I hope to release by late May. I wrote and watched birds at the feeders we’ve finally gotten set up, and kept an eye on a storm moving across the mountains. Yesterday I took Mocha on one of the long road rides we are starting to do again this spring. We saw bald eagles, redtailed hawks, magpies, red-winged blackbirds, a blue heron, California quail, a ringnecked China pheasant rooster, and lots of deer. We went down a road new to us so she was on her toes, full of energy and lining out in a big, bold, forward walk with her head and neck level, ears pricked forward on a loose rein.

Is it the life I’d visualized and anticipated during all those years in Portland dreaming about returning? Yes…and no. It was a different place between then and now. In many ways it is much sweeter–our little house on the hill has a gorgeous view and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying the mountains in all their moods. There are more artists and writers here than there were before. We’re not involved in one of the small town businesses as employees. If we want to hole up and be antisocial for a few days, we can. Or if we want to get out and do things (mostly me), there are things to do. I’m starting to take up quilting, and have discovered that I can be somewhat decent at it. I’ve joined the Soroptimists, and am getting caught up in their activities locally to improve things for women and girls. I’m getting to be known as one of the local writers, and have had a couple of occasions where someone has asked me how my writing is going when out and about in the local shops. The past two Christmases I’ve participated in local craft shows, and hope to do more of it.

My asthma is happier here. I’ve adapted and enjoy the slower pace of life, which includes the possibility of running into people we know at the grocery store and stopping for a chat.

Not all is sunny and perfect, though. The son has had health problems. We fret about making it down to Clatskanie to cultivate the garden with our friend, especially in a damp and cold spring like we are having here. Sometimes the six hours between here and Portland seem like forever.

But then the sun comes out between the clouds, and we get a different glow.

We go down to Portland and get our taste of urban life, and then retreat. Right now we seem to have a decent balance, and I hope that continues. There are times when I think I should be more driven, more ambitious, and fill my days with more activity…and then I look at what I’ve actually been doing, and decide that perhaps I’m all right after all.

Summer will soon be here, with the frenetic activity that comes with it being the main money-making/food cultivation/food harvest/woodcutting season.

I think it’ll be all right.

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