Monthly Archives: March 2021

Inspiration on the Road


It took a friend’s tweet this morning about her realization that she found a lot of her writing inspiration while working in a coffee shop to bring about a similar understanding on my part. Only, for me, the inspirational activity isn’t working in a coffee shop. It’s sitting in a vehicle, either as passenger or driver, watching the scenery go by.


I’m not sure how or when this mode of inspiration started. Perhaps it hearkens back to my childhood years, when my parents made weekly trips to their favorite fishing reservoir in Central Oregon—a two-hour drive. I’d look out the windows and daydream about riding a horse along much of the terrain (as young horsewomen often do). Later, I imagined a lot of what would now be called fanfiction, only most of mine centered around the main characters of The Name of the Game tv series.

In later years, those settings we drove by inspired stories. A rock formation might catch my fancy and I’d kind of play with ideas taking off from that notion. Or I’d see a clearing—a grove of trees—something that might kick off an idea.

It might not always be explicit in my work, but a LOT of what I write has a setting as a strong base element. Even if it’s buried in the rest of the work, the odds are very good that when you read my fiction, nested deep inside the story is a location that triggered a metaphor. A particular mood. An image. Something tied to what I’m working on, or trying to create, as the case might be.


Driving certainly has played a role in my latest writing career incarnation. When I started creating fiction again, I was teaching at a small rural school forty miles from my house. I got up at 4:30 am to work on my writing, then spent the drive to work listening to music and thinking over what I’d written that morning. Hashing out problems with the story while driving simply became part of the process, because I had a lot of time to myself, with music.


Retirement and spending a lot of time in a place three hundred plus miles away from family and friends meant that we were on the road a lot pre-Covid. Once again, I had lots of time behind the wheel to think as the scenery went by. Sometimes I had the time to capture the ideas. Other times, they flitted away. But I do have notes in my journals, and there are kernels of story ideas just waiting for me to breathe life into them.

The Martiniere Legacy is probably the one set of books that doesn’t have as much travel linked to it, simply because much of it has been written during Covid. And yet. Short drives around the rural countryside. Working in the woods to gather firewood, mushrooms, and huckleberries. I still got out and still spun ideas based on our drives.


I most recently used this process to build a short story, Red Running, set in the Martiniere Legacy world and crafted for a specific anthology call. I’d wanted to create something inspired by the Neil Young song “Powderfinger” and had a kind of idea about what to do with it. But—nothing was really stirring.

It was a nice, sunny day. The husband and I realized that one of our vehicles, the Subaru Outback, had not been driven for a month. In this land of rural life, we end up using our big pickup as the daily driver because the regular trips are to the ranch to do things with the horse, hauling wood, and hauling garbage to the dump. Not really activities for the Outback, especially since we haven’t gone to Portland for over a year now.

We decided to drive down to the Imnaha River and then up the canyon as far as it had been plowed. A nice outing, socially distanced, and while part of the road was off-pavement, it was well within the Outback’s capacity. Plus, since the Imnaha is about two thousand feet lower in elevation than where we live, we thought we might see a hint of spring. We’d definitely see wildlife of some sort or another.


Once we were down in the Imnaha, listening to the String Cheese Incident, the story started stirring. I knew this was going to be a dark tale because “Powderfinger” is not exactly a sweetness and light song (essentially, it’s about a young man in an isolated river area who sees a threatening boat coming up river for nefarious purposes, and since he’s the only one able to defend the home place, takes a shot at the boat—and is killed).

The main character, Chrissie Lee, made herself known pretty quickly. Chrissie Lee is young, and has bought into a toxic ideology that leads to her death. Given the constraints of the Martiniere Legacy and what I’m working on with the Alvarez Armory subset of stories within the Legacy, she’s worshipping a set of narcissistic leaders. She’s also involved with some nasty biotechnology.

Between viewing fields of cows with newborn calves, cattle waiting for their daily hay feeding, spotting deer, elk, bald eagles, golden eagles, and a host of other raptors (plus multiple artsy landscape photos), the foundation for Red Running fell into place.


Eventually we reached the end of the plowed road. It happened rather abruptly, as the road and the river both rise into National Forest land and higher elevations.

I thought more about Red Running as we listened at last to Neil Young on our return. And even though Red Running is set in Northern Idaho and not the Imnaha, in my mind it’s still going to be the Imnaha I see when I think about that story. Which is…not unusual.

If Red Running gets accepted for that anthology, it will come out in November of 2021. Meanwhile, the book most closely affiliated with that story, Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere, will come out in late April/early May of 2021. Martiniere Legacy stories are available on Curious Fictions and through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and more.

The Legacy is very much a set of near-future Northeastern Oregon stories. But that’s another essay.

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Old Mare at almost 21

The old mare is still cruising along pretty well these days, with her 21st birthday coming up this next week. She’s holding her weight and staying pretty active. I’ve had to keep an eye on her muscle tone and it looks like she needs to be getting bodywork 2-3 times a year. But Mocha’s still a pretty nice saddle mare, energetic and good for a nice long ride once she gets legged up and in condition. I’ve had a chat with the farrier, and we’ll probably be looking at pour-in pads for her in late summer when the ground gets hard. She had a difficult time this winter because we had a long spell of frozen ground with no snow to cushion, and that’s hard on her these days. That’s what sparked my chat with the farrier. Not much else to be done. We know she has thin soles. Sickle and cow hocks, which does wonders when you ask her to stop hard and fast, but can cause arthritis issues–which is what she has.

But. She’s still the same feisty, energetic Spring Mare she’s always been. I’ve taken to riding her on the gravel roads again because they’re better footing than the pasture–no ice, and muddy with a solid surface underneath. She’s been wanting to run hard in preferred stretches, and kinda getting heavy on the bit about it. So today she got put back in the curb for a while, and I ended up with Grumpy Mare.

Mocha listened, though, albeit being grumpy about it. Another sign of Spring Mare.

On May 1st she’ll have completed six years in Eastern Oregon, living either in pasture or pen 24/7 instead of being a Stall Princess. It seems to be the best thing I could ever have done for her. Mocha prefers to be in pasture to being in a stall, and blanket? The only blanket she seems to like is the quarter sheet I put on her when the temps are under 40 degrees. She’s gone through winters at -20F and milder ones. 2 feet of snow. As long as she gets hay daily she doesn’t seem to care about the weather.

Here’s a pic of her after today’s ride. She’s still heavy-coated and works up a sweat, but it doesn’t seem to bother her.

And yes, she’s muddy from the roads. Given that she’s living in snow and mud, welp, not too excited about it.

Here she goes back to her herd.

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Packing away the Broken Angel notes

I’m packing away the notes I made for the last Martiniere Legacy book, Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere. Did the first revision, then segued into a second revision after watching the interview with the Sussexes on Sunday night because some of the things that Harry said? Could have come right out of Gabe’s mouth, especially the part talking about keeping his wife and child safe.

It’s kind of the end of an era because this is the last Legacy book. Oh, I might write some more in this world, but for all intents and purposes, it’s finished. Now I need to think about promotion…and if there’s one thing I realized about the February book, The Heritage of Michael Martiniere, it’s that I need to be thinking about promotion and emphasizing that both of these books are standalones. Mike’s book happens after the trilogy and you don’t need to read the trilogy first. Gabe’s book happens before the trilogy. So I need to be thinking just how I’m going to market and promote these books.

Gabe’s book was not an easy one. He endures a lot. But he also had some very bright moments. I’m actually glad I wrote this book, and for once, this is a prequel that really did need to wait for the other books to be written before it came out. As it were, I tweaked some bits of Heritage after finishing the rough draft of Broken Angel. I thought about tweaking bits of the trilogy, and then said “no, the trilogy is Ruby’s point of view. This is how Gabe remembers things, and Gabe’s memory has been tampered with, plus Gabe…lies. To himself as well as others. It’s a survival technique.”

Now it’s poking at things, coming up with appropriate back cover/promotional copy, and thinking about how to promote the book.

But first I’ve gotta also get things tweaked for Heritage.

Which…it’s available, and it’s a nice little standalone. Check it out.

(Huh. Pasting in the ‘zon link pops up the following. Not so much for the Books2Read link, which gets you Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble)

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On writing diverse characters…baby steps

This Tweet (and my response, which was that I figure it’s time to add more queer and BIPOC secondary characters when I see complaints) pretty much sums up my attitude. I may be an old cishet white woman, but by god, the worlds I create do not need to look fishbelly-pale. Or het. Of course, that also means I have to work around other issues, such as watching out that I don’t fall into stereotypes…which is hard. Damned hard. And often requires self-examination and a lot of learning. But I’m willing to make mistakes and learn from them because, again, I want to write worlds that look and feel real, even when writing about the rich and privileged (which pretty much sums up the Martinieres).

Honestly, this post has been a hard one to write. I think this is the third? fourth? attempt, because I keep pulling back. Wondering if I should do this. Imagining what the attacks could be from either side of the aisle.

But damnit, at some point I have to say it.

I don’t want to write fishbelly-pale worlds. I don’t want to write all straight worlds. But. I am cishet, white, old, and female. Even with sensitivity readers, I struggle with the concept of speaking for others. Hey, for me, it was tough enough to switch into the male characters of Michael Martiniere and Gabriel Martiniere. I don’t normally write primary male characters, but in this situation I saw the need to do so for both The Heritage of Michael Martiniere and Broken Angel: The Lost Years of Gabriel Martiniere.

For me, that solution has come through peopling my worlds (except in my fantasy, where by golly, it’s all different and I ain’t writing Europeans) with a widely diverse secondary cast.

But however you want to put it, I do my best to keep those worlds from looking straight and fishbelly-pale.

I don’t want praise for that. I don’t need praise for that. Frankly, I think this approach should be the norm.

I’m still working on improving how I write diverse characters, but you know what? Just because my depictions aren’t perfect doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying (and tripping over new obstacles).

It’s all a growth process. And the more I learn about what a diverse world looks like, the more I like it.

So I’m a work in progress. I’m not what I was years ago, and that’s a good thing.




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