Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'm almost finished

I'm almost done! I'm almost done!

Actually, I can write Queen's English when I choose. The proper term would, I suppose, be 'I am almost finished.' But I've been writing colloquial English to the point . . . . Oh, heck. Why try to hide it. I don't speak Queen's English so why try to pretend I'm writing anything other than how I normally speak?

So what's the big to-do about? By this time tomorrow (Good Lord willin' an' the creeks don't rise) I will have finished the book I started 10 years ago last March. I'd actually hoped to 'git 'er done' yesterday but that didn't happen. And even though I will have finished the basic book tomorrow, that doesn't mean the rewrites are all finished. Most of it is about as good as I know how to make it but I haven't taken the time to do a thorough edit on what I've written this past week.

Many folks say you should write like there's no tomorrow and complete the whole thing BEFORE you start rewrites. My brain doesn't work that way. I write a little bit...then I look at what I've written...and go back and made a change or two...and the next thing I know the story has taken a completely different turn. Generally a much more interesting one than what I'd planned in the first place. Creation can be so fun at times.

Of course, there are those days when I look at the mass of words on my computer screen and think, "What an absolute disaster! Whoever would want to read this mess?" Nothing is coming together. Nothing is working.

Then it's time to either do some serious editing or go plant flowers and weed the garden.

Is that why it's taken me ten years to write this book? No. I actually wrote about half of it in one month. Then I was called to become conservator for the very ranch I was writing about and never even looked at my writing, again, until a couple years ago. In the meantime I learned so much that I really needed to know in order to understand what I was writing about that I'm very glad for the experience AND the time lapse. OHMIGOSH, is that a lousy sentence or what?

Anyhow, I'm grateful for the writing class I was able to take two years ago. And I'm grateful for the LDS Writers' Conference I attended last spring. I learned so much about how editors in today's world expect novel composition to be. I've had to do a lot of HEAVY rewrites but my story line is much stronger and I'm glad.

So what is my book about? It's a coming-of-age biographical novel concerning a shy, rather INsensitive young man, Nephi Moulton, who homesteaded in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1905. Besides his normal ranching persuits, Nephi rubbed shoulders with a self-proclaimed murderer, was unwitting host to a notorious, greatly feared poacher, and took a mad ride, horseback, over the mountains to find a doctor to save his brother's life. My book covers the first fifteen years of his experiences after he left home.

I knew him well; he raised me. He was my legal guardian from the time I was two until I was eighteen. I lived in his home. I worked on his ranch. And I adored him.

When he died, shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I set a goal to write his story - but marriage and eight kids shoved that to a back burner. Now it's almost finished. I've done extensive research, not only concerning his family but also concerning early day living in Jackson Hole. . . . And I've had so much fun doing research that sometimes it's been difficult to make myself get busy writing instead of reading.

But when I enrolled in the Eden Writers' Conference scheduled for Oct. 19 & 20, I determined I would have my book finished before I went. And it will be. I've put in far more eighteen hour days on this thing than I even want to think about. But tomorrow should do it. Then I can get busy looking for the photos I want to include.

And now, now that I'm nearly finished, I'm all excited about the next book I want to write. It will be about a relative of mine who was a gold miner in California in the 1850s. While the book I'm writing now is about a very moral teetotaler, my gold miner didn't exactly fit that mold. He left at least one illigitimate child that I know about. He was heavily into the liquor business and I've suspected he may have run a cat house in Point Arena, California, as well. I figure by the time my husband and I have finished researching this gentleman we'll probably have learned a lot! Could be quite interesting, don't you think?

In the meantime I'm scouting for an agent who specializes in historical/biographical fiction. Anyone got any suggestions?

Ok, 'nuff said. It's time to post some photos--that being my blogging stock in trade.
Let's see. Who's done what lately?

Spence called, recently, with some wonderful news. It seems I'm going to be a grandmother again. :) I love being a grandma. I get to spoil the kids and when they're tired and cranky I can send them home. But you know, the best part of being a grandma is that I don't have to feel totally responsible for their upbringing. It's so much more fun than being a mother ever was.

I caught this snap of Spence with one of Steve's kids at the family reunion. Doesn't he look like he'd make a wonderful daddy?

Other news on the Mittan front is that Rich and Lori come home tonight.
I'll pick them up from the airport at about midnight. They've been in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the past nine days...visiting Richie's friends down there. They called me from the airport in Atlanta, Ga. to let me know when they'd be in and what airline - and both said it was a wonderful trip. Lori loved Brazil and, of course, Richie enjoyed showing her where all he'd been the two years he spent there.
This photo, also taken at the reunion, is of Rich and Lori with Sue's little girl, Emily.

That's about all of the news. I'll include an excerpt from my novel and y'all tell me what you think of it. This episode is a little long for a blog but it was fun to write. It is fiction in that it isn't something we know he did. But his sense of humor and love of a prank was such I wouldn't have put it past him to have done it. His reticence at discussing personal issues, however, would have kept him from sharing an incident like this. So I borrowed something my daughter-in-law's grandmother pulled. As I said, it was fun to write.


As I attended meetings, I found a voice I hadn’t known I had. I truly was concerned about the local school situation, although not for the reasons everyone thought. They thought I was being very altruistic: a bachelor speaking for the safety of their children. No-one guessed I was there because I wanted a safe school environment for the children I intended to have one day. Had anyone even suggested it everyone else would have scoffed. Nephi Moulton was a died-in-the-wool bachelor and that was something the entire county could count on never changing. So I was free to further my own purposes without interference.
School meetings actually served a double function. I was being involved in preparations for my future children's scholastic success, yes, but I was also observing women. Single women. Unlike bachelors, single women frequently came to meetings like these with their married friends or relatives. It was a social outlet. And one that gave me the opportunity to watch them without anyone knowing. If one spoke up, I paid rapt attention without anyone suspecting I had anything on my mind other than the issues we were trying to resolve.
Single women also helped furnish refreshments which didn’t hurt my feelings, either. I learned to be casual as I asked who had made the delicious . . . .
The frosting on the school meeting cake came in the form of the opportunity to visit with T.A. once in a while. T.A., married to Lucille Blanchard from Driggs for the past several years, now had two little children so he was as interested in the school system as I was. We campaigned, together, for reforms we thought were necessary and I took our ideas to my home community to discuss with my neighbors who hadn't attended the meetings.
School issues weren’t the only thing T.A. and I discussed, though. I remember one meeting, in particular. It was being held in the small church building on Mormon Row, close to T.A.’s home, and I was a little late arriving. Fortunately T.A. was sitting at the back so I slipped into a seat beside him.
“Did you hear the news?” he whispered to me as soon as I was settled. “Wally got married last week. He and his bride are coming home tomorrow.”
That was real news to me. I hadn’t known Wally was even looking.
“Who did he marry?” I asked.
“A girl he met out in Idaho when he was visiting Mother and Dad,” T.A. said. “Her name’s Elizabeth Chandler.” He corrected himself. "Or was."
“Well, tell him I said ‘Congratulations’,” I said, and we turned our attention back to the meeting. At least T.A. did. I found my mind wandering.

So Wally had finally gotten married. That was interesting news—pregnant with all sorts of possibilities. I wondered what John thought about Wally being an old married man. I decided I needed to pay him a visit on the way home. This was one school meeting that was going to last far too long.
Then it occurred to me that visiting John after the meeting would present a problem. He lived about a half-mile past T.A.’s home. Marriage had settled T.A. to the point I doubted he’d approve of John and me decorating Wally’s cabin—which was precisely what I had in mind—and, since I would have to travel with him if I was to visit John after the meeting . . . .
Suddenly I turned to T.A. “I’m going to have to excuse myself,” I said. “I don’t think I’m feeling too well. I need to go home.” T.A.’s face registered instant concern.
“Are you coming down with a cold or flu?” he asked.
“No, I think it was something I ate at dinner,” I said. “I have to go!” I stood up as inconspicuously as I could and slipped out of the room. School concerns could do without me for one night.

John’s little cabin was dark and quiet when I arrived. That was disappointing. We would have had so much fun decorating something at Wally’s house but if John was asleep, already, I knew he had to be tired. I decided not to bother him.
The only problem was, I didn’t have anything with me that I could use for decorating. Hmmm.
But John did . . . and if I used something of John’s, Wally would recognize it and blame his brother. . . . This held promise. I decided to search John’s barn.
I hadn’t been there often enough to know my way around in the dark but I knew he kept a candle and some matches on the frame above the door. . . . I found them, then made sure the door was shut before I lit the candle. I didn’t want John to wake up, see a strange light coming from his open barn door, and come investigating.
As I looked around I saw the usual—saddle, bridle, horse blanket. A large bin that held oats. And mice. I stepped out into the middle of the barn and held the candle high.
Light glinted from metal above my head. Bells. Hanging from the joists of the loft. Horse bells. Cow bells. Even some smaller bells that he probably used for sheep or something. And John’s brand was engraved on each one. I wondered what I could do with them.
I didn’t want to hang them on Wally’s porch. I’d already done that to Joe Deyo so it would be a dead give-away that I was the one involved. What else could I do with them?
As I considered the possibilities, I looked for something to carry them in and something to hang them with. John’s large ball of twine that he used to sew his grain sacks shut would work for the hanging part. . . . And a grain sack, for carrying.
It wasn’t long before I was on my way.

Wally’s house was cold and dark, of course, but I knew where he kept his candles, too, and his house was far enough away from John’s and T.A.’s homes that I wasn’t worried about them seeing a light in the window. I lit a candle and looked around.
I considered just hanging John’s bells from the rafters but that was too tame.
It would have been nice if I could have run a cord from each to the door so they would all ring when he carried his Elizabeth over the threshold, but the door opened in, not out, so that wouldn’t work, either. What to do?
Then I saw the perfect spot. Half an hour later I blew out the candle, closed Wally’s door, and was on my way home.
I understand John caught all sorts of hell for tying his cow bells to the springs under Wally’s bed.

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