Saturday, October 20, 2007

New pictures...

Well, I did it again! Make sure and check out my new family pictures I had done yesterday. I LOVE them! I must say, I am very impressed with my little family. Not only did we get 15 different poses done, we got them done in less than 20 minutes!!! YAY!!! Hope you all like them. Here is the link...
Once you are on my MySpace, right underneath my picture, you can view my "pics". The album name is OurFamily 2007.
Enjoy and love to all,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I am done!!!

I am done!
I am done!
Dancing-jig time has begun!
Cause my tail can finally shed
this hard computer chair of mine.

I am done!
I am done!
I can finally have some fun.
No more typing till my fingers hurt
and pains shoot up my spine.

I am done!
I am done!
Relaxation time has come.
I will soak in hot, sweet-scented oils forever!

I'll put up my feet
Do something indiscreet
'Cause I'm done! I am done! I am done!

Did I say indiscreet? Well, maybe not indiscreet but I'm sure ready to take a few days off.
What's the celebration all about? I, Karen Mittan, have finally finished my book. I never thought I'd see the day!

So many times I've wanted to scrap the whole thing! So many times it seemed beyond me. How do you accurately portray the life of another real human being? How do you express, in clear, interesting prose, what that person was all about--especially as complex a person as my grandfather was? Have I truly accomplished what I wanted to accomplish? I honestly don't know. All I can say is that I've tried. And tonight I was finally able to write THE END.

Yes, now - 388 double-spaced pages and 118,836 words later, I AM DONE!

Tomorrow and the next day I collect the photos I want to include. Friday and Saturday I attend the writers' conference that I've used as the time by which I had to have this project completed. Sunday I entertain out of state guests. And Monday I'll start of the final re-writes.
I've already done a lot of re-writing. In fact, the first re-write is finished on everything but this past week's writing.
But I have a check list of things I need to go over now.

CAUSE AND EFFECT. I think I've done pretty well with that. I believe I understand the concept fairly well.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION - Got it. I think I'm pretty clear there. Only one thing I can think of that I still have to put in.
ARTISTIC UNITY - this is one I'm not sure about. this is where you get rid of the fluff. I've tried to keep my writing focused but I'll have to go over it one more time to make sure.
'WHAT IF' PRINCIPLE - I don't think this one applies so well to most of my book because it, although fiction, is biographical - based heavily on fact. Many of the incidents are fact. I don't want to get into a lot of "what would have happened if this had been the circumstance instead of that?". I'm not trying to change his life- just to portray it.
FOCUS - I think I'm pretty good here.
UNDERSTANDABLE - Ditto. Don't think it's far-fetched. I've done enough research it better be correct!
READER MUST - notice, understand, feel -- going to have to have some readers get back with me on that one. I know what I felt as I wrote it but how does a reader feel? Time will tell.
SCENE - I need to identify each scene, what it tells the reader and how it makes the reader feel. that's gonna take a day or two!
REWARDS - some of this is excellent. Some of it - ??? Necessary background but, oh boy. I'm not so sure.
PIVOTAL MOMENTS - I think I have those down pretty well.

Did you ever realize how much there was to writing a novel? Am I ever learning a lot! Maybe by the time I croak I'll have gotten it down.

Now I need to write my proposal and try to find an agent. With any luck I'll be able to pick one up at the conference. We'll see. But that's why I've worked so hard to finish. I didn't want to try to find an agent until I knew I was actually intelligent enough to put it all together because this past month's writing concerned the pivotal point of his life. It dealt with the events and issues that changed his thinking and, ultimately, the direction of his life.
It's one thing to write about changes in an imaginary person. Sometimes they WON'T do what you'd planned - it just won't work out - but for the most part you, the writer, can make them do pretty much what you want. When you're dealing with a real person, however, and you're trying to be at least relatively true to him or her, you have to be a lot more careful and thoughtful. I've sweated blood and tears over whether I was being true to him. I think I am. I can only hope.

Umpteen hour days at the computer are enough to make a REAL old woman out of me! I've put in more hours a day on this project, since the funeral, than I ever dreamed anyone could con me into doing. But it's done. Finis. THE END.

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.