Friday, April 27, 2018

Big Updates to the Website

I've finally updated this website so I can present information about my writing in a more useful format. I've changed the tabs at the top and reorganized material into the categories "About Me," "Blog," "Science Writing," "Short Stories," and "Books." This change came about because I've had a lot of publications lately and it was cumbersome to record them here, since I hadn't organized things on this website in a way that would make this an easy task.

My "Science Writing" tab now contains links to numerous examples of my work for the American Institute of Physics, particularly for the new Scilight project, which has been keeping me quite busy for the past year. These short pieces have been on topics as diverse as multi-color LED arrays, hurricane modeling, dark matter and energy, acoustic metasurfaces, and explosions. I've really enjoyed writing these and invite you to take a look!

Another big change is to my "Short Stories" tab, where I have now put a comprehensive list of all my published short stories, with links to those that were published online. My most recent short story will be out the first week of May in Chantwood Magazine. I will post the exact link here when it appears, but I am very excited about this particular story. It is a modern-day fairy tale and the title is "The Black Forest."

The final big change is the addition of an entire new tab entitled "Books," because, well, I have books coming out! I've posted as much info as I have for the two novels that are currently in press and will update this as more info becomes available. One thing that should happen quite soon is the cover reveal for "Belle o' the Waters." I've seen several rounds of possibilities and we are getting close to a final version, so stay tuned for that exciting news.

Oh, and last but not least: the photos here are from yesterday's walk on the National Mall in DC. It was a gorgeous spring day and I thought I'd capture a bit of it with my phone to share with all of you. Summer is on its way soon!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Babies

I couldn't find time to post an entry in my "old family photo" series last month, since I was busy welcoming my first grandchild, born March 20th. We aren't posting pictures of the baby online, but believe me she's a cutie, just like her great-great-grandmother, pictured here with her own grandfather, Thomas Bean.

This photo was taken in 1911-1912 after Thomas (who is my great-great-grandfather) arrived in the United States. He was born in 1849 in Middlesex, England, and married Ellen Elizabeth Blackshaw in 1872. They had six children before Ellen divorced Thomas in 1884 and sailed to America in 1884. I would love to know more details about their story, since Thomas apparently came to the US eventually and remarried Elizabeth.

One of Thomas and Elizabeth's children was Ellen Elizabeth Bean, also known as Nellie Bean. The baby in this photo (my grandmother, Mabelle Irene Luthy) is her ninth child, out of a total of twelve children, all of them born to her and her husband Albert Frederick Luthy, in their log home in Rexburg, Idaho from the early 1890's to about 1920.

All this is to say that women during that time could be assured that their adult life would likely revolve mostly around having babies and caring for children. These were obviously the days long before reliable birth control was available. As I've written my fictionalized account of the life of one young woman in this era, Belle Waters, I had to acknowledge the truth that this would most likely be her life--having and raising babies. It is not such a bad thing, as I was recently reminded when caring for my now three-week-old granddaughter, but it does limit a woman's role in the world, particularly when they have the number of children that was common in these years: six for my great-great grandmother, Ellen Elizabeth Bean, and twelve for her daughter, Nellie Bean Luthy.

I hope to resume this post series at a somewhat more frequent pace, now that I'm back for awhile from temporary baby duty. More old photos to come soon!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Riding Horses

This photo was taken in 1920. That's my grandma on the horse with her brother, Dave. The two young kids on the ground are actually her niece and nephew, orphaned when their mother died in her thirties. Grandma (Mabelle) has written the names of all of them on the photo -- and, yes, the horses's name is Ben.

I've written some short stories about kids growing up in the west, since that's where I grew up, and I followed the rule to "write what you know." I once had a critique partner suggest that it was unrealistic for the low-income character in my story to have a horse, since it's expensive to keep horses (or so this person said). This may be true in urban areas, but when I was growing up, it was hard to find a ranch or farm in our area that didn't have horses, ours included.

Horses figure prominently in my grandma's recollections from childhood. I've copied below a couple of paragraphs from her "autobiography," an 11-page document she wrote in 1986. I feel quite fortunate to have received a copy with these memories which would, otherwise, have been lost forever.

"My pal, Dorothy Johnson, had a pony named Pee Wee. We rode him all summer long. We watched the boys ride backwards on their horses, so Dot and I decided to ride Pee Wee backwards. Well, Pee Wee didn't like it, so he started to buck. We didn't have a saddle, so off we flew, landing in a pile of dried thistle the wind had blown against the fence. After bucking us off, Pee Wee stood 'hip shod' and went to sleep while Dot and I picked thistle slivers from ourselves.

Another time, I 'stole' my boyfriend's beautiful black horse. I had ridden him double with my friend, but Satan (as I called this horse thereafter) knew his master wasn't there, so he jumped and ran and I couldn't get his head, as it's called. Over the corral bars we went, down a hill, across the creek. He jumped a barbed wire fence, caught his hind leg in it and away Satan and I went for a spill. Florence came to my rescue. No one else saw it happen. I was knocked cuckoo. Flo put me on Old Blue (our riding horse). We rode up into the hills to Hell Hole and stayed until I came to. Hell Hole is several miles from the farm house. We returned at twilight. Had a good excuse to tell our Ma: We had gone to hunt a team of horses that wandered away from the pasture. From that day on, I've had a bad shoulder. Nowadays an ambulance would be called and the injured person taken to the nearest hospital. We were tough but, I think, not wise in keeping that kind of an accident from our folks."

   --- Autobiography of Mabelle Irene Luthy Larter, 1986

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Writing Report: Success!

Last week, I threw out most of my old journals, around 140 spiral-bound notebooks. I'd filled these notebooks with hand-written scribbles for the last thirty years or so, and it felt good to purge my shelves, and my soul, of all those musings. Inside one of those notebooks was this little slip of paper, a note to me from the great Madeleine L'Engle, one of my literary heroes and a major influence on my life in so many categories, not the least of which is writing.

When I was just beginning to write seriously, I valued every word that, by some miracle, came out of me and made it all the way onto paper, but I'd begun to wonder if holding onto all those spiral notebooks was a bit like hoarding. I know that in doing so I was thinking I'd never produce another piece of writing, ever, so I'd better hang onto the proof that I'd done it at least once. Even if no one else valued my writing, the thought process went, at least I did--and the proof was in those boxes filled with notebooks filled with pages and pages of my writing.

I'm guessing that I took this drastic step of clearing my shelves last week because I was also on the verge of taking another big step: signing another publishing contract, this time for my second novel, "Fearless." Just a month ago, I'd made the decision to publish my first novel, "Belle o' the Waters," through a hybrid publisher, as described in this post. This new contract, though, is with an honest-to-god traditional publisher, New Meridian Arts, a small press who loved my book and offered to help me bring it to the world. I was thrilled to receive this news, but also surprised, since I thought it was going to be years before I found a publisher for this or any of my books. I was glad to be proven wrong! "Fearless" is likely to be published later in 2018, or early 2019. I will post more information about it as we get closer to the publication date.

One more thing: Madeleine apparently often signed autographs with the phrase you see here, "tesser well," which is an odd phrase, and you won't find it many other places. It is based on a concept in her book, "A Wrinkle in Time," that had such a huge influence on my life. The phrase invokes her idea of a tesseract, used by the characters in Wrinkle to travel through time, so to "tesser" means to move from one point in time to another in an extraordinary way. She believed that to "tesser well" required a certain type of inner strength. I don't know if I have what she meant, but I like to think I do, or that I at least keep trying even when there's no reason to believe success will ever come. Because, actually, sometimes success really does happen!