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!


Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Homestead

This is a photo of the group of men that established our original family homestead, forerunner of our family ranch, known as the 711 Ranch. My grandfather, Ferry Larter, is the taller young man in the center back row. To his left (our right) is his father, my great-grandfather, Claude Larter, and to grandpa's right is Claude's half-brother, Will Larter.

In the front row are grandpa's brothers and one brother-in-law. Left to right are: Ray Bradshaw, Shirley Larter, Clark Larter and Fay Larter. These men established a homestead using the acreage around the Whiskey Springs Stagecoach Stop that had been founded in 1908 and run by Claude for years. The building behind them is the original homestead house, which later became the bunkhouse where traveling cowboys bunked while they worked for the ranch.

I'm not totally sure of the relationship between Claude and Will, although they are identified in the records I have as half-brothers. Claude's father (my great-great-grandfather) was Henry Neach Larter, born in Norfolk, England, in 1932. He had more than one wife. One of these wives was Phebe Maria Curtis, and she was Claude's mother -- hence, my great-great-grandmother. I'm still not sure who Will's mother and father were, but I'm working on finding out!

Phebe's father, Erastus Curtis, was 19 years old in 1847 when he accompanied his father to travel to what we now know as Utah. They came with Brigham Young in the first wave of Mormon pioneers to settle the Salt Lake area. I do know that Erastus had four wives and at least 25 children. It appears that he was a polygamist, since these marriages all appear to have occurred around the same time, in 1848, one year after the first wave of Mormon pioneers arrived in Salt Lake. One of his wives, Mary Caroline Barton Curtis, died in 1911 in a place now called Barton, not far from Whiskey Springs.

Some of this family history has made its way into my forthcoming novel, "Belle o' the Waters," due out this summer. Friends who have read early drafts of this book will definitely recognize some of the names, since I've borrowed liberally from my family tree for character names in the novel. I know so little about these early generations, though, and the details of their daily lives, even their exact relationships to one another, are still a mystery, and may always remain that way. Hence, my book is not a family history - it's a novel, totally fictionalized, but based on the history that so many of us who grew up in the western US share.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Throw Back Thursday: One Hundred Years Ago

This is a photo of my grandmother, taken when she was seven years old and all dressed up for her big sister's wedding. Grandma was born in September, 1911, so this photo was probably taken in late 1918. As it turns out, I have an eyewitness account of what her life was like at that time. My grandmother wrote a ten-page autobiography in January, 1986, and made sure we all copies. I've been reading it recently, and see that it's possible some of my urge to write came from her!

The following is an excerpt from the section of Grandma's autobiography close to the time this photo was taken. It describes events that took place that year in Rexburg, Idaho.

November of 1918 brought the end of World War I and the Armistice celebration. The Kaiser was burned in effigy on the flagpole in the middle of Main Street. I got lost in the crowd. 

I must have been doing a bit of loud crying because the curfew lady, Mrs. Barnes, took me by the hand and asked me my name and where I lived. I can remember telling her, "My name is Mabelle and I live down past the Tabernacle." 

On the way home, we met Adeline and Hank [her sister and brother] coming back to town to find me. I remember that well because I was a frightened little girl. Who wouldn't have been at that tender age--bands playing, people yelling, the stuffed Kaiser hanging up there on a pole burning and Mrs. Barnes dressed in a long black skirt and black coat, carrying a billy club looped over her wrist and a gun in her purse. No, I won't forget that.
   ---- The Autobiography of Mabelle Irene Luthy Larter, written January, 1986

And, obviously, my grandmother never did forget that, since she described it vividly nearly seventy years later. What's more, she put it in writing, so all of us can now know what life was like a hundred years ago for one very special little girl.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Real Cowboys

My grandfather (Ferry Larter, left) and his brother-in-law (Dave Luthy, grandma's brother) look like real cowboys in this photo, and they were-- in a way. My grandparents owned a cattle ranch and grandpa always did lots of work involving cows.

I never knew my Great Uncle Dave since he died in 1943 when the troop ship he was on in the North Atlantic was torpedoed by the Germans. I do remember these chaps he's wearing, though, or some like them, since my grandfather wore them whenever they needed to drive cattle up onto the range or down into the field, or round up some calves for branding.

The building my grandfather and great uncle are next to is the bunk house, as we called it in later years. That is where the real cowboys stayed. These men were what we might now call "migrant workers," since they were hired for a short time by ranchers who needed help rounding up cattle, driving the herd to the range, or branding.

The bunk house was where these cowboys slept while doing a job for my grandfather. He'd given up the role of cowboy for rancher and had become the boss. He always told me that he "used to be" a cowboy, though, and would show me this photo and his chaps and spurs as proof. I wanted to be a cowboy, too, and my parents and grandparents appeased me with a tiny pair of cowboy boots that I wore everywhere. Here's a photo of me "helping" with my baby sister, Becky -- while wearing those boots, of course. The cabin we are in front of was my grandparent's house, built by hand a few hundred yards from the bunkhouse, but of the same log-cabin style.

I've pasted here a photo of the bunkhouse I took years later, when I was visiting the ranch, or what remained of it, with my own children. This photo is ten years old, and most of my family has moved away now, so I haven't seen it for awhile. I don't know if any of it is standing anymore. Buildings in that part of the world tend to collapse and crumble to dust after a few decades, leaving only our memories of them.



I hope you've enjoyed this week's Throw Back Thursday post. More photos coming soon!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Big Announcement!

I'm excited to announce that my first novel, "Belle o' the Waters," will be published by Mascot Books. This novel has been in the works for nine long years and I am so happy to finally be able to share it with readers. I just signed the contract with Mascot last week, so we don't have a publication date yet, but it is likely to be later in 2018.

The idea for this novel came to me from several different directions, but one of the most influential was a story my grandmother told to me. She's the one on the right in this picture, taken in 1946. The other women were cousins of her husband, my grandfather. When I asked what was behind this photo, she always said, "Oh, we was just actin' up," which, as you can see, is exactly what she wrote, in ink, on the front of the photo.

Grandma had been born into a Mormon family in a rural area of Idaho and, like all Mormon kids, was due to be baptized when she turned eight. She refused, however, kicking and screaming, and wouldn't let her older sisters dress her for the baptism. She told me she was convinced that if she allowed them to baptize her, she would have to marry Brigham Young.

This, mind you, was around about 1920, so Brigham Young, the great patriarch of the church, the man who had led a group of settlers west to settle in Salt Lake and establish what they believed and hoped would be there own country in the midst of another, had been dead for decades. His legacy, however, seems to have lived on in the stories that little girls whispered to each other, passed down from older friends to younger ones, for all that time. This second photo, by the way, is of my great Aunt Lute with her two little brothers. The one on the right is my grandfather, and they are all standing next to the cabin at Whiskey Springs, where our family homestead was located.

One thing I never understood was how the strong, competent, self-assured women I grew up around, women like my grandmother and aunts, had come out of what everybody believed was a patriarchal culture, where women were considered as not much more than a man's property. I couldn't figure it out, and I finally had to write a story about a girl, born into a polygamous family in this culture, and watch her grow up to understand where that strength came from. The story I wrote, "Belle o' the Waters," helped me understand what I probably already knew, at some level deep inside: her strength came from the land itself, and her toughness grew out of the necessity to live in that harsh land, protect your children, and make a life for yourself in what was truly the wild West at that time.

I will keep you posted about progress with the book, but in the meantime, I have a lot more old pictures to post and a lot more family stories to relate, so stay tuned for more!