Books, Books, Books!

CowgirlDreams Front CoverThis week has been new book week for me. My editor from Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press sent cover designs for my novel series (they’re republishing Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream along with the new novel, Dare to Dream), and we went back and forth on the choices their designer had made. At first I was not happy with the new covers and felt they appeared to be “romances” rather than the “working” west cowgirls I’ve written about. But the publisher’s experience in sales and marketing prevailed, providing a “theme” for my novel trilogy.

I will share the cover for Cowgirl Dreams here. This one I did like from the beginning. The other two have some tweaks to be made yet and I will preview them at a later time.

Today, I also sent my publisher the manuscript for Cowgirl Up!, a non-fiction book about the old-time rodeo cowgirls of Montana. This book tells the story of women’s rodeo, from its heyday in the early 1900s when women competed with men on the same rough stock to its decline due to injuries and deaths, societal pressure, the beginning of the RAA–a men-only organization–and WWII. Alice Greenough riding bronc

Cowgirl Up! is a departure from my comfort zone in fiction. Even though I began my writing career in journalism, this is my first non-fiction book. As you might imagine, I’m a little nervous to find out if I’ve done the subject justice and if my editor approves of the way I’ve written it.

Wish me luck!

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Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 6:05 pm  Comments (12)  
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Meet Cowboy Poet Sally Harper Bates

sallyI had the privilege to meet Sally Harper Bates last spring when she moderated a panel on “The Lives of Cowboy Wives” at the Phippen Museum in Prescott AZ. Sally is a [past] ranch wife, a singer/songwriter, a cowboy poet, and a budding novelist. Born in Prescott, Arizona and raised on ranches in Yavapai County, she readily admits her roots have buried themselves so deep in the manzanita and malapai of Northern Arizona she would probably not survive a transplant. Her family stands on 5 generations of ranching roots in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and several members of her immediate family are still involved in ranching, even though she is no longer a ranch resident. She and her husband, Pat, live in Chino Valley on a 4-acre fenced plot that provides at least rural existence. Sally is the author of a children’s series—Cable Carson Cricket, A Cowboy’s Christmas—a story compilation, and Life Between Dust & Clouds—a memoir told in essay and poetry.

Welcome, Sally. How did you get started writing cowboy poetry?

I was raised so far from town that we didn’t have television until I was about 12 or 13 years old, so the family found other ways to entertain ourselves. One of those was a lot of reading, and since we were home-schooled many of our assignments included reading. My grandmother had a solid collection of poetry by Sharlot Hall (early area pioneer), and my dad’s favorite poet was Robert Service, so both of those writers became models for my research and reading. I loved poetry and music from the time I was old enough to pound out a rhythm on a toy piano I got for Christmas. And since poetry and music run together so nicely that just found its way into my life quite readily.  I started writing poetry as assignments for my school projects, but found I wrote a lot of it when I was looking for something to do when riding wasn’t in the mix for the day.

Do you feel poetry is the best way to tell the story of ranch life and the West?Front Cover

Not necessarily, but it’s a very effective way to express the heart of ranching. Stanley Kunitz, American Poet Laureate, wrote something like “If we are to understand what it was like to live in any given time-frame of history it is to the poets we must turn.” I think poetry gives us a unique opportunity to share the heart of the matter in a way that not a lot of people relate to ranching and the cowboy way of life.

Tell us about your first poem, and the first one you had published or received recognition for.

I really don’t remember when I wrote my first poem, but it had to be in grade school. The first one I had published was in Western Horseman a long, long time ago titled “Howdy Rose, Remember Me?”  But I was shortly after that included in a few anthologies such as Cattle, Horses, Sky and Grass published by Northland Press and Graining the Mare collected by Theresa Jordan.

You are a native of Yavapai County in Arizona. Tell us a little about your background.

Dad was a cowboy all his life—worked at the ORO Ranch off and on from the time he was 15 years old, and before that he did day-work for local ranchers. He worked his entire life in the shadow of Hyde Peak near Camp Wood on one side of the mountain or the other. On both sides of my family tree the roots are planted in ranching and farming somewhere in the west. I was raised around cowboys and their families all my life, and being a full time all time resident of Yavapai County most of my friends are ranch folks.

How were you introduced to music?

My Dad played the guitar and the fiddle a little bit, and Mom pecked around on the mandolin, but my real solid introduction came from a couple who worked on a neighboring ranch and came over for potluck and singing several times a year. They bought me my first guitar and taught me a lot. But my dad let me learn chords on his Monterey, and it was he and friends singing cowboy songs and reciting cowboy poetry that got me hooked on the genre. I had a few instructional pointers from folks, but never took any lessons, which is why I still run with the same 14 chords I learned back then.

Tell us how your CD, “Tramontane (From Over the Hill)”, came into being.

Tramontane was a fluke. I have four other albums that all had purpose and planning, and took some time to pull together. I just wanted to do one with some of my favorite songs on it, so that one came together pretty quickly. All my other albums were original songs or once in a while one that a close friend wrote. The title “Tramontane” has the traditional translation of “From over the hill.” If you look it up in the dictionary it means “foreigner”.  Either way, some of the songs came from someplace other than my brain and guitar.

New Christmas coverWhy do you write, what makes you do it?

 Lots of folks have asked that question through the years, and I tried for a long time to come up with some “ethereal” explanation. But my brother in law says all the girls in my family have a disease that causes us to have this intense need to cover any blank piece of paper with words or pictures. It’s called “Whiteitis.” I think that probably explains it as good as anything!  But there is a piece of work by Terry Tempest Williams that is a pretty good list of all the why’s of a writer that I keep a copy of around.

 Tell us a bit about your writing process.

No process . . . just when an idea and one-liner starts running around in my head I grab a piece of paper and write it down. From there if it keeps “niggling” around in there I’ll sit down and work on it and if it comes to fruition it’s usually a poem or the start of some kind of book or short story.  If it stays interesting, I stick with it, time allowing.

Is there a theme or message you want to convey to your readers?

Not really . . . I just write what I love and what I have lived as it comes to mind. I guess part of that writing is a hopeful place that wants others to understand what a special kind of life ranching is, and to give people a different perspective and insight to what happens on ranches.

What authors or books have influenced you?

Without a doubt, Sharlot Hall.  But about 28 years ago I had the privilege of meeting and becoming accepted in a group of Cowboy Christmas covercowboy poets who began to mentor me and encourage me to write poetry. Not to just write it but craft it and work it into something I could be proud of. I can’t say I’ve got that mastered, but I owe a lot to Vess Quinlan, Joel Nelson, Carole Jarvis and Audrey Hankins, and those who are writing real quality poetry that made me want to write like they did.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve lost control of my life and time . . . I’m helping produce a huge project called Home on the Ranch which will be an event that will celebrate and honor ranch women and their talents. It is going to be held in Wickenburg October 3-5 this year. That has completely absorbed my life for several months outside my clinging firmly to my church and ministry as it presents itself. I’ve been trying to write a short novel that is loosely based on an event that happened in our family at the turn of the century, but can’t really find time to get it accomplished. I get up at about 4:30 and most nights lights out end up being around 11 pm . . .  and the computer is my “helpmate” these days. I get cabin fever and have to get outside sometimes, but the work calls me back pretty quickly.

Why I Love My New Home

Next Tuesday, January 21, will be one year since we arrived in Arizona. We love our new home state, and my S.A.D. is non-existent here with 300 days of sunshine.I love the sun, the mid-60s temperatures this January, and the hiking.

Heidi & PanoramaMy favorite place to hike: Watson Lake

2014-01-01 13-38-39_0006The spectacular and wondrous Granite Dells

Prescott blue Fall Prescott BlueThe “Prescott Blue” skies

Blood red sunset 2014-01-07The sunsets are out of this world!Spectacular sunset2 11_4_13

All in all, we’re very happy here. The next best thing to our native Montana, but without the snow to shovel! May 2014 be blessed for all of us!

Published in: on January 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm  Comments (4)  
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Circles of Deception Probes Crop Circles

by Frances Evlin

CirclesDeceptionInstantly, Risa knew—the man was going to jump.

Thus opens Circles of Deception, my novel about the crop circle phenomena. Risa’s flash of intuition propels her into the world of the circle-makers, individuals with extraordinary mental abilities. And into my long-time favorite unsolved mystery.

To help you understand what I am going to rave on about, please look at photos of these amazing works of art. One such site is www.temporarytemples.co.uk/imagelibrary. It lists them year by year since 1994, three years after they gained worldwide attention, thanks to two retired English gentlemen who claimed they’d made all of them from 1978 to 1991.

Their story is one of the first you will find if you Google crop circles. The formations were not as complex then as they are now, and their confession sounded plausible until I got to the part where they said they made the “grapeshot” small circles by pole vaulting, to avoid leaving paths through the crop. That claim presented a serious credibility gap.

Anyone who looks at recent crop circle formations will see they have progressed far beyond the point where they could be made with a center pole, rope and stomper board.

They are no longer simple circles. In fact, many are not circles at all, but incorporate geometric designs, and representations of animals, birds and other creatures great and small. Those that still feature circles may include 3-D elements (Sugar Hill, August 1, 2007) or intricate floor lays (Etchilhampton, July 25, 2011).

I do not believe these formations are made by ETs. God created the universe and science does not know where it ends. We do know it contains thousands of planets. It is unreasonable to presume that only Earth is populated with intelligent beings. Novelists and screen writers often portray ETs as other than humanoid, but God created man in His image, so we can further presume that Beings from other planets would at least resemble Earth dwellers. However, it equally unreasonable to hypothesize that ETs would venture through space only to leave field art designs that Earth people are unable to interpret.

The designs are much too complicated and precise to be made by weather anomalies.

That leaves only humans as the probable formation makers. Eliminating those designs that are obviously contracted to publicize an event or advertise a product, we are left with other field art of unexplainable origin. A phenomenon, a modern mystery.

So I wondered what sort of individuals could be creating them. They would have to be people who: (1) had an excellent grasp of math, particularly geometry; (2) had some knowledge of architecture, to know how to lay out a pattern, even on hilly ground; (3) were willing to stomp around for hours at night in all kinds of weather; (4) had spouses or family members who did not question their frequent absences; (5) had a reliable vehicle with enough cargo space to haul their tools; (6) were risk-takers, foolish enough not to care about being caught and prosecuted for trespass or criminal mischief; (7) were sufficiently dedicated to their mission to never utter a word about it to anyone other than their circle-making buddies.

It was that last requirement that intrigued me the most. People like recognition. If they create something fantastic, beautiful and/or inspiring, they want the world to know they did it. Remember we are not talking about only one nationality or one ethnic group. Crop circle formations have appeared in twenty-five countries. The network of circle-makers would have to be worldwide. They would want to compare notes, to see who is contemplating what sort of design. Can’t you imagine the jealousy, the hard feelings (anger?) if a group in Country A was all set to put down a never-before-seen pattern only to find a group from Country B had done it within the last twenty-four hours?

What would be the consequences if a group became careless, left telltale footprints, let themselves be seen or otherwise jeopardized the mystery the phenomena needs to survive? Would members of other worldwide groups forgive and forget? Wouldn’t there be serious punishment for the offending group, followed by public denunciation of that group as frauds?

A similar scenario exists for an individual circle-maker who became disenchanted with the whole idea and declared s/he intended to go public. Is there a secret society, ala some university groups, whose threats (physical, social, financial) would force that person to keep quiet?Crop_circles_Swirl

Did the British government set up Operation Blackbird only as a disinformation campaign? Why doesn’t the scientific community seriously seek to solve the origination of the formations instead of declaring all of them hoaxes and ridiculing those who research them?

Those are the thoughts that ricocheted through my mind when I visited the crop circle near Wilbur, Washington in 2007 (simple circles, not a stylized Teddy bear.) Who ARE these people? True, some folks are gifted at creating designs, although why they would choose cereal crops as their medium of expression baffles me. HOW do they escape detection? In over thirty years, and with up to 10,000 formations recorded worldwide, nobody has been prosecuted for trespass and/or criminal mischief? Some of the formations have appeared within sight of a major highway and no motorists noticed someone skulking about in the dark fields? (Wickham Green, July 29, 2010). Amazing!

And where are the “practice” formations? The attempts that turned out to be less than perfect? Once in a while, a poorly executed formation will appear, but the great majority are found in fine shape. This field art cannot be done over. There was no sloppy early version of The Milk Hill Galaxy of August 12, 2001, with its 409 circles of graduating size. And it has not been replicated, in spite of a Crop Circle Challenge offering approximately $160,000 to do so.

I think we have two phenomena here: The tantalizing circles and the mindset of the individuals who create them.

Frances Evlin is the author of eight novels: two mysteries, one YA, and five fantasy. She is a Pacific franceslNorthwest native whose love for creative writing predates her years involved with marriage, children and employment in the lumber industry. She appreciates the power of the English language and enjoys tinkering with words, as you will discover when you read her books. She enjoys reading soft-boiled mysteries, light fantasies and ghostly paranormals. Not sure if she’s an optimistic pessimist or a pessimistic optimist, she strives to live up to her motto: Don’t ever get daunted.

 

Published in: on January 10, 2014 at 6:37 am  Comments (2)  
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