Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Brown, Anyone?

Woe is brown, orphan of the color world, at best its foster child. Like the last kid chosen for the softball team, brown rarely gets picked as someone’s favorite color. It never shows up in a rainbow; almost never on a color wheel. Winston Churchill once said, “I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.”

Brown is almost as common on planet Earth as water and grass. It's the color of soil, tree trunks, animal hides, mountains, and the skin of most human inhabitants. So why is that blue and green get all the juicy adjectives? Writers avoid calling brown by its name, preferring descriptions such as rich, dappled, fawn, or purple, even "purple majesty." Let’s face it, brown is the color of dirt--dry and dreary as “the long brown trail before me.”

Those of us living in central Oregon’s high desert are surrounded by brown. Countless shades of it make up the fault-block mountains and rimrock mesas that rise above us. It’s found in thunder eggs, agates, dust devils, and on the branches of tumbling tumbleweeds. Rattlesnakes wear it. So do pronghorns, elk, deer, coyotes, and hundreds of species of birds.

Being the color of the ground we walk on, brown represents stability. It signifies something natural rather than manufactured, as in paper vs plastic at the checkout counter. On the other hand, brown can also indicate decay, the bad parts we cut off fruits and vegetables. If there’s too much of it, we throw the food away. We’re told the most colorful fruits and vegetables are healthiest, and to make sure we get the message, advertisers photograph vibrant arrays of fresh carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, and eggplants. Brown rarely makes an appearance in these pictures unless mushrooms or raisins are included.

Poets tend to ignore brown, preferring to immortalize green as in “Trees” by Joyce Carol Oates or “In the Green and Gallant Spring” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Novelists often pair romantic moments with rose gardens, bluebirds, and meadows. Even authors from countries like Ireland, where it rains so much it’s always green, place their characters in leafy environments.
When poets do use brown it’s to describe something autumnal or made of wood as in “a belfry old and brown” in Longfellow’s “The Belfry of Bruges.” Rarely is the color used romantically, although “my love is like a brown, brown rose” might be appropriate when sending a bouquet of dead flowers to an unfaithful lover.

I try to focus on “feel-good” associations when I describe something brown. Coffee, for example; toast, bronze, suntanned. Warm-blooded animals also evoke cozy correlations like foxy, fawn-colored, cashmere, and buckskin. I once worked for a cosmetics company where part of my job was to name each season’s makeup colors. Something new and compelling for brown eye shadow was imperative, since it was one of our best-sellers. Sienna, amber, and hazel had been used to death, thus I preferred food or animal-related names like “Hot Mocha” or “Sorrel.” Now I see browns called “Scandaleyes” or “Vamp,” names reflecting image rather than a familiar color.

I am a fan of brown. I have brown eyes, tortoise shell eyeglasses, and I wear a lot of camel, beige, and brown clothing. However my favorite browns are the ones that go in my mouth: steak, fried chicken, stew, French onion soup, chocolate, pie crust. Most brown foods get their color from frying, braising, caramelizing, or baking. Without some form of browning, we’re left with meals that are boiled, steamed, or poached. These cooking methods are healthier than frying, but health-food advocates can have their rice, asparagus, and poached salmon. I’d rather have a burger, fries, and a Coke.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Never Done Released Today

I thought this day would NEVER COME, but The Wild Rose Press released my novel NEVER DONE today.

If you have an e-reader, you can buy NEVER DONE from my publisher for $3.00 today VS $5.99 on Amazon, B & N, etc.

 Link to Never Done in The Wild Rose Press catalog

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Author Peggy Jaeger's Interview March 5

Today I’ve got a treat – and another first. Recently I had a week of author blog visits from some amazeballs non-romance writers. Today, I can add one more name to that list, Ginger Dehlinger. Ginger is a Wild Rose Press sistah who enjoys writing about the American West. So cool! Today, she’s visiting me and giving me a glimpse into her writing process, plus she’s brought along a little something extra: an excerpt from her soon-to-be released new book, NEVER DONE. So, sit back and get to know Ginger.
Ginger, The Writer
  1. What drives you to write? The pure pleasure of writing, the sound and rhythm of words, and the amazing number of different ways they can be combined. I’m always thinking of situations or topics to write about. When I run across something interesting, or an idea pops into my brain while I’m on my daily walk, I quickly add it to my list of future projects. I’ve been compiling the list for years. I don’t think I will ever get to the bottom of it.
  1. What genre(s)  do your write, and why? My genre is actually historical fiction. Once in a while a bit of romance sneaks into my stories, but it plays a small role.
  1. What genre(s)  do you read, and why?  I prefer historical fiction. The last book I read was Temperence Creek, a memoir written by a woman who herded sheep (along with her boyfriend/later husband) in the Snake Canyon region of Oregon during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
  1. What’s your writing schedule? Do you write every day? I try to write every morning from about eight o’clock until noon.
  1. Give us a glimpse of the surroundings where you write. Separate room? In the kitchen? At the dining room table? I have converted our small third bedroom into a den. In it are my desk and chair, two tall bookcases, a recliner, and a hide-a-bed, just in case we have an extra guest or two. On the wall I face is a burl clock my cousin made for me, and the wall next to me has a framed collage made from my first novel, Brute Heart.
  1. Are you the kind of writer who needs total quiet to compose, or are you able to filter out the typical sounds of the day and use your tunnel vision? Unless I’m working on a deadline, I keep the door open. The TV is usually on in the living room, but it is just background noise.
      7.Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind? If not, why not? I don’t listen to music because I find it distracting. Either I want to sing along or dance to it. ( Peggy here: so do I!!)
  1. How did you come up with the plotline/idea for your current WIP? It came to me while reading my great-grandmother’s handwritten life story. Like most women from my great-grandmother’s generation, she didn’t openly discuss personal matters. For example, all she wrote about her widowed father’s marriage to a sixteen-year-old girl was: “and things didn’t go well with the new young wife.” Well, I wanted more than that, so I made up a story about it. I took what I saw as a terrible situation for a girl of fourteen and fictionalized it into a stormy relationship that takes place between two women from their teens (roughly 1884) until 1919.
  1. Which comes first for you – character or plot? And why? Plot. I have to begin with a story or message that is emotional and meaningful. Otherwise, why waste my readers’ time?
  1. What 3 words describe you, the writer? straightforward; detail-oriented; sensitive
Ginger, The Person 
  1. Tell us one unusual thing about yourself – not related to writing! I used to play the guitar, and one night I sang for my supper at a bar in lower Manhattan.
  2. Who was your first love and what age were you? When I was five years old, I told everybody my boyfriend was the movie cowboy Roy Rogers. According to my mother, I  used to include him and talk to him while I played house.
  3. If you could relive one day, which one would it be? Think GROUNDHOG DAY, the movie for this one – you’ll have to live it over and over and… It would probably be the day I spent touring the ruins of Machu Picchu
  4. If you had to give up one necessary-can’t-live-without-it beauty item, what would it be? my eyeliner pencil
  5. What three words describe you, the person?loyal; organized; curious
  6. If you could sing a song with Jimmy Fallon, what would it be? “A Train Called the City of New Orleans” 
  7. If you could hang out with any literary character from any book penned at any time line, who would it be, why, and what would you do together? Cheryl Strayed from Wild. We would climb Mt. Hood together.
I love the Actor’s Studio show on Bravo, so this is my version of it:
  1. Favorite sound: the ocean
  2. Least favorite sound: squealing tires
  3. Best song ever written: “You Raise Me Up” (Pop); “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (Country); “Treat Her Like a Lady” (Rock)
  4. Worst song ever written: There are way too many to list.
  5. Favorite actor and actress: Today—Bradley Cooper and Emily Blunt From the past—Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Taylor
  6. Who would you want to be for 1 day and why? ( It can be anyone living or dead) Joni Mitchell before she changed from folk music to jazz. She was an amazing songwriter and musician. I would have loved to spend a day inside her head.
  7. What turns you on? Il Divo
  8. What turns you off? talking heads trying to talk over each other during a TV program
  9. What’s your version of a perfect day? Waffles and Jimmy Dean sausage for breakfast, three hours of quiet to write, a two-mile walk along the Deschutes River, Mongolian chicken with brown rice for lunch, a pedicure, a movie like “Emma” or “The Joy Luck Club,” a glass of white wine with shrimp scampi and a green salad for dinner, a game or two of cribbage, hot bath and massage before going to bed
Clara, fourteen and Geneva, sixteen are close friends until Geneva secretly marries Clara’s widowed father. Feeling betrayed by her pa and a girl she idolizes, Clara wants nothing to do with her new young stepmother. Geneva retaliates, beginning a clash of wills that lasts from 1884 to the flu epidemic of 1918.
Years go by without them speaking to one another. Geneva, bolder of the two, lives a life of ease in elegant homes with piped water and domestic help. She shops for the latest in women’s fashions and plays pinochle with lady friends.
For spite, Clara marries a handsome cowboy Geneva fancies, but ends up living in a freezing cold cabin and a house infested with bugs. She takes in ironing and feeds miners to make ends meet, discovering love and purpose in the process.
It takes a tragedy to bring her and her family together again. Can she and Geneva see this as an opportunity to put aside the past? Can they salvage a relationship that was once the center of their world?
Pa wasn’t supposed to get married again. He hadn’t  promised that; however with her and Lily to take care of him, he didn’t need a wife. Besides, cousins marrying cousins,  one of them much older than the other, was a complete  muddle of how life was supposed to be.
With a sudden start she realized she would be seeing Geneva every day. They would be living in the same house—the one Pa built for his family—and her best friend, her only friend in this place with no neighborhoods or schools was now her stepmother.
Ginger Dehlinger is a native Oregonian who enjoys writing about the American West: poems, essays, short stories, and two novels, one set in Oregon, one in Colorado. On her blog http://gdehlinger.blogspot.com she writes about the process of writing or posts short pieces she’s written.
She has received kudos for her writing, although, as she tells people, “I’ll never be famous.” Her first novel, BRUTE HEART, was a runner-up for the 2012 Big Al’s Books ‘n Pals People’s Choice Award. “Last Ride,” an essay starring a tumbleweed, won first prize in the 2011 Rising Star contest for Pacific Northwest writers. A short story, “The Embroidered Sheets,” was a finalist for the Women Writing the West Laura Award in 2013.
Her poetry has also been honored. She received a Writer’s Digest honorable mention in 2010 for her poem, “A Bar Stool’s Lament.” “Sleep on the Lam” (2013) and “Ghost Trees at Midnight” (2016) were finalists in a local writing competition, and another poem,”If I Wore Sensible Shoes,” was published in the 2012 edition of the Gold Man Review.
Ginger is an active member of the Central Oregon Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, and the executive committee of the Lake of the Woods Oregon Historical Society. She also participates in a small critique group. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, reading, and travel.
Born and raised in Klamath Falls, Oregon, she attended the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, where she majored in history, minored in English. She graduated from the U of O with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Phi Beta Kappa key. A few years after graduation she went bi-coastal, living in New York City, Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut, Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles, California. She now lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband Dick and a cat named Kiki.
You can connect with Ginger here:
Peggy here: Ginger it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Much luck with NEVER DONE and thanks for visiting!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Horse Canyon

At a workshop I attended last fall, we were challenged to write a poem in which the first stanza uses landscape terms to describe a horse and the second stanza uses horse terms to describe a landscape. Below is what I, after spending a great deal of time with my Thesaurus, came up with. And for those who may ask--no, the second stanza does not depict horses falling to their deaths.

Horse Canyon

Eight hundred pounds of grit
(dust-gray, hardy as sagebrush,
a hillock of wild oats
cresting granite shoulders)
braves the rim of the divide.
Sensing peril, obsidian heels rear back
before the rimrock starts to give.

Great haunches of bay and sorrel
gallop down the mountainside,
the roar of a hundred cannons
echoing flank to flank,
scree clattering in the tail,
kicking up dust until the last chestnut
rolls into a nickering stream.

Ginger Dehlinger
October 2016

Monday, February 6, 2017

I Am Not Old

Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't really celebrate the day, it just sort of came and went like any other day. Little by little I am getting old. I don't feel old. I don't dwell on my age or get depressed about it,  but I wish I could be as exuberant as the woman who wrote the following poem.

I Am Not Old
by Samantha Reynolds

I am not old, she said,
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
at the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
of my life as art.
I am the hours
connected like dots
into good sense.
I am the fullness
of existing.
You think I am waiting to die…
but I am waiting to be found.
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
imprints of my journey.
Ask me anything.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Money in the Old West--Part II

(see previous blog post for introduction and more information)

During Alaska’s gold rush, miners put specified weights of gold dust in squares of writing paper, sealed them, and then labeled each packet with the value of the gold inside. (approximately $16 per ounce at the time) These small packets of gold dust were used throughout the state as money, most commonly in one or two-dollar denominations. Some of the packets were still being exchanged after 1899 when the Klondike gold rush ended.

Real gold and real silver coins also circulated, some issued by the US government, others by the states. The “slug,” a $50 gold piece, was used mainly in California, but also circulated in other parts of the country. The percentage of precious metal the coins contained, as well as their value, fluctuated over the years. During the California gold rush, for instance, miners stopped digging for silver and flocked to the gold fields, resulting in a brief period where silver was more valuable than gold. When that happened, people began hoarding silver coins or melting them down since they were worth more as metal than currency.

Coins were also hoarded by professional gamblers. They were less messy than gold dust, easier to verify as the real deal, and they didn’t need to be weighed. If an ordinary cowboy wanted to join a game of cards, and he didn’t have coins, he might bet personal items, such as clothing, ammunition, or his saddle. In Never Done, Vincent teaches Clara how to play poker, and the young couple uses dried beans to make their wagers. Clara mastered the game quickly, winning beans about as often as she lost them. She soon grew tired of moving small piles of beans back and forth across the table, and one day, after Vincent won with a full house higher than hers, she gave the poker stakes a rinse and cooked them for supper.

Due to the lack of coins in circulation, it became almost impossible in the Old West to make change, which resulted in the going rate of a dollar for many items or services regardless of their size or value. My heroine Clara ends up managing a hotel in Ophir Loop, Colorado where the sign near the entrance reads, “Good Beds, $1.00 a Night.” When winter rolls around, the hotel is full to bursting with miners looking for a warm place to stay. Some men had to double up. Although they shared both room and bed, Clara charged each man a dollar per night for the room, a dollar apiece for the food, and nobody argued.

Most frontier communities were small. The townspeople knew each other well and were familiar with the farmers and ranchers who came into town for supplies or entertainment. Rather than charging for every item an individual or family bought, the owner of the general store usually kept track of them in a ledger, asking the accounts be settled by the end of each month. Sometimes the settlement was in the form of commodities or labor. 

Accepting paper currency was a risk for many years. Issued by banks or state governments, it could be redeemed for gold or silver coin, but only at the bank that issued it, and many of those “wildcat banks” didn’t have the coin to back up the bills they printed. Paper became a more acceptable medium of exchange after 1863 when National notes became the standard. Counterfeiting, however, became an issue, and still remains a headache, even with modern "fool-proof" designs.

In today’s nearly cashless society, all of the mediums and methods of exchange used in the Old West seem crude and complicated. To me, however, the sociability and trust implicit in having an account at the general store is preferable to the plastic, PayPal, or e-bill pay I use to make sterile, faceless transactions. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Money in the Old West--Part One

“It was not by gold, or by silver, but by labour that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.” Adam Smith

While doing research for Never Done, I learned much about the nature of money in the Old West or what substituted for it. I incorporated some of what I learned in my novel if it fit the story’s action or theme. For example, in part IV, “To Market, To Market,” I write how the main character, Clara, and her husband exchange food with the Stuart’s, their closest neighbors. In autumn, the trees in the Stuart family’s orchard were heavy with fruit. Albert shared the beef he butchered with his men, and Vincent traded some of it to the Stuart’s for apples.   
Barter was common in sparsely-settled parts of the West, whereas bank accounts were rare. Self-employed farmers exchanged what they grew or raised for canned goods, seed, building materials, or clothing. The milk and eggs they produced were the two items most prized by people living in towns. Wage-earning townspeople were either paid in cash or with chits and coupons redeemable only at the company store. The storekeepers kept track of a household or customer's monthly purchases, and then settled accounts on payday. 

Long before the West was won, trappers swapped beaver and fox furs for tobacco, hunting gear, alcohol, and food. Native Americans traded hides and rugs for beads, cooking utensils, and horses. In “Make Do and Mend,” part III of Never Done, Vincent sells the wolf hides he cures over the winter and uses the money to buy a Singer sewing machine for Clara.
Cowboys were usually paid in cash. When they ran out of cash, they often paid for a well-earned drink at the saloon with a .45 caliber bullet. Back then a bullet cost about the same as a glass of whiskey, hence the expression “shot” of whiskey or other hard liquor. Miners buying a drink at the same saloon might pay with a pinch of gold dust rather than plunking a bullet or coin on the bar.

Gold dust or gold nuggets were acceptable almost everywhere as currency. Every store kept a gold scale on the counter to weigh it; although with questionable accuracy. Saloons didn’t use scales, and many bartenders became rich skimming dust off the saloon’s earnings. Sometimes they carried it home under their fingernails. Other times a bartender would rub grease in his hair before his shift, and then casually run his fingers through it after he was paid. Later he would wash the gold out of his hair, giving himself a nice bonus.
(to be concluded next month)