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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Good-bye Larry McMurtry

No doubt those coyotes you heard howling toward the end of March were lamenting the death of Larry McMurtry. I came close to howling with them on March 26 when I learned the Texas writer had passed the day before. I have watched the mini-series “Lonesome Dove” too many times to count, and being a lover of the Western genre, I watch every episode with profound respect for McMurtry’s realistic, heart-rending grasp of the “old West” and the people who tamed it.

Over his lifetime, his love of the wild West coupled with painstaking research resulted in close to three dozen novels, over 20 screenplays, and numerous nonfiction memoirs and essays. I was especially delighted when he adapted a short story written by Annie Proulx, another of my favorite authors, into the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. Annie’s story won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1998, and the film adaptation was a “best picture” finalist at the 78th Annual Academy Awards. What a dynamite combination!

Several of McMurtry’s engaging novels, and not always Westerns, were adopted by filmmakers. Besides his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove which became an Emmy-winning TV series, films based on The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment were box office triumphs. Last Picture Show was a finalist for the “best picture” Oscar in 1971.

I will dearly miss the prolific writer as I do the passing of all of my favorite authors. Lately, March seems to be particularly hard on them. Larry McMurtry died March 25, 2021; Pat Conroy March 4, 2016. Annie, please be extra careful during March.  




Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fun With the Preposition or Prefix "In"

Social media has been receiving some bad publicity these days, much of it centering on censorship. Although I strongly believe in the First Amendment, I am torn when it comes to these censorship complaints. For me, social media used to be an entertaining, often enlightening, pastime. However, I have received or accidently viewed on other people's computer screens, posts that are so disgusting I would ban them myself if I had the technical skill to do so.

Thankfully, users still share beautiful pictures, funny (without being politically, racially, or scatalogically-themed) cartoons, and words of wisdom. Occasionally, I come across a post that I respect so much I absolutely have to share it. The one below is a great example of the English language's unlimited potential for meaning. It arrived with no acknowledgement for the clever person who wrote it. Oh, that I were so clever!

                                                            A Writer's Travels

I have been many places in my life, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can't go alone.  You have to be in Cahoots with someone. 

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there. 

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my friends and family. I live close, so it's a short drive. 

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore. 

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go; I try not to visit there too often. 

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I'm starting to go there more often as I'm getting older. 

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenaline flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get! 

And, sometimes I think I am in Vincible, but life shows me I am not. 

People keep telling me I'm in Denial, but I'm positive I've never been there before.



I, Ginger Dehlinger, have been in Denial as well as Denio. (Denio, Nevada, a flyspeck on the map located at the Nevada/Oregon border) Does anyone know of a town named Cahoots, Suspense or Doubt? Please tell me where to find them if you do.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Inspiration for Poems

Most people associate me with the two novels I have written, but I don't have another story in me that would take 80,000 words or more to tell. As a lifelong lover of words, I am fascinated by the limitless potential of sound, rhythm, and meaning in the English language. Writing a poem allows me to play with words until I have what I believe is the right combination to capture a stunning sight, moment, or thought. Sometimes I try a new format. Sometimes I write something silly. Meanwhile, as I slowly morph into a poet, I am using the discipline I have learned writing poems to improve my prose.

Although new to the genre, over a dozen of my poems have been published in online journals, e-mags and print anthologies. Below is one that recently appeared last fall in Tiny Spoon, issue 5: “Ecology."

 

Dead Beetle in the Path

Blue-eyed river shimmers.
A path carved by shoes and boots
shadows its course.

Sun warms, air hums with insect chatter.
One lies dead in the middle of the path.

Shiny black beetle on its back,
legs curled as if shielding a heart.
Does a beetle have a heart?
Do we who sliced this earthbound trail?

Let Artemis rule this wild green savanna.
Beetles will thrive here,
native grasses spring from the soil.

Let feral feet etch the only paths.

 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Christmas 2020

 In the middle of the covid-19 pandemic and without the consent of Oregon’s governor, my husband and I celebrated Christmas with family. Both boys, I should call them men (good grief, Rick turned fifty last September) wanted to get away for a few days, and I guess our house looked like a good place to land. Dick and I were delighted to have them. It had been ten years since our last Christmas with both of his sons. Sean and Rick brought their significant others, too—Sean’s wife Evie and daughter Maya and Rick’s new lady friend Michelle, who turned out to be delightful.

Since every restaurant in Oregon was closed to anything except takeout or outdoor seating (even though temperatures hovered around freezing) I was in and out of our double ovens for a week: three batches of cookies, two pies, a large pan of corn bread, biscuits, blueberry muffins, pigs ‘n blankets, roasted tomatoes, stuffed peppers, and a 14-pound turkey. I haven’t cooked and baked this much in a week since…… well, forever! Thankfully, nothing was a culinary disaster, and I only burned myself once.

Our guest bathroom was busy, too, as was the refrigerator, dishwasher, and door to the liquor cabinet. Every sheet in our house was in use as well as most of the towels. We had to empty the kitchen garbage every day, while stuffing our hefty recycle bin with flattened boxes, food containers, and torn Christmas wrappings.

Late nights, early mornings (even after too much alcohol the night before), hugs every time we felt like it, belly laughs, tons of reminiscing—it was a fabulous week.

So……as we begin 2021 with a covid-19 vaccine and visions of mask-less faces dancing in our heads, I leave you with this somewhat appropriate question, given my rather frantic Christmas…….

If a redhead goes crazy, does Ginger snap?


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Christmas at the Ophir Loop Hotel

Since I am currently readying my home for Christmas, I decided to post an excerpt from my novel Never Done, one that briefly describes an old-fashioned Christmas at the Ophir Loop (Colorado) hotel. I have changed some of the wording to add enough clarification to make it a stand alone piece. If you enjoy it, you might want to read the rest of the story that takes place from 1895 to 1919.

Toward the middle of December, Clara began preparing for Christmas. The aroma of gingerbread and other sweet-smelling treats floated through the hotel every day as she and Hannah filled the cellar with baked goods. Soon pine boughs appeared in the hotel entry as well as over the dining room windows.

Clara had seen a box of ornaments in the cellar, and imagining a Christmas tree in a corner of the dining room, she asked Yoshiro to hitch up the sleigh and bring back a small conifer. Yoshiro had learned about Christmas trees the previous December when the hotel’s owner helped him find a tree of the proper size and shape. True to a tradition he hadn’t grown up with in Japan, he returned with a healthy six-foot spruce.

Mr. Beale was eating supper when the hotel’s eager young handy-man dragged the tree into the dining room. He finished his coffee, and then helped Yoshiro build a simple wood stand for the tree. After making sure the tree stood perfectly straight, Mr. Beale returned to his table and finished his meal.

Sophie, her moon face beaming, walked into the dining room carrying the box of Christmas ornaments. She set it on the floor, and then reached into the box and pulled out a green glass ornament which she attached to a branch with a piece of red ribbon. 

Mr. Beale pulled out his pocket watch. “I don’t have to go to work for a few minutes" he said to Sophie. "May I help you hang those ornaments?”

Sophie shrugged her shoulders and gave him a puzzled look. “No know.”

Thinking Sophie might not have enough grasp of English to understand what he wanted, he walked into the kitchen and asked Clara who was sitting on a stool, peeling potatoes.

“I’d be pleased if you’d let me help decorate the tree, Mrs. Reese. I don’t have to leave for half an hour.” His dark brown eyes, droopy at the corners, sparkled with the glee of a young boy.

Clara felt her face redden. Not only had she been nosing around this man’s reading material when she cleaned his room, he had been sneaking into her dreams of late, dreams she pooh-poohed as some strange manifestation of Rocky Mountain altitude sickness.

“That would be kind of you, Mr. Beale.” She went back to peeling the potato she had been working on.

“Will you tell the maid and the Japanese boy I am allowed?”

Clara put down the potato and wiped her hands on a towel. With Yoshiro and Sophie watching, she took one of the ornaments out of the box and handed it to the night watchman, nodding and smiling while he hung it on a branch.

Yoshiro grinned broadly. Pointing at the ceiling, he said, “Up now, Missus,” and then he hurried outside to shovel snow off the roof. 

With quiet resolve, Sophie squatted next to the box of ornaments and picked out several of the prettiest ones before Mr. Beale could get his hands on them.




Friday, November 6, 2020

Cat Connections

While shopping with friends the other day, I ran across Writers and their Cats by Alison Nastase, and being a writer with a cat, I had to buy it. In no way do I consider my work to be on a par with Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Alice Walker, or the other 42 writers in this book, but wandering through the 100 pages was pure delight for a cat lover like me.

Each of the book’s one-page cat tales is accompanied by a picture of the writer along with one or more cats (Jiro Osaragi with eight). I sometimes worry I love my cat too much, so it was affirming to learn my obsession is shared by people I respect.

What is it, I asked while reading the book, that draws writers to cats? Ursula K. Le Guin’s answer to my question was, “Maybe because writers don’t want to have to stop writing and walk the dog?” Although this made perfect sense to me, I believe there is a deeper connection, one kindled by several traits writers and cats have in common.

Curiosity

Is there a box or anything new brought into a house that a cat won’t investigate? Curiosity may kill the cat, but it is essential to good writing—what motivates the protagonist? why is a small town riddled with ghosts? which battle was the real turning point in a war?

Independence

Cats may like to cuddle, but only when and with whom they wish. Like writers, they spend huge chunks of time by themselves—cats sleeping, writers embroiled in their work. Neither species is happy when their solitude is interrupted.

Cleverness

Astute writers keep their readers turning pages by creating suspense, humor, pathos and clever plot twists. Cats learn to recognize the sound of the garage door opening and how to open the cupboard where their food is kept. They also know what it means when a suitcase appears on the bed.

Routine

I don’t know if I or my cat established our morning routine, but every day begins with her first drink of water out of the faucet followed by catnip, then kibble and a tiny spoonful of cream cheese. If I forget a step she refuses to eat. Being a plodding writer, I absolutely must stick to a daily routine in order to carve out enough time to write. Professional writers are equally protective of their writing schedules.

Intuition

Writers must be able to discern people’s feelings in order to create convincing characters and realistic dialogue. Similarly, cats often display an awareness of human moods. Some, like Dewey Readmore Books, the Spencer, Iowa library cat, always seem to know when someone needs a little attention.

Patience

Cats are willing to wait long periods of time for the perfect moment to pounce on their prey. My Kiki spends hours curled up on a chair in the den while I search for the perfect word or combinations of words and then revise, revise, revise. Finally, when I think my work is ready to submit, my patience is tested further while I wait, often for months, for a response from the publisher.

                                     

Friday, October 9, 2020

Writing About Nature and Loving It

 Nature Writing

One of my favorite writing moments is coming up with ways to describe a sunset, weeds, animals, even dirt, using what I believe to be interesting words or combinations of words. That can be hard to do without reverting to "purple prose," which makes writing something unique about nature a  challenge.

No matter what I write--story, poem, novel--nature plays an important part in the setting. I may struggle with the plot or some relationship my characters are having, but I usually relax when I get to a place where I can interject a description of clouds, animals, water, trees, etc.

While my husband and I still had a cabin at Lake of the Woods, Oregon I was asked to write a chapter on the area's flora and fauna for a comprehensive history of the lake and its surroundings. The book was published in 1918 as Cabin Cruising, a Lakeside History. Below is one of the paragraphs I wrote for it.

The lake itself supports a variety of waterfowl. Some nest here. Others make it a stopping point during migration. From the campgrounds, resort, or lakeshore you can watch an osprey, similar in size yet whiter than an eagle, fold its wings, dive into the water feet first, and come up with a fish. Also seen on or near the water are great blue herons, Canada geese, grebes, buffleheads, and sandhill cranes. Occasionally a flock of American white pelicans will land on the lake. How delightful it is to experience these snowy birds with huge orange beaks use their nine-foot wing spans to soar through the air with the grace of birds half their size!

In 2011, I won a prize for a nature essay on tumbleweeds. Here is an excerpt.

Upwind from the road, a lone tumbleweed about the size of a bear cub bounded across the scant vegetation and over the crest of a gentle rise where it paused for a few seconds before leaping into the air and bouncing across the road. Strong-limbed, and with a few seeds left to sow, the tumbleweed rolled up the ditch bank into the waiting arms of a cluster of weeds with similar heritage, weeds stacked three feet deep against a barbed wire fence that shadowed the road as far as the eye could see. The thick pile of weeds made for a soft landing, but the thorny arms therein refused to let go, and the hapless tumbleweed’s gypsy days were over.

The story in my novel Brute Heart takes place in several natural settings. Most are in eastern Oregon. The one below describes a forest west of the Cascades.

The thick tangle of evergreen and deciduous trees embraced every imaginable shade of green, from the green-black undersides of the fir boughs to the chartreuse velvet moss that wrapped around the tree trunks and clung to the tops of rocks in the streambed. Vine maples, with sleeves of new green foliage, stretched across the rapidly moving water, their arms so long they sometimes entwined with limbs from the opposite side of the stream to form a leafy canopy.

I included more nature writing  in my novel, Never Done, published in 2017 by the Wild Rose Press, a turn-of-the-century story that takes place in western Colorado.

The plip, plip, plip of melting icicles signaled the beginning of what amounted to spring in Ophir Loop. A misty rain, hard to distinguish from low clouds, hovered over the gorge once or twice a week. Snow was still being measured in feet above the timberline, but bursts of wild green dusted the slopes. The creeks had begun gurgling again, and the pussy willows growing along their banks were silver with catkins.


Every once in a while something on Facebook resonates with me, and I save it for future use. How appropriate this one is for a post on nature writing!