Small Town Life

The stark contrasts that exist between living in a big city and living in a small town have been written about throughout the ages. Sarah, the main character in my book, New Parish, grew up in Savannah a somewhat small town, then moved to Atlanta, a very big city, after college, then moved out to New Parish a very, very, small town in the western desert.

Living in New Parish is great, there’s a wonderful family environment, everyone waves at you when you’re out and about, and the scenery is fabulous. Sometimes for me the lines grey a bit, between the New Parish I write about and the “New Parish” I live in. It’s easily done, because I write about the things I love from real life, the people, the scenery, and the loveliness of life in a small town. I asked a young person here, what are his favorite things about living here. He had a long list, but one of his favorite things was that it was a small town, and far away from the city. It’s one of my favorites too…   

Sarah’s New Parish and mine have many similarities and I can’t wait to share them with everyone… when my book New Parish is published.

An excerpt from New Parish:
“As they emerged from the park, Sarah saw something that made her blush with excitement and a weird frustrated awkwardness that she didn’t know quite how to deal with. She didn’t want to see him, not him…

            “Howdy,” Max drawled, “How’re you?” he asked as his beautiful blue eyes pierced into the depths of her soul.

            Sarah found herself without the capacity to speak, it was like when she’d seen him the first time… then the rush of memory of what had happened that time came to her mind. She felt sick…

            Mary came to her rescue, “Hi, Max. We’re all doing good. These are Sarah’s parents, David and Samantha Nichols.”

            “Howdy,” Max smiled at them and tipped his somewhat dingy cowboy hat.

            “That’s a beautiful animal!” exclaimed David admiringly.

            “Thank you,” replied Max, “I raised him from a foal.”

            “How wonderful! Was it difficult to train him?” David asked, curiosity showing in his face.

            “No, not really,” Max answered, “he was pretty clever from the start.”

            “What are some of the things you’ve trained him to do?” David asked, reaching up to touch the horse’s nose.

            “Aw, well,” Max scratched his chin where a few days of whisker growth was shadowing his ruggedly handsome face. “He can cut and rope and ground tie, he’s not too fancy really, but I like him alright.”

            Max ended with a big smile which totally threw Sarah’s exertions to control her emotions into a whirlwind of things she didn’t want to deal with. She wished her dad would stop asking the cowboy questions and this random visit would end… she was having to rein in her thoughts continually but things like, “he’s so awesomely handsome,” and “those eyes” kept breaking through the barriers she was trying very hard to build.”

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Western Skies

I never get tired of taking in the skies out here. Day or night, they seem bigger than life, or at least very different from what I grew seeing. I’ve always been a sky watcher, I guess that goes along with being a dreamer, a writer, or an explorer.

Sky watching in the east is much different than sky watching in the west. During a storm in Georgia, you know that the skies get dark, you can hear the thunder, and see the lightning. It’s a very different experience out here. You can see a storm coming from miles away. You can literally watch it form and progress toward you. In my mind, I think of it like going to a regular theater and going to one of those 3D IMAX theaters… very different experience.

Most days the skies out here are clear, some days there are a few clouds, and on rare occasions you get storms. If the skies are full of activity or empty, they are always amazing. Because they are so huge!

At night, I have many times stared in amazement at the sky, the stars are so vivid, and seem so very close, that it’s just wonderful to sit and look up. If I had a really cool camera I’d take some pictures of the night sky, but alas… I will attach plenty of the day sky though.

Sitting quietly and watching the skies often brings inspiration, and helps me to expand my stories… just like the incredible difference in the skies from east to west, Sarah, chooses something very different to make her dreams come true. I can’t wait to share her decisions with everyone in my book New Parish!

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah looked at the time it was almost an hour since she’d left the house, she hadn’t realized she’d been out that long. She’d been so immersed in the environment and scenery that she’d completely lost track of time. This was something she never did in Atlanta, she had to always be aware of the time and how long it took to get to her destination, for safety reasons. But here she felt safe, and could very easily get lost in the beautiful surroundings that were everywhere she looked. From the vast expanse of the sky either in the daytime with the blue blanket spotted with clouds you could see from far away, or the infinite night sky filled with stars that seemed so close she could almost touch them, to the mountains which towered over the community in noble splendor and grandeur, striped with the colors of the earth that people don’t usually get to see because they are deep underneath their feet.”

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New Parish…

I can’t wait to share my books with everyone! This is what a college professor wrote about New Parish:

Review of New Parish

“I did two reads of the book.  The first time in January and then I just read it again and made comments. Honestly, most of my comments were simply wanting more information. It sounds like a second book is in the works that it covers more culture which will be fantastic. Julie is a captivating author. After the first six chapters I spent more late nights reading than I should have. I found that I made comments in the first few chapters and then as I got caught up in the story I had less to say because I was just truly enjoying the story line. This story captured the magic of your community, it’s the kind of hometown we wish we all had, and the kind of community where we wish all of our children could be raised. I’ll be first in line to buy anything she publishes.

Jaclyn Knapp, M.S., ED.S – Weber State University, Ogden, UT

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Out at the Ridge

I was out at the Ridge today, the Ridge is a wide expanse of prairie, mesa, and cliffs. I’ve visited there a few times, and use it as the backdrop for some important scenes in my books. It’s a little southwest of New Parish, and the place New Parish is based on. I’ll attach a gallery of pictures taken today so you can see how beautiful it is and maybe get an idea of how enormous it is.

As I sat there today taking in the majesty of the nature I was surrounded by, the vastness of it and the little details that I always look for, I was amazed once again. The places where the mesas meet the prairie, the rock outcroppings, the cliffs, the cacti, the gnarly cedars, the small pinion pines, and the wildlife, they all come together out at the Ridge like no other place around here.

Today I saw a very brave little chipmunk. It was scurrying around on top of a largish rock outcropping. The reason I thought it was brave was that there were four hawks hunting in the skies above. The chipmunk stopped and posed for a picture, which was taken, (check the gallery and see if you can find him) then ran off to his next adventure. One of the hawks flew so close that I could see the details in his wings. His wingspan looked to be about four feet, I was very impressed.

I love both experiencing places and writing about them…

Excerpt from New Parish:

“After a few moments Brother Michael spoke again, “Below us now is what we call the Ridge, it’s a great place to explore. You might even be able to hunt a jack rabbit or coyote down there.”

            Just as he said that they passed over a mountainous region which had a steep cliff drop off where a prairie began Mary pointed and said, “Look!”

            Max saw what she was pointing at before she said it, he was already swooping down toward a huge part of the prairie. Sarah couldn’t see what they were so excited about at first then she saw something moving across the prairie like a little brown wave on the ocean, with antlers.

            “Antelope,” Mary said smiling and nodding to Sarah, “I love it when I get to see them, it’s a small herd so you don’t always get to see them. For some reason it’s always made me happy inside.”

            “Wow,” sighed Sarah the cliff drop that was several hundred feet below to the prairie was incredible enough but to see the antelope down there made it completely amazing, “they are beautiful.”

            “Amazing!” declared David shaking his head in unbelief.

            “Sometime when you have more time to come out and visit we can take you out to some of these places on horseback, you’d love it,” Brother Michael invited.

            “I would!” David agreed, “I’ll start making plans as soon as I get home.”

            Sarah was enchanted by the Ridge, it had it all, mountainous regions with huge prairies and tall cliffs. The Ridge and its beauty was very near New Parish, Sarah made a mental note, ‘explore this place soon.’”

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Vive La Difference

It rained here the other day, that’s a rare and beautiful thing when that happens here. Where I’m from in Georgia you could keep a look out for the ark to come floating by, it rains a lot there, really. Out here you have to water the weeds to get them to grow but in Georgia everything grows. The birds and whatever else, carries the seeds to wherever, and it grows. There’s an old saying that goes something like “bloom or grow where you’re planted” well it’s much easier to do that in some places than in others.

I used to grow cacti when I lived in Georgia but they never bloomed, out here even the “hen and chicks” (Sempervivum/succulent plants) bloom, it’s all about being in the environment that suites you best, I suppose.

Georgia has lush green hills that turn into mountains, rivers, lakes and streams, and some of the oldest history in our country, that’s vastly very different to the naked, barren, and mostly empty space of the mountains, mesas, and prairies that are along the Arizona strip. I can’t imagine what the pioneers and early settlers must have thought of this place, when they had to have at least, passed through, the abundance of the eastern states. They might have thought they’d reached the edge of Hades or some other waste place. I can understand why some kept going, but I can also understand why some stayed. This place presents a challenge to those who accept it. It can be an environment that can suit a person, but has to be respected, sort of like you would a wild animal that becomes your friend. It might turn on you and bite if you get careless…

It’s different, the people are different… Experiences grow us all different, just like it does with the land. Vive La Difference, I’m very glad places and people are different, it makes life interesting.

Excerpt from New Parish:

“When her cell alarm sounded she went down to help with lunch and discovered that Myra had it all done and they were eating in the tree house room. It was blistering hot outside now and Sarah was learning a lot about summer in the desert. She was learning that you don’t go out in the middle of the day if you don’t have to. After the sun goes down at night the temperatures drop quickly and the outside is quite nice, but during the day it was just super hot. Sitting down on the picnic blanket that was spread out on the grass floor she smiled as the kids all gathered around, “This is so amazing, I’m living my dream,” she thought. They had fruit and sandwiches with some ice cream for dessert. Sarah was a bit bummed when she had to leave before all the fun was over but she had to get back to her computer for a video meeting with her boss and an author.” 

 

 

 

 

 

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Families Are All Unique

There are many different types of families. The “traditional” family with a dad and mom raising a kid or two, the large family with a dad and mom and four or more kids, single moms with a few kids, or single dads with a few kids. There’s also grandparents raising grandchildren, two dads raising children, or two moms raising children, even a dad and several moms raising children. There are probably many more types of families than I’ve mentioned here, my point is that, all families are different. There’s nothing wrong with being different, America was founded on principles of being different, in many ways. Freedom to choose who we live our lives with is, (should be), an American right.

In New Parish Sarah finds very large families, these families are full of love, kindness, and caring. She sees women being happy, fulfilled, safe, and secure. She sees happy children who are nurtured, well taken care of, and bright with life. The dads might be a bit busy and tired on occasion but they seem very happy to her too.

Sarah makes lots of new friends and falls in love with the absolute beauty of the area. She thinks it could be perfect, except for that darn cowboy….

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah coughed to cover an escaped giggle, her mom’s expression was completely humorous. First she looked taken aback, then she looked like she might have understood what Mary had said, then she simply looked confused.

            As they emerged from the park, Sarah saw something that made her blush with excitement and a weird frustrated awkwardness that she didn’t know quite how to deal with. She didn’t want to see him, not him…

            “Howdy,” Max drawled, “How’re you?” he asked as his beautiful blue eyes pierced into the depths of her soul.

            Sarah found herself without the capacity to speak, it was like when she’d seen him the first time… then the rush of memory of what had happened that time came to her mind. She felt sick…

            Mary came to her rescue, “Hi, Max. We’re all doing good. These are Sarah’s parents, David and Samantha Nichols.”

            “Howdy,” Max smiled at them and tipped his somewhat dingy cowboy hat.”

I can’t wait to share the whole book with everyone!

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Writing, Research, and Louis L’Amour

I’ve been revisiting the Sacketts stories, written by Louis L’Amour. I admire his writing style and think we have a lot in common in that area. He did in depth research and experienced as much of what he was writing about as possible. He wrote from a place that was real in a fictional way. He brought his stories and characters alive with his knowledge of what things were like and how people would react in certain situations. He wrote realistic fiction, that had loads of realisms woven into the tapestry of the story. This isn’t a book review of Louis L’Amour’s work, its simply my admiration of his skill and ability to do what I strive to do with my writing.

There are so many stories to tell, and so much rich history to draw from on the Utah Arizona strip. They have a wide range of culture, myth, and legend that needs exploring in it’s whole. Not just the bits and pieces others have written about without any experience in the area. As Loius L’Amour wrote the Sackett story he went back to when the first Sackett came over to America and then followed them through several generations, that’s what I want to eventually do with New Parish. There’s so many stories to tell, stories of bravery, courage, challenge, and downright hardship that it’ll take some time to tell them, but I’m on a great adventure to get the job done.

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah decided to get an email out to Hannah, before things got too far out of control for her. Writing to Hannah sometimes helped her calm down and see things in a clearer perspective.

Hi Hann

So, I went out to New Parish and had a really good visit, I asked so many questions you wouldn’t believe! They were very open and honest with me about everything. I met a lot of people who were very nice. I got to know Brother Michael’s wives a bit and they’re great. I tried to sort out which kid belonged to which mom and I’m still not sure on most of them…

I met a guy that was so incredibly handsome I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him. Too bad he’s one of those macho jerks we both avoid like the plague. He’s a full on cowboy, yeah I know you’d like his horse. LOL

It’s weird now to be back in Atlanta, I feel sort of out of sync like here or there, one, is surreal. I have to decide what I’m going to do, I can’t focus on work or anything really, so I have to figure this out soon. I’m going to check with mom and see if the condo is available soonish…

How’s school? How’s work? Any cute guys?

Love ya

Sarah”

 

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New Parish

A short (partial) synopsis of New Parish:

Sarah, a 27-year-old feisty southern girl, living in Atlanta, has had too many bad dates. She thinks her new friend Mary, might have the answer to her problem, plural marriage. Mary comes from a place where they do that. Sarah wants to find a nice guy, get married and have some kids. That’s all she really wants, she thought that would be a simple, just the old fashioned dream of home and family…

She agonizes over this option, investigates the community for herself by spending Christmas with Mary and her very large family. While there she asks for the whole story, warts and all. She gets an open honest conversation about plural marriage the good and the bad. Then she retreats to her southern comfort zone to try and figure out what she really wants to do.  While in said comfort zone, on Tybee Island, Sarah meets a super cute guy and decides to give dating one more shot. The date ends when the guy tries to grab her inappropriately and she knees him in the nards. She leaves the restaurant with her dignity intact, but, slowly begins to spiral into a deep despair creating an inner storm to match the terrible one that is beginning on the island. That night alone in the family condo she finally makes her choice, she’s going West….

Sarah asks a lot of questions and gets some straight forward honest answers…

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Sarah was checking messages on her phone when Mary joined her on a bench underneath a big tree. “Hi, what’s up?” asked Mary.

            “Well I don’t know if I’m really desperate, stupid, or what, but I wanted to ask you about that whole plural marriage thing that goes on where you’re from,” said Sarah with some apprehension.

            “Oh?” was all that Mary said as she sat down beside Sarah and waited for her to continue.

            “Yeah, well, how does it work?”

            “Very well, I think,” Mary said, looking quizzically at Sarah.

            “Oh come on! What do they do? What’s the process? Are they miserable? Are the women conditioned to be in these relationships, like “Stepford Wives”? Do men abuse the women? How do the women get along? Are they mean to each other?” Sarah bombed Mary with all the serious questions she could think of, in a way, trying to talk herself out of further inquiry.

            “Whoa!” said Mary holding her hands up, “I need a paper and pen to write all those questions down.”

            “Okay start with the conditioning and how the women get along,” Sarah pointed the questions she thought were the most important aspects of her inquiry.

            “Well, as in the rest of the world, everyone is different and very individual, so they’re not conditioned. They are taught the value of living in the life style, but everyone chooses for themselves, it’s not for everyone, some people can’t deal with it at all while others thrive in that environment. As for getting along, well, that depends on the women involved, as I said everyone is individual so some personalities clash and some people get along really great.” Mary was still looking quizzically at Sarah.”

Out West:

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Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear Cactus, or formally called Opuntia, is abundant out here. It’s one of the many things that have more than just an aesthetic value. I love the beautiful roses that sit on top of them during the spring time, but I’ve learned that they are used for many purposes other than the simple admiration of the flowers on their tops. They’ve been used to make wine, jelly, and even candy. I’ve heard that the wine is very nice with a hint of grapefruit flavor, and the jelly has an orange blossom, honey flavor. I haven’t tried these delicacies for myself yet, but maybe someday. The prickly pear cactus is a very fitting plant for this area, the beauty of the prairies and mesas can be admired but there are many beautiful places here that have been changed from desert prairie to lovely communities filled with homes and families.

I live in one such community, and write about a fictional community, that has gone through that metamorphosis. A thousand acres of desert prairie was taken, and with much encouragement, changed into a lovely community that has become home to a couple thousand people. The desert prairie that was filled with sage brush, sand, and prickly pear cacti, and lots of other desert flora and fauna is now a well kept neighborhood with paved streets, sidewalks, schools, and even a small grocery store. In my books, New Parish is the community that mirrors this place, this history, and this culture. It’s my goal to infuse my characters with as much life and flavor of this real place as possible.

Excerpt from New Parish:

“She looked out the window and saw breathtaking mountains and mesas covering the countryside. The deep earthy colors of the mountains were so amazing Sarah couldn’t believe her eyes.

            “Wow,” she whispered.

            Mary looked back at her then to see what she was looking at and said wistfully, “Yeah, I’ve always loved them, they make me feel safe.”

            Upon entering New Parish Sarah saw very large houses with well kept yards, some had walls made of large earth colored bricks or white picket fences around them, some were bordered by just the sidewalks that ran along every street. Brother Michael pointed out the schools, there were three, one for each division of education, elementary, middle, and high school. The buildings looked new and well cared for. The playground and grounds of the schools were very well kept, “they all looked immaculate” Sarah thought as they drove by. Next Brother Michael pointed out the community park, it looked like an elaborate English garden with at this time of year barren trees, bushes, and flower gardens all around, it had park benches and picnic areas ever so often and there was a place in the center with swings, slides, and one of those large playground merry go rounds. Sarah’s thoughts turned to wishing she could take her own kids to play and picnic in a beautiful place like that, she quickly shoved the thought away, “focus!” she told herself.”

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A Simpler Time…

I’ve been doing research again, I love history, it’s not always pretty but it’s always interesting. I’m building on the history of where some of my characters would have come from, and things that would have been in their history.

Back in the “good ole days”, an era we would now refer to as a simpler time, there was a lady who didn’t get to hide out at Pipe Springs, (http://www.julieworthington.com/there-is-beauty-all-around-pipe-spring-national-monument/). She was actually arrested and had her children, eight all together, taken, (kidnapped), from her by state authorities. Her name was Vera Black, she was a wife and mother, very devoted to her husband and family. That was normal in her time, what wasn’t normal was that her husband had more wives than just her. There were people in that time period that thought they had the right to inflict their morality and religious beliefs on people who didn’t live the way they thought everyone should. These self-righteous people who thought they should inflict others with their beliefs decided that Vera and others in her small community shouldn’t be allowed to make their own choices. So, they perpetrated what’s now known as the 53 Raids. Although the children had a home, food, clothing, and were happy with their mother and father and the rest of their family, the authorities charged that the children were abused and neglected mostly because they were “an issue of polygamy”. 

Caption: Eight children in all were placed in foster homes after Mrs. Black refused to sign affidavit that she would refrain from teaching them polygamy. She refused on grounds of “conscience and religion.”

1956 Jan. 13

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-111157]

The state authorities actually came into the community and without proper legal warrants, in most cases those authorities pilfered through these American citizen’s homes, (taking papers, family photos, personal journals, and anything else they wanted), took their children from them, and arrested many of them.

This place in 1953, was a small obscure town, at that time called, Short Creek. This was before the Jeffs’ cult crap happened, back when things were really wholesome, and good. People of that time lived a simple life, working, and taking care of their families as best as they could in this very rural place. There wasn’t always indoor plumbing, or electricity, in every house. There might have been one phone in the community, but I’ve heard that no one had anyone to call so it wasn’t used much.

I’ve talked to many of the people and the descendants of these people, some are still traumatized today because of what happened all those years ago. They had a wonderful life, they were happy, and then their whole world was turned upside down. Many children had to wait over two years to be reunited with their families, and some were never returned. These people felt like they had to go into hiding to be able to live as families, but even then, the families were all very far apart. All this, and no real laws were broken, other than laws like those prohibiting interracial marriages, or preventing gays from being intimate, they did have laws like that preventing consenting adults from co-habitating together. What it all boiled down to is that these people were just living their lives differently than others thought they should. I’m very glad we live in a time when religious and other beliefs are respected and tolerated… well, I hope we live in a time when religious and other beliefs are respected and tolerated… I guess time will tell.

 

If you’re interested… this is still being fought over today:

https://ecf.utd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?211cv0652-78

There have been a few more skirmishes since this one, but I like what Judge Clark Waddoups has to say.

Vera Black’s court case in the Utah Supreme Court:

http://law.justia.com/cases/utah/supreme-court/1955/8222-0.html

 

Ken Driggs Atlanta Attorney:

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3520119/AAA-031517-to-Governor-Copy.pdf

https://library.dixie.edu/special_collections/Juanita_Brooks_lectures/1990-twentieth.html

http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0195.pdf

https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V24N04_46.pdf

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