Archives

History, Research, and Technology

As I’ve said many times before, I love history! I’ve been doing more research, and loving it! Did you know, that the first telegraph in Arizona was put in place back in 1871? Did you also know, that it was manned by a sixteen year old girl? Back in 1871, the telegraph was real cutting edge technology, so, I’m not surprised that a teenager was proficient at it, the surprising part was that the teenager, was a girl. Back then women didn’t have many opportunities for careers, and girls had even less. This girl taught herself the language of Morse Code and did a few other tricky things to get the job, (she didn’t let them know her gender until she got the job), but she got it, and, she did a good job.

History is full of fun surprises, I love to find them, you never know what treasure you’re going to come across. You might find a funny story about a brother pulling a prank on another brother by daring him to shoot a hole in a silk handkerchief… or you might find a story about an Indian woman giving her young son to a white man she’d just met because she’d had a vision that that was what she was supposed to do. You might even find a story about a man who was married to more than one woman, having to jump out his second story bedroom window, in his nightshirt, when the federal marshals came looking to arrest him for “co-habbing”.

There’s so many treasures to find, they play into the work I’m doing. They inspire my writing, give an incredible foundation to my characters, and bridge the gap from the past to the present. In New Parish, all my characters have a close link to their past that helps define their lives and relationships. Yeah, I’m still working on getting it published but, I do love sharing bits of it with you each week.

Excerpt from New Parish:

“Breakfast consisted of yeast rolls, rolled out flat, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, then rolled up, baked then fresh sugar/cinnamon glaze was poured generously over them. It was a tradition in Sarah’s family that had started when her grandmother was a child. Eating her cinnamon roll that morning while stirring sage into the dressing Sarah thought of her grandmother and wondered what she would think of her predicament. She remembered her grandmother telling her about her and her grandfather’s engagement and marriage, their marriage had been arranged by their parents, it was sort of the tradition in their families for many generations. Her grandmother had told Sarah that she felt safe with that because she trusted her parents and knew they would never put her into a situation that would be bad for her. Sarah remembered thinking that she wouldn’t have liked it at the time but now she was actually considering the same sort of scenario, not with her parents making the arrangements but with Brother Michael helping out with them. She smiled at that thought…

            “Whatcha smiling about,” asked Hannah.

            “Just thinking of Grandma,” Sarah replied wistfully.

            “Yeah, but her cinnamon rolls were a lot more work, doing them from scratch took way long,” laughed Hannah.”

A Day in Pine Valley

Yesterday I spent the day in an amazing place called Pine Valley. It could really have been called Hidden Valley, it’s really a hidden gem in the middle of the desert. Pine Valley was originally founded back in the mid 1800’s, beginning as a sawmill settlement. In 1868, they built a chapel which in that time served as church, school, theater, dance hall, and I guess whatever else they needed it to be. It’s still in service as a church today and has the distinct uniqueness of being the oldest, still in use chapel, in the LDS church.

The place was discovered by accident when a cowboy, (William Hamblin) was rounding up some strays. He must have thought he’d wandered into paradise, seeing this garden like valley for the first time. Even today after the sawmill did its work, there’s still loads of tall trees all around. There’s grass growing, not just the scruff you see in this area, but real green grass. The very small Santa Clara River flows through the valley, creating the wonderful abundance that’s all around and giving life to the area. The reservoir, which is really a lake, is one of the most beautiful places you can experience. There are picnic tables around it, and a deck with railings that looks like the porch to an old farm house. You can sit there and watch fish jumping up and splashing back down in the water. It felt like drinking in nectar to my soul… I will be attaching pictures… you have to see this place!

My day there was spent having a picnic, strolling along the nature trails, and soaking in the nature and beauty all around me. I saw a chipmunk, some wild turkey, and a couple of does and a Bambi. It’s places like this that inspire some of the scenes in my book, New Parish, I wish I could bring everyone along with me to these glorious places and introduce you all to the people I’ve met out here… I guess the only way to do that is to get my books published. Can’t wait till that happens!

Excerpts from New Parish:

“The small pinion pines turned into the tall ponderosas as they drove further up the mountain, the cacti that covered the hills and rocky mountainsides diminished and ferns took their place. As they neared the clearing where the cabin was Sarah noticed that the ground was mostly covered with pine straw with a few small trees growing between the giant ponderosas. There were lots of large rocks and boulders lying around with some protruding from the ground as if they were making an escape from somewhere deep beneath, giving the place a very rustic and ancient look. Every now and then there would be a small grey squirrel run across the road in front of them. Sarah delighted in these occurrences each time with childlike happiness….

Then her mind turned to the other paths they walked, one led to a small waterfall stream that they had splashed each other in, Sarah smiled warmly at that memory. Another path led them through the tall ponderosas that seemed to be reaching for the distant sky, she remembered seeing little snippets of the surrounding mountains through the trees which gave them even more grandeur.”

Community Fair Part 2

The fair was blazing hot. The temperatures were in the high nineties so literally it was blazing hot. They kicked off the fair with a fun cowboy parade, then opened the flood gates for everyone to attend.

The parade had horses, wagons, cows, clowns, floats of many different varieties, and even the emergency responders joined in. At the fair, small children chased small animals, kids of all ages rode the pony rides, and there were games and food galore. Most of the community showed up for the fun, some of us merely watched, (and took pictures), as others participated in all the activities.

Watching is part of writing, I watch people, what they do, and how they react to what’s going on around them. This is part of the creative process for me, it helps create scenes, characters, and setting in my books. It’s events like the fair that inspire the scenes and stories in New Parish. The people working together, the happy children playing, and the general feel of the community coming together as one big family, all contribute to what I write.

 

Excerpt from New Parish:

            “It was a short trip in Brother Michael’s SUV to the edge of the community where Sarah saw a rustic archway made of rough cedar that said, Lucky A Ranch, with two horses on either side of the words. Sarah thought, “It looked like those ranches she used to see on the old westerns,” an automatic smile came across her lips. When the SUV was parked in what looked like a hayfield across from a huge pasture they walked toward the festivities that were already under way.

            “I feel like I’ve stepped into a Louis L’Amour novel,” Sarah said looking around at all the cowboys and horses.

            The cowboy band was playing and there was a square dance going, Mary said, “Come on let’s go!”

            Sarah said, “No way, I’ve never dosey doed in my life. I don’t know how,” trying to excuse herself from this activity.

            Mary grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the dance area in front of the wooden stage the band was on, “I’ll show you, it’s fun!” she said laughing.

            Sarah had an inner dread that she was not only going to dosey doe for the first time, but that Mary had much more confidence in her abilities than she did.

            Mary had her twirling around the grassy dance area in no time. They were both laughing at her many mistakes, and having so much fun. Then Sarah saw one of cowboys on the stage… it was Max, he was playing the guitar, and smiling at her. He was wearing a black cowboy hat with a silver and turquoise band around it, a white shirt with a bolo tie, and a black leather jacket. Her mind had inventoried him quickly and then lost all cohesiveness. After that she lost her footing, causing her right foot to trip over her left foot, she landed on the ground with a thud. “Oh, I hate him,” she thought picking herself up from the ground quickly. Mary tried to help her up while trying to hide the fact that she was almost doubling over laughing at her.

            “Seems you’re in a habit of falling for him,” Mary teased.

            Sarah was even more embarrassed to know that Mary had seen the cause of her fall, “Thanks, that helps,” she replied half way laughing too.”

Community Fair

Each year here, in this place where I live, this small community puts on a country fair. It’s like stepping back in time to live in Pollyanna’s town, or that place where Tom Sawyer lived. Only this community fair has a western flare to it, with trail rides, and lots of cowboy hats. There’s a catch the critter event, where kids try to catch a chicken, a rabbit, and a greased pig. There’s also a petting zoo, lots of play areas, and loads of food! Each year they have food booths with amazing food, with just about whatever you’d want to eat. I plan on skipping the cotton candy this year, as I’m trying to be a good girl.

The variety show is always a treat, and usually has some really funny skits, I remember a couple of years ago when the missionaries did a song where some of them rode on stick horse, and another group of cowboys sang Cool Water, they out did the Sons of the Pioneers.

This weekend is fair weekend, so instead of spending my Saturday writing this post I’ll be at the fair… I promise to tell you all about it on next week’s post, pictures and all.

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:

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.”

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.”

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

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.’”

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.”