Friday, September 17, 2021

Photo Friday: More Lakes and a Tableland

Continuing the tale of how I spent my August... 

Still in training for carrying serious packs with several days' gear and food, we took ourselves to the Bishop Creek area, found a campsite (sadly, this one had mosquitoes. Even in August of a dry year, a wet grassy meadow by a stream has mosquitoes), and did a couple more good hikes.

Our first expedition was to the Tyee Lakes, located on the ridge between South Lake and Sabrina Lake. It was new to all of us, but the series of four lakes was touted as being worth the climb.

The trail started right up. 

More old trees

The first lake, as we were warned in the guidebook, was pretty enough, but nothing really special. The best part for a photographer may have been the grasses at one end.
I loved the silvery lines of the grass reflecting the sun.

Also as advertised, the fourth lake was the best. 

While we sat on the shores of the fourth and highest Tyee Lake, I started studying the map--and found that I could make the hike into a one-way, rather than an out-and-back, with a little help from my companions, who generously agreed to my plan. Leaving them, I continued alone up the trail toward Table Mountain, which pretty much lived up to its name.
Large, flat (for a mountain top), and offering great views in all directions.

To the north, I could see the Paiute Pass area and, the highest thing on the horizon, Mt. Humphreys.

Reaching the edge of the table, I looked down on  George Lake, a mundane name for a pretty lake in a narrow valley.

Another beautiful stump on the way down.
Pretty little George Lake

 The next day we hiked from South Lake up to the Treasure Lakes, another new spot for me.

Once past the reservoir, the trail felt like classic Sierra!

The lower lake lived up to the promise of the approach, and we enjoyed a snack and photos on the shore.

The map suggested more lakes beyond, and the trail appeared to continue, so we followed it up the inlet stream.
Beautiful yellow monkeyflower (mimulus) grew all along the little cascade.

After a rough trail and then a little exploration beyond the end of the trail (not sure quite why it doesn't go all the way, except you have to climb up some rocks--easy enough but doesn't leave a track), we found the upper Treasure Lakes, and the perfect spot for lunch.
You can't see it, but behind the low ridge there is at least one more lake farther up the basin. Someday I'll go back and take a look.

It was all downhill from there, as it were. Well, actually, it wasn't--the trail has a 200' climb on the way back out, which we definitely felt. And the day remained beautiful, concluding with the sun shining from behind some clouds as it sank below the ridgeline.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Writer's Wednesday: When you come to the end of a draft

This question recently came up on the IWSG Facebook page: how do you keep momentum when you finish a project? Do you move right on to the next? Take a break? For how long?

Since I just finished the draft of my new story it felt like a good time to consider the question, as I, um, flail around trying to figure out what I'm doing. The fact that I mentioned this last week and am still working on it is probably all you need to know!

Drafting a novel is a pretty intense exercise for me. I write every day, aiming for anywhere from 1000 to 3000 words, and spend a lot of my time thinking about the story, what I've missed, what comes next, trying to live inside the heads of my characters. So no big surprise that finishing always leaves me feeling... flat. This time, it seems to have also left me with a lot of thoughts about everything that's wrong with the story.

The first thing I did when I finished was take a day off. Instead of writing, I took care of business, even cleaned the house a bit. I tend to neglect the "writer biz" part of the job while I'm deep in creation, so I cleaned up the financial files, wrote some blog posts, and am trying to finish editing photos from the recent month in the mountains. That's a creative exercise, too, after all.

But at some point I have to be a *writer* again. I have to pick up a project and start writing. Since I only wait a month or two typically after finishing a draft before I begin edits, the obvious projects are short stories. At this point, I have the choice of either writing more of them, or editing more into collections, since the four collections I've put out so far feel like they've left a lot of great stories behind.

And as for all those thoughts about the novel? Part of me thinks I should ignore them until I'm ready to look at the MS again. But I think I'll note them down somewhere, to look at when I get that far, because after all, there might be some sense in some of them?

How do you handle transitions between projects--or the gap between finishing a draft and beginning revisions? Drop suggestions in the comments!

Oh, and I'm on the road again... I'll respond to comments as soon as I can!

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Monday, September 13, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Two Roads, by Joseph Bruchac


Title: Two Roads
Author: Joseph Bruchac
Publication Info: 2018 Dial Books. 320 pages 
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher’s Blurb:
It's 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his Pop have been riding the rails for years after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Cal likes being a knight of the road with Pop, even if they're broke. But then Pop has to go to Washington, DC--some of his fellow veterans are marching for their government checks, and Pop wants to make sure he gets his due--and Cal can't go with him. So Pop tells Cal something he never knew before: Pop is actually a Creek Indian, which means Cal is too. And Pop has decided to send Cal to a government boarding school for Native Americans in Oklahoma called the Challagi School.

At school, the other Creek boys quickly take Cal under their wings. Even in the harsh, miserable conditions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, he begins to learn about his people's history and heritage. He learns their language and customs. And most of all, he learns how to find strength in a group of friends who have nothing beyond each other.

My Review:
This was one of my random picks from the library's Overdrive catalog, but I knew that if Bruchac wrote it, it would be worth reading. Once again, he delivered, though I almost felt like things went too well in this book--it was kind of lacking the edge that comes of putting more obstacles in the characters' paths. That might be a criticism, but it might also be part of why I enjoyed reading the book just now: it wasn't too challenging. I was learning some more about a bit of US history that--like so many of the less savory parts--I knew something of, but was never more than vaguely alluded to in any class at school.

By setting the book in the 1930s, Bruchac was able to avoid the real horrors of the Indian schools (something that has been coming out, both about US and Canadian school, in recent years). He alludes to them, but when Cal attends Challagi the biggest difference between it and many other boarding schools at the time was the assumption that the Indian students couldn't really learn academics, a bit of racism that at least led to good training in farming.

The parts of the book set "on the road" were interesting, though again I wondered if they were presented in a bit too positive a light. Bruchac does make reference to the many men out there who were anything but "knights of the road," and the dangers faced especially by a boy alone. The more romantic view is perhaps that of Cal himself.

In the end, the story worked for me. I cared deeply about Cal and his journeys, both literal and metaphorical, as he learns about his own Creek heritage and what that can mean--including the very good reasons why his father had chosen to "pass" as white.

My Recommendation:
An enjoyable read, not too challenging but still good for opening the eyes about issues of race and justice, with a very relatable main character in Cal. Suitable for younger kids than many of Bruchac's works; I would say about 9 and up, at least with some guidance/discussion of some of the history.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Two Roads from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Friday, September 10, 2021

Photo Friday: Old trees. Really old trees.

This week's photos aren't really a story--just a few that I liked of old trees both in the Sierra and across the Owens Valley among the bristlecone pines of the White Mountains.

Maybe a big old Jeffrey pine?


They do get struck by lightning and scorched, but I think in this case the black is from bacteria and/or fungi.

Experts at clinging on in unlikely places.

Much younger trees, but still probably older than they look, silhouetted in the smoky sunrise.

Like bristlecones, Jeffrey pines and foxtail pines in the Sierra can remain standing long after they die, and the wood decays slowly in the dry environment.

Given the ideal growing conditions, this big pine is probably about the youngest I've posted here.

White bark pine

This clump of short but old kumholtz won't get any bigger, though it may spread wider. The same winds that led me to tuck my tent in next to it will see to that, in this harsh alpine environment.
 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Writer's Update

Oops--I missed Monday's post! I'd like to claim it's because I was honoring the holiday, but the truth is, I'm out of the habit of writing regular posts. Given my schedule for the next few months, I may stay that way.

My big writer news for the week: the draft of Seffi's story (title still in the works) is um, complete? It never feels like the glorious moment of triumph that it sounds--my first drafts tend to kind of drift off to the ending, maybe without even attempting the final resolution. I'm still not sure I've even got the right solution to the murder. 

So yeah, the draft is done. I'll be back at it in December. In the mean time, I'm doing a beta read or two, applying to artist's residencies, trying to write some blog posts ahead, and ready to once again get serious about the shift to my new blog/author page. That's almost ready and waiting, I think?

Oh, and when I finish all that, plus editing all those photos from the last trip, I can start thinking about more flash fiction collections--and about submitting stories for publication.

Look for more exciting updates once I've caught my breath! Meanwhile, watch for photos from the August Sierra expeditions!

I could post for a year and not run out of pictures of cool trees, alive and dead!

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Friday, September 3, 2021

Photo Friday! Sierra Lakes

After three weeks of teasers, it's time I got started on the real photo posts. Since those three weeks were absolutely jammed with hikes, I have about... 2500 images to sort and edit (the goal is to delete 1/3 to 1/2. A real photographer would make that about 3/4, but I'm not that tough-minded). Then I pick a few from each hike to share with you. For that reason, this is just the first couple of hikes.

Our first effort at hiking was a quickly-aborted outing from Wright's Lake, across the mountains from Tahoe (this was before the current fire threatening South Lake Tahoe; there was another fire just south of the lake, as well as the Dixie fire to the north).

Within a mile, we could see that this was a bad idea.

We had intended to spend several days in that area, where we could hike at moderate elevations, but instead, we moved on to the eastern Sierra, driving south until we got to some clear air. That put us up Rock Creek, ready to hike the Little Lakes Valley.

Our first hike was a little lower and easier, up a side canyon to Dorothy Lake.

At Rock Lake, looking up to the higher peaks. Still plenty of smoke around, but our air was okay.

Kenneth Lake was pretty much dry. And we could see how narrowly we were escaping the smoke.

Indian Paintbrush

Lake Dorothy wasn't exactly brimming. This was a worrisome sign, though it turned out we didn't need to be too concerned.

The next day we did a much longer--just under 8 miles--and topped out not that far below 11,000'. Not quite the easy acclimatization we'd planned!

Just getting well going. Photo by Tom Dempsey on my cell phone.

The Little Lakes Valley is well named. The trail passes at least 7 lakes en route to Gem Lake. The first couple of them gave us reflections, before the breeze picked up.

Reflections at Marsh Lake

Passing Box Lake
The originally-named Long Lake, where we had Second Breakfast--and second lunch, on the way down.
It was very late for flowers, but we did find some, including these yellow columbines.

We reached Gem Lake in time for an early lunch (our favorite kind; especially when breakfast is at 5:30 or 6).

Letting the feet enjoy the view too.

More takes on Gem Lake

On the way back, we swung by Chickenfoot Lake. The lake itself was windblown, but the inlet stream offered some classic Sierra reflections.

And that afternoon, like all of them on this trip when we were at the cars (not backpacking), I pulled out the laptop and wrote.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! There are plenty more to come, as I work my way through the edits.

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

#IWSG: Success! Success?

 It's time once again for the Insecure Writer's Support Group monthly post! 


The IWSG is a fantastic group of writers and bloggers who share posts the first Wednesday of each  month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass (me!), T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!
Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

September 1 question - How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?
Before I get to the question, let me say that I'm excited to be a co-host again! I'm a little disoriented, because I've just gotten back from a month in the mountains, but I'm also excited that I managed to add about 20,000 words to my novel between hikes, and am closing in on the finish!
So what about it? How do I define success? I think that changes from day to day. On some days, success is simply sitting down and writing. More often, it's about the finished work, whether it's a short story accepted somewhere or opening the box with copies of my latest novel. Seeing a polished and completed work out there for others to read and enjoy feels like an accomplishment, at the least.
Was it Stephen King who defined a writer's success as paying the power bill? Someone did, anyway--and this month, thanks to lots of solar power and not being home to use much energy, I earned more than twice the cost of my power. Success!
Finally, though, I think the sweetest sign of success is a note from a reader who loved my book. There really isn't much that can top someone telling you they couldn't put it down.
How about you? What's your favorite sign of success?
 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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