Village Life and the County Fair

This is the week of the Otsego County Fair, and the fairgrounds are down our street, within walking distance. Living near the fairground make it an even bigger event, since we see farmers and vendors bringing their livestock, camping trailers and equipment to set up several days before the opening. Usually the night before the opening, the carnival trucks haul in the rides and booths for their event late into the night. This year, gathering storms and predictions of bad weather intensified the drama, and we were concerned for opening day. As it turned out, the weather was kind, the crowds came, and it was a great day for opening the fair. We were able to get our errands run in time to join the crowds for an annual treat of fair food. Pulled pork stuffed potatoes were a repeat from last year, and we topped that off with a new treat (for us), deep-fried Oreos. No diet worries in that. . .right? Of course, we walked around and looked at all the animals and checked out exhibits. The topper for the evening was the great fireworks display, which we enjoyed in the comfort of our own backyard. We look down the stream and get the best view of the fireworks imaginable. Sunday, we will help out by hosting the one-room school house exhibit for a couple of hours. It’s kind of fun. I actually have some one-room school house experience in my own background.

I haven’t yet had my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, go to a county fair, but he did go to a Rendezvous reenactment in Murder on the Mother Road, and was gearing up to help his ranch cook friend compete in a chuck wagon cooking contest in Murder on Route 66. I think there’s a similarity. These events are longstanding celebrations of community, family and local history. Having a protagonist attend such an event can be an important statement of setting and character as well. Bobby Navarro is not your typical tourist, but he can still appreciate an event of this sort. I can use the event, and his reaction to it, to build my reader’s understanding of who Bobby Navarro is, without ever having to spell it out.

 

20160802_16503520160802_17485320160802_17004820160802_17293420160802_17255120160802_170555

Restoring Order and Moving Forward

Friday was sweltering, now it’s raining and promises to keep it up off-and-on all this coming week. Too bad. The county fair held in our village is starting, and the rain won’t be good for fair-goers. We finally got to move back into our (finished) bedroom. Of course, part of that move segued into going through a lot of clothes and boxes packed away in a storage closet, to dig out several of my drawings to hang on the bedroom walls. (I used to do a lot of pencil drawings and some watercolor paintings.) The long-delayed “Spring cleaning” allowed touching upon old memories while restoring a sense of order to the chaos of our house project. Actually, I think taking on a bit of cleanup, or tidying, can help a person regain a sense of control in life. Other things, like a motorcycle ride, can produce the effect as well. For my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, it’s a motorcycle ride that clears the cobwebs and restores a sense of order to his life. I’ve read a couple of authors who have used cooking to this end for their protagonists. I like that, too, both cooking and the fact other authors have their protagonists cook. A good story needs problems and crises to be resolved, but sometimes it’s good to see the hero stop and take a breath, and do so in a way that seems both real and possibly familiar.

Vegetables From the Garden

Vegetables From the Garden

Birthdays

Yesterday, we were supposed to be on Goodyear Lake helping a friend celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it. It was s a beautiful day, and being on the lake is a great setting for a party. Of course, our friend loves to throw parties, so the deck overlooking the lake rounds out the perfect setting. Lesley usually throws a party for me in the Fall. Not sure what we’re going to do this year, but with everything we have been caught up in, a big party sounds like too much to take on at this point. A quiet dinner at a nice restaurant can be a terrific way to celebrate one’s birthday, too.

Thinking about birthdays has brought back some memories of when my sons were young. I once held a birthday sleepover. Boy, do young children have a lot of energy. I can’t think of any stories I’ve read in which a series protagonist celebrates his or her birthday. I suspect one reason might be that a protagonist’s age can be a bit of a problem. It has to do with whether you want your protag to age a year with each year that actually passes. It’s hard to hold a character apart from some kind of aging process because of the way the world keeps changing. You want your protagonist to be relevant to what is going on in the real world, but not tied too closely to the news or calendar. For example, I had to give my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, a cell phone because your rarely see public pay phones anywhere, and everyone now expects a person to have a cell phone. If you are writing about someone who doesn’t, it’s pretty much an historical novel.

So… birthdays? I suspect Bobby Navarro didn’t have many birthday parties as a kid. As a result of writing this blog, I’ve started giving the matter some thought. I think I’ll have to incorporate something about birthdays in my current Bobby Navarro novel. Who knows?

In the meantime, we still enjoy our backyard view of the stream.

 

Butternut Creek

Butternut Creek

Village Yard Sales

In this part of the country a number of communities have an annual day when people who want to participate can offer a yard sale. Today was the day for our village to have its annual event. Weather turned out perfect for walking around the village to see what people had to offer and people came out in good numbers from all around the area. It provided a nice break from working on my current house project. I remember going through towns on some of my motorcycle trips and seeing yard sales. Of course, you’re kind of limited to window shopping if you stop at a yard sale on a cross-country trip on a motorcycle, but it’s still a fun way to get a glimpse of a new town. I’ve also driven by some tempting barbecues and group picnics. I’m going to have to have my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, take in a yard sale in his latest adventure in Florida. Not sure what yet, though.
My blog tour is still underway. Today, I’m reviewed on http://myfunnyviewoflife.com

Village Yard Sales

Village Yard Sales

4th of July

This year we decided to stay at home for the 4th of July rather than seeking out fireworks. As it turned out, we could see quite a display of local fireworks from our backyard along with fireflies out in force and a visit from a young cottontail rabbit. Enjoyed a great dinner and a glass of wine in front of a fire. Another variety of outdoor life. In about a week I’m going to embark on a blog tour. Here’s the schedule. Hope lot’s of people check out some of the blog stops.
This is my first experience of this sort, but it looks like a lot of fun with a mix of interviews, reviews, spotlights and blogposts.

July 14 – A Blue Million Books – INTERVIEW
July 15 – Booklady’s Booknotes – REVIEW
July 16 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT
July 17 – My Funny View of Life – REVIEW
July 18 – Island Confidential – GUEST POST
July 19 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
July 20 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW
July 21 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW
July 22 – Lori’s Reading Corner – GUEST POST
July 23 – Back Porchervations – SPOTLIGHT
July 24 – deal sharing aunt – SPOTLIGHT
July 25 – I Read What You Write – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
July 26 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW – BOOK 1
July 27 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW – BOOK 2 – INTERVIEW

Bunny in the Back Yard

Outdoor living-outdoor work

When I think of outdoor living I usually envision hiking, camping, fishing, and outdoor recreation in general. I’m just completing a couple of backyard projects, redoing a fence around our garden and making a surround for the mulch pile. Since I decided to bury some half inch mesh to keep out the burrowing critters, I dug a trench a foot deep around the entire garden to handle that part of the project. Somewhere along the way it seemed like a lot of work. Certainly not recreation. On the plus side, it looks great now, and we have vegetables planted in the raised beds inside the fenced area. Now I’m looking forward to fresh salads and meals on the deck. That will seem more like outdoor living. Of course, being outside brings its advantages. You get to see more wildlife, if you stop to notice once in a while. Yesterday we discovered a nest belonging to a pair of Baltimore Orioles. That has been a treat. Golden finches have been visiting the yard as well. They are so brightly colored this time of season. I haven’t seen them nest yet, and have wondered if they tend to nest in small flocks the way they seem to go about their normal daily routines.
I haven’t decided whether my Murder on the Road series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, is interested in birds yet. It’s funny, but the writer can give a protagonist some traits, but others seem to emerge. At least, that’s how it has worked for me. When the protagonist’s traits show up, seemingly on their own, they fit the character well. That’s important, so I think I’ll let the bird thing evolve on its own. I do see Bobby appreciative of migrating geese because he shares their wanderlust. I think he would find crows and ravens interesting because they are at home in the woods, on the plains, or in the desert, another shared quality. Since I’m setting my next Bobby Navarro mystery in Florida, Bobby will be seeing some birds he doesn’t normally encounter. I’ve got to give some thought to his reactions to them. Actually, I’m suddenly just curious to see what they turn out to be.

Lettuce in the garden

Lettuce in the garden

On the Move

This weekend I’m helping my son move. Had been hoping to do some camping, but the move has had to come first. We should have more opportunities for camping later in the season, if it comes to that. I love camping, and I’ve been enjoying my son’s reports about camping in North Carolina. Beautiful country! I have a friend who once told me he thought the only people who travel and camp-out were young people trying to take a family vacation with very limited income. I never accepted that perspective, and still don’t. Camping out is great for what it is, and I’ve certainly done it when I could afford a nice motel.
My series protagonist, Bobby Navarro, agrees with me…(go figure). He finds that camping is a good way to get centered. I couldn’t agree more. It has the effect of stripping away all the stuff that is fun and nice otherwise, but not necessary when it comes to getting back to basics. And part of getting centered involved finding out what is essential. It also allows you to re-connect with the earth, usually in a good way. It even lets you take a break from electronics and all the ads I keep getting on the internet.
As a mystery writer, I think our protagonists need a way to ground themselves, or get centered, or whatever you would like to call it. For Bobby, there are two ways, camping and riding his motorcycle down another highway. I couldn’t agree more.

Cooking With Aching Muscles

I’ve been working hard to give one of the bedrooms in our house a makeover. The house is nearly a hundred and fifty years old, and nothing is truly level or plumb or straight. You can’t just nail in a panel or board, everything has to be custom fitted. Makes a lot more work. It also guarantees muscles that ache at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it’s an old house, even though it means work. I find it fascinating to see what materials were used. They made-do with whatever they had. Makes me wonder what they had to eat at the end of the day. Without a nearby grocery, I assume they made do with whatever they had on hand, but even then, no microwave or quick solution to the question of what to eat? Open a can of beans? Only if they had canned food. Thaw something from the freezer? Only in the winter, I suppose, and only after a good fire was blazing. I’ll bet pancakes and a few slices of bacon came into play on occasion.  An omelet might do well. In my case, I’ve been fortunate to have a meal cooked by Lesley, but I still think about those on their own at the end of a long, hard day, even my series protagonist, Bobby Navarro. He likes to cook, but a long day on a motorcycle can produce it’s own set of tired, aching muscles. I think soup, fortified with beef jerky would be a good bet for Bobby. Now, what about others? What works for a writer who has written past a reasonable hour and forgot to take anything out of the freezer?

Pickling

I’ve been learning how to pickle vegetables recently. Turns out, it’s fun and it’s as easy as they say. I’m especially liking pickled red onions. I’ve long enjoyed oil and vinegar salad dressings, but except for noting such variations as using balsamic versus red wine vinegars, and discovering how delightful rice wine vinegar can be, I haven’t given vinegars much thought. Pickling an extra red onion, like using leftovers to make soups or salads, turns out to be a great way to get more out of the food supply. I like to use a heavy, dark honey for the sweet element of the pickling liquid. It gives the pickled veggies a great depth of flavor.

Somehow, making pickled vegetables puts me in touch with ageless food practices that were everyday routines on self-sufficient and pioneer farms. It’s even better than watching how off-the-grid Alaskans and Appalachian people approach life on TV. I like the idea of self-sufficiency. In a simple way, it puts things in perspective. I think that is part of what I love about cooking.

My mother taught me some basics of cooking when I was growing up, and I’ve loved cooking all my life. Bobby Navarro, the protagonist in the mystery series I’m writing started cooking when he was a kid in a dysfunctional family as a means of picking up the pieces his parents weren’t handling well. In the first book of the series, Murder on Route 66, Bobby learns to handle sourdough cooking on a cattle ranch in New Mexico. He takes the skill with him, along with sourdough starter. Obviously, he gets something out of  it. I enjoy it when a protagonist in a good book likes to cook. It’s not something you find all the time, but for me, it connects the story with a sense of reality.

Salad with pickled red onions and pickled cabbage

Salad with pickled red onions and pickled cabbage

Old friends bring new writing insights

I recently came into contact with some friends I hung out with in high school, but haven’t stayed in touch with since then. It’s been great. An unexpected and exciting adventure. To me, as a writer, it’s fascinating to learn what the other three have done all these years. I still remember them as they looked and were back then, so it’s like seeing our life stories play out with all the surprises revealed that we never dreamed might happen back then. I could never have predicted much of what my life has been like, let alone the others.

And, this morning I read a great piece in the paper written by a young woman about how people have asked her what she wants to be when she grows up or what she wants to major in when she gets to college. Like many of us at that age, she just wishes she knew the answers. Well, my friends and I didn’t have the answers then either, but our lives have played out pretty well anyway. I think the important ingredient was the underlying values and strengthening experiences we acquired without even realizing it. Those were the essential determinants in the stories that have played out as they have, even though they were only vague shadows in the backgrounds of our consciousness at the time.

Again, as a writer, I find it fascinating to reconcile those vague shadows with the lives that evolved. I also think the characters in the books I love best are presented to us readers with those shadow indications of what underlies our heroes personalities, and makes them real and interesting. Also, capturing those shadows in our own writing is an essential challenge to us writers.