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Child Dreaming in WindowAccording to Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert Olen Butler, the process of writing is not intellectual, but emotional, and it is necessary to enter our dreamspace in order to write honest, inspired fiction.

I am a writer. Mostly. I dream a lot, also dig animals, especially my tuxedo cat, Dickens.

I love to prepare food, all kinds, though soups are my favorite because I can get creative without messing the flavor up too much.

I have been a painter of pictures, and I still dabble in watercolor now and then, though writing takes up most of my time.

I love travel and adventure and meeting all sorts of people and experiencing diverse cultures, so those doings will show up here at one time or another in photos or what not.

I think about all sorts of things. Like what we are doing to our environment and why so many people love chocolate.

I like to know what other people are thinking. I hope you will let me know. You can disagree with me, of course, but please be nice about it.

The photo above? That’s me, eagerly looking out the window at the world. Many pounds and wrinkles later—still doing it.

 

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No Drunkards Allowed

 

Austin Colony Map

Austin Colony Map

 

Who were these original settlers of Austin’s Colony? When I visited Washington County a couple years ago, a found a book titled Austin’s Old Three Hundred that listed short biographies of most of these families. Here are a number of anecdotes from the book.

“To become a member of Austin’s original colony, someone had to swear to the settler’s good character. Austin’s rules of the colony provided that ‘no frontiersman who has no other occupation than that of hunter will be received—no drunkard, no gambler, no profane swearer, no idler.'”

Some arrived flush, others did not:

“In Texas in 1823 dress material or any kind of cloth sold for seven to ten dollars a yard, a cake of soap was a dollar and a quarter, buttons were a dollar a dozen, men’s socks were a dollar and a quarter a pair, and silk handkerchiefs were two dollars each.  Few Texians could afford these things.”

“In his twentieth year, Jesse [Burnam} wrote, I married an orphan girl, named Temperance Baker, I made rails for a jack-leg blacksmith and had him make me three knives and three forks and I put handles on them. My wife sold the stockings she was married in made by her own hands, for a set of plates. I traded a small piece of land and then we were ready for housekeeping. We used gourds for cups.”

“[Col. Jared Ellison} Groce set out for Texas in the fall of 1821 with a hundred slaves as well as cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, and a caravan of fifty wagons. He was granted ten leagues of land by the Mexican government in 1824 ‘on account of the property ha has brought with him.’ . . . The first cotton in Texas was raised there and the first bale ginned in 1826. … Grace was the wealthiest of the Old Three Hundred and lived in a splendid home. In 1827 his daughter Sarah Ann graduated from a finishing school in New York. Servants bemoaned the fact the china was cracked and broken from the trip to Texas. A houseguest, Mr. White, who was a silversmith provided a solution. Mr. Groce had a large collection of Mexican silver dollars, which Mr. White converted to bowls, cups, and plates.” When Sarah married, the remaining silver dollars were converted to knives, forks and spoons by a New York silversmith.

Settler's Cabin, Washington County

Settler’s Cabin, Washington County

There were dangers, even before the War with Mexico, known in Texas as the War for Independence:

“The Dyers settled on Irons Creek, near San Felipe. After they had a frightening encounter with Indians, the Dyers moved to present Ford Bend County. Dyer became manager of the Stafford Plantation in 1833.

“In the winter of 1826-27, when Elisha Flowers, his three-year-old son Romulus and neighbor Charles Cavanah went hunting together, Karankawa Indians massacred their families. . . . Polly Flowers, her infant daughter, and Cavanah’s wife and daughter were killed in the last recorded Indian raid in Matagorda County.

The Hollands were originally from Canada, came to Texas from Ohio and settled atop a hill overlookinig Ten Mile Creek in Washington County. “Francis served in the First Company militia, later was elected comisario on December 13, 1830, then a delegate from present Washington County to the Convention of 1833 at San Felipe. The cholera epidemic . . . took the life of Francis and Margaret Holland. Their son William, a lifelong invalid, died shortly after them.” Another son, Frank Holland was killed by Indians.

“Mary Crownover Rabb write that when she was in her first house in Texas, Andrew Rabb made a spinning wheel for her. She was very pleased and got to work making clothes for her family. She would pick cotton with her fingers and spin ‘600 thread around the reel every day,’ When she was lonely and frightened, ‘I kept my new spinning wheel whisling [sic] all day and a good part of the night for while the wheel was rowering [sic] it would keep me from hearing the Indians walking around hunting mischieaf [sic].'”

Through Austin, the Mexican government invited these colonists in hopes of settling this new territory but, as we now know, relations became more and more strained.  By 1835 the situation had reached the breaking point.

Surprise . . . Research!

Washington County barns and wildflowers

Washington County barns and wildflowers

When I started research for my novel, Here We Stand, four years ago, I never imagined where it would lead me or how much I would learn.  Or how much fun delving into the past would be.

The beginning of the story takes place in 1854, in Washington County, East Texas, along the Brazos River. If you are like me, having never been to Texas at the time, I pictured Texas from the movies I had seen and books I had read which generally take place in West Texas. You know, those dry, cactus-clad expanses where Comanches roam and banditos come riding down upon you out of the dust. Oh, and the longhorns.

Longhorns do exist in East Texas, but so do wildflower and oak-covered hills, meandering streams and hundreds of songbirds.  In fact, East Texas is more like its neighbor, Louisiana, than West Texas, which I discovered when I spent a couple weeks near Brenham and Washington-on-the-Brazos two springs ago.  May is the best time because the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are blooming everywhere: in the fields, along the highways and side roads, wherever the sun kisses the ground.  Often the blue is mixed with yellow or white daisies or red paintbrush.

Washington County pond  and bluebonnets near Brenham

Washington County pond and bluebonnets near Brenham

What those original settlers must have imagined when they first saw this land!  Stephen F. Austin had to do a good bit of wrangling with Mexican Commissioner General Juan Antonio Padilla to allow the first colonists.  Texas was still Mexican territory at the time, and any land grants had to come under the 1823 Imperial Colonization Law of Mexico.

The Law stated that each colonist could receive 177 acres for farmers and 4,428 acres for stock raisers, or both for those who professed to do both stock raising and farming. The land must be cultivated within two years from date of title or be forfeited. There were disputes, of course, over the most fertile land and over Austin’s collection of fees for surveying and obtaining titles. Yet this was the first organized colony of immigrants who were allowed to govern themselves under regulations set down by Austin, who also oversaw the quality of settlers and served as intermediary with Mexican authorities.

Most of the settlers were from Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. Many of them were younger sons of plantation owners who did not inherit. They sought the free land and a new economic beginning. The land was fertile, but keeping it, making something of it, was not easy. A number of colonists forfeited their titles for noncompliance. Others fought through the hard years and the war with Mexico. But that is another story.

 

Stairs and Flowers

IMG_0208My goodness, what a time, and what a gorgeous day in San Francisco!

San Francisco, First stairwayHey, Bob, I hope you don’t mind that your photo is on my blog. The dome in the distance is the Palace of Fine Arts.  San Francisco Bay is in the background.

Friends and I took ourselves on a tour of stairways yesterday and saw some fabulous views and houses. This was a great way to get in your aerobic exercise without realizing how hard you are working. Did I truly say that? I meant while having a good time doing it. I knew how hard I was working. Definitely. I knew. Huff-n-puff.

IMG_0183We passed a number of foreign consulate buildings: Russia, Norway, Japan, to name a few. I expect the folks who live around here are of the top four percent, below the top one percent, that is.

IMG_0176In the late afternoon (to avoid the worst crowds) we went to the Bouquets to Art show at the de Young Museum.  Floral designers and nurseries from the area design bouquets to represent different art pieces in the gallery. The top picture is one example. Here are a couple more:

IMG_0197 IMG_0204

All these photos were taken with my iPhone and edited on iPhoto—which is nothing like Photoshop, but I don’t have the time to spend on photo-improving as I used to. I do notice I can’t get photos as sharp with the iPhone as I could with my Canon. This could partly be because it is more difficult to hold that little iPhone still while taking a shot.

Now I must get back to work on my novel. All play and no work, you know.

Go Steampunk!

Steampunk Annie

Steampunk Annie

Wow. Have I been having a great time here in Tucson.

This is Steampunk Annie (www.steampunkannie.com). She makes great little hats and whatnot. My friend and I met her at the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention last weekend, and I absolutely had to buy one of her hats. I don’t read a lot of Steampunk but, zowie, are these folks fun and creative! And I do love fun and creative people.

Here’s another sample of what they are up to by Airship Isabella (airshipisabella.com):

IMG_0067No. They haven’t paid me for advertising any of this. I was merely amazed by their ingenuity and craftsmanship.

If you ever get a chance to go to a Steampunk Convention, go. You will find it, dare I say, awesome?

Push

Push, courtesy of Michael at Flicker, Creative Commons

Push, courtesy of Michael at Flicker, Creative Commons

It’s hard some days, isn’t it? To make yourself do what you don’t feel like doing. You know you must, you should, deep down you really want to, but the push isn’t there. Maybe you haven’t had your caffeine yet, or the brew isn’t doing the job.

Writing is like that some days, even writing this post. I don’t have the benefit of caffeine, ever, and I am basically a Type B person, a dreamer more than a doer. But to make those dreams happen, I got to push. We all have to push sometimes, to get what we want.

There is always something in the way.

The cat puked on the carpet, usually-sweet little Tommy dumped his Cream of Wheat all over the kitchen floor and your car battery went dead. Nevertheless, that presentation you haven’t prepared yet is due at 2:00 p.m.

Sound like one of those silly movies? They make those movies because nearly everyone can identify with them.

You don’t have to be perfect, either. Who told you you did? Your mom? Your pop? Yourself? Do you even know a perfect person? A perfect mom? A perfect dad? Do you like them?

Life is constant challenges, ups and downs. As Kristen Lamb says, “This is life. Focus on your love and passion, but also be fearless with yourself. We all procrastinate, make excuses, hide, or deflect. We are human. A pro takes problems seriously, the amateur takes them personally.

Check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. She focuses on writers, but what she has to say applies to everyone, and she says it much better than I do.

 

 

An Award to Connect

Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award

Thank you, bunnyslippers, for nominating me for the Sunshine Award. I think. I discovered that a nomination is as good as receiving. Receiving this award is similar to those chain letters you get by email that state you had better send them on to a certain number of people or you will break the chain. You’re not sure if you’re happy or sad you’ve gotten it. Know what I mean?

I don’t know if WordPress or some zealous blogger started this award, but I expect they had the best of intentions. Isn’t the Sunshine Award about connection? I’m supposed to nominate ten more bloggers for the award, which means ten additional connections from my blog to theirs, and they continue on with ten more connections after linking back to me. Math has never been my thing, but picture that across the blogosphere. Yikes!

This linking started me thinking (OMG, a rhyme) about the several meanings and levels of connection:

. “Hey, man, let’s connect.”

. You connect the doohicky to the thingamajig

. I met her, and right off, we connected on some level. I mean, we really connected.

I was on the phone with one of my closest friends a couple weeks ago, and we were discussing connection with a capital “C.” She and I had felt a Connection when we first met some years ago.

Many would say that, for people, this feeling can explained by shared commonalities and similar histories. Biologists might even say pheromones. Some would say past lives.

It also happens when you feel something on a deep level that can’t be explained.

Sometimes connections hold over miles or over years. Sometimes we feel the connection for only a moment.

When we meet the eyes of our dog. Or cat.

When we stop in the middle of a hike to listen to the wind in the trees.

When we watch our child sleeping.

When we’re away from home and a stranger smiles at us.

When we sit silently in a boat at dawn and don’t care if the fish bite.

What connections have you made recently?

Courtesy of Jinterwas, Creative Commons

Courtesy of Jinterwas, Creative Commons

 

 

Oh dear. I nearly forgot the questions I’m supposed to answer with this award, so here goes:

Favorite food: Depends on my mood

Favorite actor: What’s her name. I’m getting older, and my memory has turned to shit.

Favorite TV Show: Right now I’d have to say Game of Thrones, but I’m getting a kick out of that new one that follows it, Silicon Valley, or is it Silicone?

Favorite Tear Jerker: Movie – American Beauty; Book – The Reading Lessons

Favorite Sport: To play – badmitton; To watch: zilch

Lucky number: None are lucky for me.

Tea or coffee: Not fair. I can’t have caffeine, though I’d love to, so I’m stuck with herbal tea.

Holidays:  Does this mean favorite or ones I hate? Halloween’s my favorite; I ignore Christmas. You can’t imagine how calming it’s been.

Favorite Christmas Movie:  Oh, please.

My ten nominees are (please forgive me, you guys):

http://catsatthebar.org/

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

http://nhanfiction.com/ – Oops! No, no. I think this is the guy who doesn’t want any awards. Can’t blame him. This is taking me all morning and past lunch to complete. He’s got a great blog, but I won’t ask him to do all this work. OK?

http://changeitupediting.com/

http://staceywilk.com/

http://bookpeopleblog.wordpress.com/

http://jerry-mahoney.com/

http://reluctantlysuburban.com/

http://eleventhstack.wordpress.com/

http://129twigandvine.com/

Now I’m supposed to go visit everyone and tell them what is happening. I hope they are all in a good mood this morning. This is where I need a smiley face.

Pirate Codes & Writing Rules—When is a Flashback a Literary Device?

For my followers who are writers and readers who may find this interesting. Kristen Lamb is a marvelous maven and teacher.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? :) Pirate Code=Writing Rules. Clearer now? 🙂

Yesterday’s post stirred quite the debate and flurry of panic attacks, so today, we will delve a bit further into Le Mystique of Le Flashback. First of all, for future reference, I need to ignore all Facebook comments that begin with, “I haven’t read your post, but completely disagree…” Er? Ok. Here’s the thing. I play dictator on my blog, because it’s my blog and it’s FUN.

I’m a realist and I KNOW there is some writer out there who has broken every rule there is. But, bringing up every last exception is a confusing way to teach and a fabulous way to make your heads explode.

It’s like the “I before E Except After C (except for when you run a feisty heist on a weird beige foreign neighbor) Rule.”

If I give you guys the BASICS and explain WHY editors, agents…

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