Fabulous February

1 - a cousin
Kaedence – March of 2014

Spring will come to the northern hemisphere in about six weeks, not because a groundhog shadow matters but because that’s when spring happens. I saw a fun photo on Facebook that stated: “Only in America do we accept weather predictions from a rodent but deny climate change evidence from scientists.”  (This quip had thousands of Shares and Likes, and lots of comments.)

This is my first week of no more scheduled grammy-nanny time. They are no longer babies, they are now active beyond my abilities to keep up with one, or two. I loved it, I’m glad I did it, I’m a little sad too – they grow so fast! I will now just be an occasional babysitter, as needed. And my knees and shoulders are pleased, well, they are recovering. Yes, I talk to my joints as they tend to interfere with my actions when my activities, diet, and sleep schedule are inconsistent, as they have been for over a year.

I’ve had a few Mercury Retro glitches but none worth explaining. The moon is full in a clear sky tonight and I was able to read my astrological forecast for February. There’s all kinds of buzz in astrology sites about the new energy but no one is sure what to call it and I really don’t need it labeled. I just feel pleased.

I’m pleased that I can look at the past two years and check off some big life accomplishments, and I’m still standing. I’m pleased that the huge upheavals and extensive challenges during recent years are now stories to tell. And, the world still hasn’t ended as predicted for 2012.

February used to be THE Winter Blues month. I’m anticipating fabulous days.

What I’m Doing Now

what I remember Most 350I’ve been reading books, this weeks choice was Cathy Lamb and I read both Julia’s Chocolates and her latest What I Remember Most.  I highly recommend her books for the stories and the writing style! Eventually I intend to read all her novels but two in one week was almost binge reading. I read A Different Kind of Normal when I first met Cathy two years ago.

I’ve been getting to know our new little dog. Ed and I have taken excursions with her locally, and to the coast for an overnight. She’s great in the car and is starting to socialize and behave better now that she’s been part of our family for a few weeks. She makes sure I take a brisk 20 minute walk at least twice a day, and she’s a really good snuggler.

My grammy-nanny days became only two days a week, since the holidays, and I really needed to rest. These grandchildren are both toddlers now and will be moving into a more structured and interactive day care schedule soon. I will then become the on-call grammy and I am looking forward to me days and weeks, taking more short trips, and making my novels the priority of my time and energy.

The change in awareness from being an aspiring novelist, for years, to now being published really has been a big deal for me. It’s funny that I have counseled others about this shift, yet now I really get how disorientating (and thrilling!) it is to autograph my book. The way I approach my writing is different and more professional now too.

Anticipating my “new life” as a full-time writer I’ve also been researching some of the social media options. I have always kept my Facebook activities rather exclusive to family and friends but wondered if there was some value to taking that up a notch like many of my friends who have author pages. I’m not sure if it is good or not, but I recently added a lot of sites to my Facebook news feed and it has been fascinating to be able to see how many people feel entitled to profess their opinions so aggressively! Some people are downright nasty and others seem woefully ignorant. I’ve remained an observer and am extremely cautious about even clicking the “like” button.

I understand that digital media and online communication is here to stay but it’s still in its infancy. Controversy has always been a great way to grow an audience when someone has an agenda to promote. But what I’m seeing is a lot of belligerence and belief bashing.

I was recently reminded that it is only two years since we dodged the 12/20/2012 apocalyptic event to end the world. Now it’s as if a whole lot of people are trying to create some new high drama fear factor. Or maybe there are many people who really do believe that their way is the right way and they are also educated enough in the art of debate to impress and garner disciples online.

I started blogging in 2009 and have stayed true to my original intent to use the personal journal style for my posts, most of the time. (I do enjoy posting webbit tours.) Now I am content to continue that style here as I begin year six of my online activity. What I do elsewhere is often part of this story.

The Real Setting for my Story World

Taken from the corner of the fuel doc on 12-1-2014
The west corner of St. Helens Marina taken from the corner of the fuel dock on 12-1-2014

One of the main settings in my novel Checkmate First Mate is St. Helens Marina, Oregon. It’s a very real and dynamic location even though the characters, homes, and businesses in my novel are all creations of my imagination. It’s been at least ten years since I visited St. Helens Marina, until today. This picture shows one of the river homes amid the moorage slips. It also shows the steep hillside with homes facing the river, but the one I created in the novel doesn’t really exist.

path up the hill
The path that leads up the hill from the marina still winds through overgrown bushes with uneven rock steps.

The family ownership aspect of the marina was spawned by a conversation with a lively old local seaman, many years ago. I do not remember anything else of his story, it may have been a historical fact or rumor. It’s really more a memory of a story and was probably from one of our first visits to the marina.

It was one of our favorite excursions, navigating Multnomah Channel from the Willamette River to where it joins the mighty Columbia at St. Helens.

There are two scenes in the novel which feature the path up the hill and I was happy to see it is still there, and as raw and overgrown as I remember.

cropped town

Cropped town hallThe old town section of St. Helens looks as charming as I remember with the historic buildings and classic movie theater. For a Monday afternoon in December there were a lot more people and cars in the historic district than I expected. It also felt very spruced up and cared for with pride.

Two enticing shops were stocked with local crafts and antiques. There was a catering/bakery with enough aromas sneaking through the cracks, of tightly sealed doors, that my mouth watered in the brisk winter air.

The smell of buttered popcorn surrounded the entrance of the movie theater even though it was closed. The windows were sparkling clean and the interior featured red velvet and gold braided ropes reminiscent of the luxury and magic of attending the cinema. It has not been turned into a high tech multiplex.

Now you know St. Helens and the marina are a real place you can visit even though the people and places featured in my novel are fiction.

The one factual piece in the novel relates to the cabin cruiser “Clown-N-Around” which was the boat we owned from 1998-2005. I was driving when the drive shaft broke and we were actually caught in the channel with nothing but a tiny oar. We did need a rescue but the current had taken us almost back to where we launched so it was more like a 20 minute tow, and there were lots of recreational boaters out that day, and no big barge was barreling down on us. Nor did we try sculling or harnessing the wind.

As of this week I am finally able to work on companion stories for some of the cast of characters introduced in Checkmate First Mate. I needed the inspiration of a road trip to local settings and some sections of St. Helens will probably appear in this new story.

Here’s some other scenes and views of the area that readers of my novel may recognize and enjoy!

Melanie and her mom Angela have a fun scene at a pavilion in the park and it looks bigger and better now.
Melanie and her mom Angela have a fun scene at a pavilion in the park. This one is bigger and more square than the one I featured.
Looking west, with a large cargo ship in the channel on the Columbia - probably half a mile from where I took the picture.
Looking west, with a large cargo ship navigating the channel on the Columbia, I think it is probably a quarter of a mile from where I was standing.
Looking north-east from the park in town. That's probably Washington and some of Sauvie Island.
Looking north-east from the park in town. That’s the Washington shoreline and a point of Sauvie Island.