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In my day job, I've been working on "fuels reduction" projects in northern California, and it's never as easy as people like to think it is. Blaming the California fires on "tree huggers", lack of forest management, or the need to rake the forest floor is the easy way out and not true; it is a combination of factors that caused the devastation.

Paradise, California, is built on a slope, in an area born to burn. When it did burn, the area had not seen rain for two hundred days. But that's not what I want to write about. Just viewing the homes and lives lost, and looking at the sad... Read More...

Stopping by to say that I bought a bunch of my books at a discount--yes, authors have to buy their own books beyond the initial ten or so--and I will pass savings on to you if you are hunting a Christmas gift. $15 includes shipping, so hit the contact button and write a message. (As I have mentioned before, I don't put my email address on here, because I don't need to attract spammers.) This is a while they last offer, so be quick!

I haven't gotten any extra Geography copies but I am going to see if I can. Show Geography the love and keep it in print if you liked it.

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Next year will be the first that I haven't had an "arduous" rating on my firefighter red card since 1986. Back then, the test you had to pass was a one and a half mile run. Depending on your elevation, you had to complete it in eleven minutes and change, a time that I found easy to beat. Once I was the only one completing the test, and my supervisor hung his belt on a tree lining the dirt road. I had to grab the belt and run back with it to prove I hadn't turned around short. Another time, my friend Roger pushed me to a nine minute finish time, a fast pace for me as I entered my thirties.... Read More...

(or at least, this writer)

A non-comprehensive list.

  • "What should I do? Take up a hobby, go to Africa, write a book.." While it's perfectly fine for people to "write books", I wish there was the same level of professionalism to being an author as there is for other professions. For example, I don't say, In retirement, I think I'll do brain surgery. I feel like people believe that writing is easy and anyone can do it.
  • Reading a blog, essay, whatever with obvious errors. It's not "Wah La." It's not "Per Say." It's not "All in the Same". There's more! I... Read More...

That's the amount of copies Fire in the Heart has sold. You can look at it in a positive way--Yippee! 2500 people have bought my book! Or, like this: Dang! I still haven't earned back my advance. And Geography sold even less! Why am I even doing this?

It's times like this that test a writer's soul. Yes, like the park ranger I once was, who was "paid in sunsets," you can tell yourself you are "paid in appreciation." The emails and responses I have gotten from former firefighters and present ones have been priceless. At the same time, you are basically writing for free. You'd better... Read More...

I always tell people: those fragments, those flashes of brilliance, should be kept. Throw them in a drawer, in an electronic file, let them marinate. You never know when these can be repurposed. In this way, writing can be the ultimate recycling.

Something happened this week. An opening sentence came to me (this is the same thing that happened with Geography). I typed it. The next sentence came. And the next. I now have 51 pages, some of which I mined from previous false starts. I have no idea where it is going--I just have the bones. I don't write outlines. I just let things flow.... Read More...

I think every writer goes through this. It can be a hard slog. Much like postholing through old snow (which I did yesterday--see the hiking blog). You start to wonder if it's worth it. Do I really need to reach this lake, write another book? 

In my case, I haven't heard from my agent in a long time, which generally means no good news on the manuscript. You can't bug these people--that doesn't endear them to you. You are on a need to know basis. That's different than my working life, where if I don't return an email within a few hours, someone will call and ask if I got their email.... Read More...

After having banged out 3 long manuscripts in about the same amount of years, two of which became books, and one of which is looking for a home, I find myself adrift. I have some ideas for a novel, but they aren't coming together. It's frustrating. Plot should be the easiest thing, but nothing seems interesting enough to write for more than a few pages. Am I done?

At a book reading, someone asked if I had considered writing a book that would sell more commercially. And the answer is no. I can't write without having my whole heart in it. I don't see a point in writing just for... Read More...

Where did this come from, I wondered as I started reading the novel Piano Tide, by Kathleen Dean Moore. How did I not hear about this book before? As I read it, I was back in Pelican, Alaska, a boardwalk only little village reached by boat only, houses lined up above the tide, one bar around which most social life revolved. When I was there, we walked to a small cabin perched in the cove, and even this cabin seemed to appear in the book. There is also a similar bear enclosure in Sitka, where I used to live. How did someone who didn't live in Southeast nail it? But she did. 

There's... Read More...

Recently, I was asked to read for Women's History Month. I'm sure the attendees were expecting something from Fire in the Heart. I mean, what could be more historical than firefighting in the dark ages (Okay, the 1980s)? I looked at the book and sighed. I am sure I haven't done especially well by it. I've not been too proactive for book signings, and I haven't marketed like I should. I did a lot of that for Geography and I am not sure it paid off. Without a full time job, you can do a lot better, I'm thinking. When you are awake for only three or four hours of the day that don't involve... Read More...

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