New Year’s Resolutions in Writing

 

There’s something set within us, some innate need for reflection that happens around the 31st of December into the first week or so of January. Some of us feel driven to make resolutions, and whether or not we keep them, we still make them. Others, perhaps journey through this time with a sense of reflection, noting what they have accomplished throughout the year, what they would have liked to accomplished, and set into motion those steps to achieve their goals for the coming year.

Perhaps you’re like me. I’m looking at my W.I.P.  and wondering why more of my work isn’t in print…

books

Whatever you do, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind as you ponder the past and plan for the future. As an author I’ve found the following tips helpful in my process:

  1. Set a daily writing schedule – This isn’t easy to do. Some people actually say it isn’t helpful at all. But I find that the more time I put into my work, the more reward comes out of it in terms of completed projects, tightening up prose, finishing off edits. A daily writing schedule is something I’m still getting used to, but that’s the goal. Words on the page. It doesn’t really matter how many, though it might be helpful to keep track of word count to see how much work you can get done in one sitting. This practice will help me make the next point…
  2. Keep track of your writing – I’ll admit it, I’m overly fond of spreadsheets. In the future, I may need to join a support group to address the issue, but for now, I find when I use a spreadsheet to track of what I write, how much I write, when and where – my writing develops a different feel than before. I now have set myself up for success in that I see what’s before me and work toward its completion. Keeping track of my writing does something else…It helps me treat my writing like a job.Untitled design (1)
  3. Treat your writing like a job – This is the hardest lesson for me. I think because writing is a lonely business. And if you’re struggling to put words on the page – struggling through your edits – if you find writing necessary and personal and at the same time compelling and difficult, well, you can get yourself into a fine mess. Writing, if you’re lucky enough to be an author, is your job. That’s what you do for a living. You may not be able to make ends meet – yet. But for now, your job is what you put on the page. I’m not advocating you quite your day job – only that you must consider writing and developing your craft with the same seriousness and respect as your paycheck job.
  4. Respect the process – Writing is a lonely business – Did I already say that? It’s true! No one is going to work as hard at your writing or do it as well as you. Your work is your work. It doesn’t happen by magic, there is no formula other than to respect the process. What does that mean? Give yourself the proper amount of time. How much time do you need to become proficient? Some experts say 10,000 hours makes a pro. And there’s truth to this. It takes time to develop your voice in writing – and the only way to do it is to write.
  5. Know when to call an expert – Sometimes you will just need help moving forward. Tapping a trusted expert to take a non-biased look at your work is both smart and productive. When should you hire an expert? When your manuscript is complete – before you press the publish button – hire a professional editor. I can’t say enough about the importance of this step. Don’t skip it! Why, you might ask, should you hire someone when your cousin, aunt, uncle, step-daughter, neighbor, wife, friend, Hand Writing HELP on Whiteboardmailman can do the same? It has to do with a fresh eye, an unbiased report, someone who has absolutely no stake in whether you’re angry with them or not. But you shouldn’t hire just anyone, either. Pick someone well-respected within your genre. It doesn’t make any sense to hire a romance editor to look at your horror novel. Trust me on this one…             Another time to hire an expert is when you have your story completed and you know something isn’t right. Or, you’ve gotten a few reviews back, and let’s say, they are less than kind. It’s time to invest in a manuscript overview. Again, an unbiased, professional take on what is going on with your work and – most importantly – how to fix it.

So, while you contemplate your New Year’s Resolutions in writing, consider setting up a schedule, keeping track of your workflow, treating your writing like a job, respect the process, and make use of the experts. I think you’ll find that you’ve set yourself up for a productive year!

Happy Writing!

May your days be merry and bright…

Do you ever feel like singing? Just busting out some tune so loud, so emotional that the very vibrations of said blast could stop a train?

Do you ever feel like singing? Just busting out some tune so loud, so emotional that the very vibrations of said blast could stop a train? Woolson_Spice_Company_(Manufacturers)_(3093812084)

Perhaps you fancy yourself a caroler. You know, those people who bundle up against the cold, head outdoors and go from house to house (or hang out at the mall or grocery stores – anywhere a likely audience would be found) and sing, spreading holiday cheer to one and all?

I have this image in my brain that won’t go away, and where some of it is pure fantasy, the possibility is still there, and for an author, well, things begin to happen… Let me break it down: My Christmas Fantasy involves sleigh rides in the snow, hot chocolate, groups of people singing Christmas carols like they wrote them, and Christopher Walken.

Now, it rarely snows on Christmas Day in the Pacific Northwest – at least not where I live and not enough for a horse to pull a sleigh through, anyway. What does happen out here is cold. We sometimes get clear skies and super cold weather. The sun’s out, but the thermostat only reaches 31º F, or like the other day, 24º F.

The_Brooks_primer_(1906)_(14762881952)

 

But if it did snow on Christmas Day where I live, it would be amazing… I imagine strong horses decked out in their winter gear, bells on their harnesses pulling my friends and family along a wooded road, to Grandma’s house. She’s been waiting for us with spiked fruitcake and hot chocolate. Because hot chocolate is good for the soul and fruitcake is proportionally edible only by the amount of booze it has soaked up.

We arrive in front of a grand house, a large wreath on the front door welcomes up the Round lemon cranberry glazed cake on the paper -thanksgiving andsteps. We’re cold, but excited, because as soon as the door opens, Grandma and Christopher Walken welcome us in! Who knew Grandma and Chris were friends? Anyway, we all spill into the house, shedding our coats and scarves, boots and mittens while the sleigh driver leads the team around back to the cozy stable.

The parlor is decorated within an inch of its life. Everywhere you look, you see some reminder of the holiday, whether it’s evergreen boughs over the entry and gracefully set above the windows, or holly decorating the mantle, Mistletoe hanging in doorways, and little angels set in miniature snow-covered towns. The candles are lit and the fire is crackling merrily in the hearth. It’s a festive setting for a festive time.

Grandma sits down at her baby grand and begins playing Christmas songs, and soon we’re all gathered around singing to her accompaniment. We feel at peace with each other, we feel the deep connection and love of family that we have, and those we have made. It is a very special time.

Christmas decoration with hot chocolate mug
Christmas decoration with hot chocolate mug

When Christopher enters the room, he’s carrying a tray of full mugs of hot chocolate and the spiked fruitcake. The aroma of alcohol pierces our noses and we know it’s going to be good. He sets the tray down and passes around the mugs and little plates of the cake and we settle in.

He and Grandma raise their mugs to one another and Grandma starts playing White Christmas on the piano. We’re all surprised and delighted when Chris starts singing.

This is my vision of Christmas.

I don’t know why Christopher Walken is in my vision – and I have no idea if he loves the holidays as much as I – and I cannot find any evidence that he ever recorded the song, White Christmas.

But I’ve been hearing him sing it in my head for the past 3 weeks.

Just think about that for a moment…

In any case, whether you are snowbound, or beach bound, riding in a horse-drawn sleigh or on a jet ski, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest holiday season you’ve ever experienced.

May your days be merry and bright,

and may all your days be filled with

those you love and those who love you.

The BEST OF List…

There are so many lists I want to be on…

Untitled design

There are so many lists I want to be on. Honestly, this time of year, it’s sort of important to be on the right list, if you know what I mean.

With Christmas just around the corner, I want to be on the Nice List… I’m usually on that list, but sometimes it takes a little more effort than what I’d like to admit, being the youngest and having a natural talent for all manner of mischief. I have to say, though, being the youngest I’m an easy scapegoat. Sometimes I ended up on the Naughty List by faulty circumstantial evidence. Like the time my late Uncle Al caught me looking at Grandma’s frog garden. Oh, man, he was angry!

I was terrified of that man. He was big and was always growling about something. It wasn’t much later – at his funeral, in fact – that I learned that it had been my cousin, Kent, who kept throwing Grandma’s frogs down the well… You see, I was nice, but by circumstance, I was a suspect.

Finalist lists are always exciting to be on, too. But you do have to pay attention, because sometimes, you actually win! When my talented author friend, Lisa Souza, called me up one afternoon to congratulate me on winning a literary award, I laughed. You see, I hadn’t expected it – and really, heard what she said. The conversation went something like this:

Lisa: “Hey, girlfriend, congratulations on the win!”

Me: “Oh, thanks. I’m in Seattle now with the fam. When are we getting together?”

Lisa Souza
The multi-talented Lisa Souza.

Lisa: “Tomorrow, remember?”

Me: “Oh yeah! See ya’ soon. Bye.”

Five minutes later, I call her back….

Me: “What did you say?”

Lisa: “You WON a literary award. Got the email about it today. Gah, I knew you weren’t listening!”

Me: “Wow.”

Guest Lists are nice to be on as well. The first thing anyone who knows me might guess, is I’m a total introvert. Yeah, I know. Doesn’t seem like it, right? That’s because I’ve worked on my social skills. Plus, I’m old enough to drink. So if my skills fail me, alcohol comes in handy. And if alcohol just ends up making me look like an absolute fool, there’s always Lorazepam.

Anyway, it’s important to handle anxiety so when those invitations come, you don’t freak out. When you freak out too often, your friends might mistake your behavior for lack of interest, or a “problem”. (Especially if you pass out in the hotel bathroom for hours and Security calls the Fire Department to break down the door in order to haul your toxic ass out of there. Hey – that never happened to me, I’m just saying…)

But the greatest list of all is Blondie and the Brit‘s BEST of List! I’m so proud that my episode on the show earned me the privilege of being mentioned here. It delights me! I had so much fun taping.  I hope you enjoy it, too. Here it is – Episode 65, just for you!

 

 

First Impressions

We say so many things about first impressions.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

By Maître de saint Barthélemy - Kulturelles Erbe Köln https://www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de/documents/obj/05112102, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47332333
#ReallyOldBook

and

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. 

Party boy

There are others, of course, but they all seem to relate to the above.

I think the first quote is what we parents tell our children about making friends, listening to teachers, attacking something that’s a challenge. We don’t want our kids to give up at the very first sign of trouble. We want them to persevere. That’s a virtue worth instilling.

For a time, my daughter didn’t want to watch any movie that wasn’t animated – no matter how good it was supposed to be. She made it virtually impossible for us to watch Fiddler on the Roof or The Sound of Music. She refused to give The Hobbit a chance. It was a toss up with The Wizard of Oz, and we haven’t even tried Black Beauty or Where the Red Fern Grows. Forget about it.

In a way, she reminds me of the second adage – You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Whenever she sees a movie come out of its sleeve she has refused to watch previously, she will still refuse to view it, even though she’s older now and probably would find great pleasure in it. I mean, after all, who doesn’t like Mary Poppins?  (My daughter raises her hand…)

It’s a hard reality for authors to wrap our minds around, but as far as it relates to books, the second adage is more of a reality. Books are judged by the covers – within the first 10 seconds. This is what goes through the mind of a book buyer or reader when they see a book on the shelf:

  1. What is it?

Okay, I know. It’s a book. Duh. But let’s look at this in a different way. What is it? means, What can I expect to find within the pages? Is it a Romance? Thriller? Mystery? Horror?

Essentially, What is it? means, Does the cover tell me enough information that I won’t be disappointed with my purchase?

The first edition of my book came out with this cover… and at best, it’s a bit confusing.

Here’s why:

  1. What genre is it? Did you say romance?… Huh… that’s interesting. My story has romantic elements, but it isn’t what you would call a traditional romance.old-770s-cover 
  2. What story does the cover tell? … Maybe a shifter of some sort? We see the full moon – great symbolism for a werewolf novel, don’t you think? And we see a sexy guy (who happens to be on every other book cover out there – including horror novels…) And a girl with glasses. Unlikely pair? What’s this cover really saying?
  3. If you look closely, you can barely make out a creepy little figure on the bottom right coming out of the shadows. What does this tell you about the book? … nothing… absolutely nothing.

I had the hardest time with this cover and I think it shows.

Now, I will say that the color is fabulous and the images are great. It may be the best cover in the entire world if it, in fact, actually related to the story contained within the pages of the book. But it doesn’t.

When I got my rights back from my publisher (R.I.P. Booktrope) I had the unique opportunity to create a new cover, one that encapsulated a little better what my book was about. Let’s take a look.

770s-ecover-jpgWhoah.

Something different happened here. Same colorway, but our images are completely different. In design terms, the Iconography informs us. Let’s analyze this puppy.

  1. The couple is in an embrace – This screams ROMANCE, and there are romantic elements in the book, there truly are. However, the couple is on the roof tops….
  2. What the heck? Rooftop dancing was done in Mary Poppins, but not like this. This looks… risky, dangerous, and a bit upsurd.
  3. The guy’s hair is messy. What’s up with that? Does it tell you he may not have it all together? Does it tell you there might be something else going on in the story? Does it tell you, in any way, that the book might be kinda funny?
  4. She’s wearing red, which we all know means HOT.
  5. There are bats flying out of her head. What do we know about bats? Well, they’re usually associated with vampires…

Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere…

Within a few seconds, anyone who looks at my new cover should be able to surmise that it’s a sexy book, it’s a risky book, and there probably is a vampire in there somewhere. Now, you may not consciously become aware of any of this, but you may get a feeling about it, and that’s what it’s all about.

But there’s more.

Recently, Kathryn Brown of Chanticleer Book Reviews, Author Services and Media took my book to some industry shows. And guess what, there are a few more things I need to do. Book buyers want to know exactly what my book is about right off the bat.

Yes, this cover is engaging and fun, but it should say that. Right on the cover.

Per Kathryn’s suggestions, I am going to add:

COZY HORROR ROMANCE

Yes, that might seem contradictory. I mean, cozy horror? Really? But that’s the best way to describe it. I write dark humor, stuff that makes you cringe and laugh all at once. What can I say, that’s me!

I will also include a quote or two from a review in the lower right hand corner, “…wickely fun…edgy” and “…Anderson’s humor slays me…”

Something like this:
cozy-horror-romance

Here’s the thing, the publishing world isn’t easy. Everything little bit of help counts.

If you’re looking for marketing help, professional book reviews, manuscript overviews – bookish stuff – check out Chanticleer and learn how to make a great first impression (in my case, great third impression!), attract more book buyers, and take your author career to a brand new level.

If you’re looking for an awesome cover designer, highly recommend Keri Knutson, owener and genious behind Alchemy Book Covers.

Thanksgiving For All…

Turkey with leaves and oranges for christmas and thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that strikes deeply into the heart of the United States citizenry. No matter who you are, you have some type of feeling surrounding the last Thursday in November.

In school, I remember making pilgrim hats and paper turkeys, Indian headbands and beads. We celebrated the idea of Native Americans and foreigners sitting down at a long table, sharing a meal. The idea of cooperation and goodwill. It was a good premise, though flawed.

I find myself wondering what our world would look like today if, instead of utilizing Manifest Destiny as our guiding map of behavior and exploration, we obeyed the laws of Human Kindness and Community. If each of us truly believed the precepts of our holy faith, not just the parts we agree with, but all of it.

I find it much more comfortable to agree with something that doesn’t make me nervous, don’t you?

No matter what religion you practice, true faith presses us to take an uncompromising honesty of ourselves. Honest faith enables believers to hold up a mirror and examine their own lives.

“Take the log out of your eye before you attempt to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s.” – Jesus of Nazareth

Why do so many of us miss this message?

Living in America today is like riding a wild roller coaster you’re not certain has a stopping point. We are divided politically, socially, ethnically and financially. We need to listen to our histories – all of our histories, not just a select few. (You know, the ones that make us comfortable.)

There are people sleeping on the green spaces of the freeways coming into Seattle. It isn’t enough to offer them shelter and a hot meal, though that is a start. There are people who, because they’re angry or have a brain disease that has not been addressed, obtain guns and rifles and kill others in our shopping malls, subways, movie theaters, schools, and freeways. Life is cheap and cheapened further by not understanding the value of each breath we take. Gun laws must be upheld in our courts. Mental health concerns must be addressed in a real and meaningful way.

There are those who aren’t listening to environmental experts, who disregard some of the brightest brains in our world, and continue to destroy our oceans and our rivers, drain our swamps, pollute the air, poison the earth in the name of industry, progress, and dare I say, Manifest Destiny. People who believe it is acceptable to water bomb crowds of protesters (earth protectors) with ice cold water in freezing weather because they want to continue with their pipeline through sacred lands. These are the same people who have blocked the road leading into the Sioux Nation so those who need medical help must travel miles and miles out of the way to get to a hospital. When does it stop? What kind of earth are we giving to the next generation?

All of these issues I struggle with on this Thanksgiving morning. A sense of dread creeps into the room and I know, if we don’t collectively stand up for decency, for human rights, for mental help, we are doomed.

This Thanksgiving I want to make a difference. This day, leading into the holiday season, I am not going to be silent. Wherever there is an issue that seems uncomfortable, that challenges my status quo – wherever I see others suffering, I am going to step forward and speak. I have to. I hope you do as well. In so doing, I hope this will truly become a country, even a world, where we are guided by Human Dignity, Kindness, and Cooperation. How about we create a world where everyone can be thankful.

Here are a few links I’ve found. I would love to hear what your passions are. Please post!

To connect with your representatives in Congress and the House http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Red Cross – Disaster Relief http://www.redcross.org/

Black Lives Matter http://www.blacklifematters.org/

National Alliance on Mental Health  http://www.nami.org/ 

Information on North Dakota Pipeline and Indigenous Peoples https://www.facebook.com/IndigenousPeopleOfAmerica/?

 

 

Displaced Author on the Loose…

House with flood damage concept with water reflections.
This isn’t my house… but you get the idea.

About a month ago it rained so hard that our basement flooded. Water just came pouring in because we had installed our French trench incorrectly. Several things happened immediately following the flood:

  • The carpet, a complete loss, is ripped out and sent to the dump
  • My husband and I struggle to decide what we want to replace it with – this takes an entire week
  • We order new 100% waterproof flooring – because water happens, baby
  • Reinstall the trench – let’s just say, it’s a work in progress
  • All of the furniture moves upstairs to the living room
  • In short, chaos.

This is where I remind myself that ‘life happens’ and it’s really more about how we handle A, B, or C that matters most. Sounds very mature, right?

whah-im-such-a-baby

What I haven’t said yet is every day – every single day – I have held back a primal desire to scream my head clean off. I’m a creative person.  And for the last month I have been sharing my very public writing space with everyone.

That means the television is on – a lot – and people (offspring, husband, dog, 2 cats, even the guinea pig) are always in my writing space. Always. Kind of felt like this…

your-family
This isn’t my family… this is a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary in 1916… that’s why they look like that…

Now, to some of my writer friends, this wouldn’t bother them at all. They would happily ignore everyone and everything and submerge themselves in their work and be productive that way.

Me? I’m attracted to the people I love … and I’m a little ADD as well. So, each and every time someone comes into the room, I look up – or lose focus – or try to look busy so they’ll go away. But inevitably, what ends up happening is I’m distracted. Because, dang-nabbit, writing is hard! Mostly, I would rather do anything else but write.

 

Does that surprise anyone?

 

I would rather do anything else but put words on the page, but I love it when those words are finally there.  Don’t judge me. Many authors before me have said the same thing: I hate writing, but I love having written… http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/10/18/on-writing/

oh-for-a-place-to-set-my-butt-downand-writeand-write-and-write-oh-for-the-place-to-not-become-a-haven-forall-the-crap-in-my-lifeI think the screenwriters have got the right idea. They all sit in the Writing Room until they finish their project. No telephones, no internet. No one walking through their space. No potty breaks (this is how it used to be. In my imaginary writing room, there would be a potty, because… well because!). No distractions!

 

I will probably never have a real, honest to God, Writing Room; but, yesterday afternoon we received a call. Our new flooring has arrived! It will be installed today! That’s the closest I’m going to get at the moment.

The wind may blow and trees may crack and fall – even though power may flicker and fade – but I will be happy.

 

So, here’s my question to you, Do you have a place to call your own where you can write, or craft, be by yourself? If so, let’s see it! Post a picture of your creative space and comment how you came about creating it.

 

As for me, I’m heading downstairs to install my new floor.

In the Midnight Hour… we want Halloweenpalooza IV: Stalking Moon!

fairy-1

October is my…

favorite month of the year. I love the colors of the trees as their foliage turns. I love the brilliant oranges and reds, yellows and finally, at the end of the month, the bare skeletons. Ghost stories, the tales of woe, hot apple cider, and carving pumpkins. I love it all. I love to be scared out of my mind by a good story. And where I can produce some fairly terrifying work of my own, I am still struggling with being able to watch certain stories on film.

Take Pet Cemetery for example… I ran out of the theater. When my husband and I were dating, we attempted to watch, The Shining. I hit him and ran out of the house. I suppose in a way, it’s much easier to read the story, than actually watch it. At least for me, it’s a little less violent!

Recently, the amazing Wendy Potocki invited me to participate in her month-long Give-a-way event, Halloweenpalooza: Stalking Moon. I wrote a short story for it, which is featured today! Also, I am giving away my award-winning short story, Stone God’s Wife, and will be giving away a copy of my book, Curse of the Seven 70s!

Keri Knutsen is the very best! Find her here http://www.alchemybookcovers.com/#!lets_talk/con8

Click here to follow the link and enter to win! You only need to type “I want to win!” in the comment! Good luck and happy October!

Stone God's Wife

Clouds in my eyes…

 

 

 


imag0900


I have always been fascinated by clouds.

At recess, when I was a child, I would lie on my back on the school yard’s grass and get lost in them.

Even now, I am amazed by them.

I find story in them.

I don’t know the fancy names, though I suppose I could study the Wikipedia link listed below. Today, I only know what touches me. Deep down in my restless soul.

Cloudimag1329

A separate language

Above us all.

A strange hideaway where ancient worlds and wizards drift and play out their epic tales

What a wonderful place toimag0723

Fly free

Without thought

Above the reckless noise and disease

Far above the wars and calamities we so cherish.

Forgetting allimag0868

And nothing

In the stratosphere.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cloud_types

Writing as an Olympic Sport

Bebe Daniels giving it all for glamour...
Bebe Daniels giving it all in the name of creative endeavor…

Back when I didn’t know any better, I thought that if an author had talent, she would never, ever had to revise her work. Her words would flow onto the page, pristine and poignant, ready to be read by her adoring fans. I imagined she wore a cream-colored silk robe – although it could have been pink, yellow or light blue because my successful author was gleaned from a 1920’s black and white movie – cigarette attached to one of those long holder-thingies, she would slink across her high-rise Manhattan apartment and wait for her man-friend to pour her a glass of champagne and fix her up a plate of caviar on little toast rounds whilst reading her reviews in the New York Times. Anything less would be, well, amateur.

Like everything else in life, I’ve learned a few things: I don’t live on the East coast, caviar from the grocery shelf doesn’t taste the same as the kind in the can served at expensive restaurants, nothing comes easy –

The competitors in the finals of the 110 metre hurdles, 1906 Athens games. Future judge Hugo Friend at left. SourceThe Olympic Games at Athens, 1906 by Sullivan
The competitors in the finals of the 110 metre hurdles, 1906 Athens games. Future judge Hugo Friend at left. Source The Olympic Games at Athens, 1906 by Sullivan

even if you’re talented, and smoking is bad for you. As an author, I may be able to write quickly, but revisions are where the story comes to life – like an athlete practicing a sport. She may not run a stellar hurdle race the first time out of the gate. She may, in fact, fall over the first hurdle and every subsequent hurdle thereafter as she endeavors to complete the race. It isn’t easy. Hurdles are hard and to someone like me, dangerous. But every day she’s back at the track working on her timing, her form, the craft of her sport.

It’s the same thing authors do. We work hard at our craft and sometimes it feels as if we have fallen. The important thing is to get up and continue learning, producing, developing our craft. Our prize isn’t an Olympic Gold medal, though. Our prize is a great book with awesome reviews.

Keri Knutsen is the very best! Find her here http://www.alchemybookcovers.com/#!lets_talk/con8
Keri Knutsen is the very best! Find her here http://www.alchemybookcovers.com

 

 

Curse of the Seven 70s is now re-released and looking mighty spiffy! Why don’t you check it out and write a review?

Like sandcastles…

Like sandcastles

Life is funny. You think you’ve got it all worked out, and then something changes and you have to start all over. It’s like building sandcastles on the beach. You’re good so long as the tide doesn’t come in – or someone’s unruly dog doesn’t jump on your masterpiece. But, you’ve still built on the sand, and well, what did you expect?

I’ve just spent a week at the ocean – my very favorite place in the world to be. This year we went earlier than we are used to going. Labor Day weekend was our time. For years. Everyone would pack up and go fishing the last weekend of August – Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – everyone. We had some good times, too.

When my grandfather was alive, things sometimes would get a little dicey. One time we were all kicked out of the motel we were staying at because of him. Another time my dad returned from being out on the water – white-faced and silent. My family fished out of Illwaco – right there on the mouth of the Columbia River, which separates Washington from Oregon. It’s where Louis and Clarke camped out (a little further south, but still in the neighborhood).

It’s called Cape Disappointment because of all of the shipwrecks that have Boats at Illwacohappened there over time. When the tides change, the water gets rough, like welcome-to-hell rough. Well, it was one of those times, and Grandpa, hazy with prescription pills, turned the little fishing boat parallel to the 30 foot wave coming straight at them.

They were all going to die.

My dad grabbed the wheel and redirected the boat up the wave – perpendicular – and managed to salvage the situation. No one confronted Grandpa about the mishap, about how he nearly killed them all, but no one would go on the boat with him again.

Up the beach from Illwaco there is a gorgeous stretch of sand that beckons visitors to surf and swim. But there is an undertow there that is responsible for the deaths of many visitors who think Long Beach on the Washington coast is safe. Every year we would watch the Coast Guard head out looking for those who were lost. A week prior to our visit, an eleven year-old girl was taken by the water. It’s a dangerous place.

Sunset on Longbeach

The business people tell me they work hard all summer to make all of their money for the year to help them eek out a living during the winter. It reminds me of Lewis and Clarke and the rest of the Corps of Discovery, arriving in November, the worst possible time of the year to show up on the coast in the Pacific Northwest. If it wasn’t for the indigenous people in that area, the entire Corps would have starved. I think how it must have been for them, so tenuous, so dire. I imagine what it must have been like to never be dry – of living in smoky, damp cabins, smelling rotting elk meat hanging in the next room, of dysentery caused by the conditions and too much fatty salmon.

I think of the first week of August, when the weather is supposed to be sunny and warm, but somehow, at this beach, it was stuck in overcast and mid 60’s, the Gray Ghost spinning down the street like cotton candy, coating everything in mist, and how it made us so cold we couldn’t get warm. But it wasn’t all like that. This year there were fires on the beach, Overlook at Bearded Hallowhot dogs. This year there was Pokemon Go and time for conversation. This year was about family and rebuilding of sand castles, even though only five of 20 made the trip.

 

But this year no one was kicked out of the hotel room.