WHERE AM I AND HOW DID I GET HERE?

The proofs are in the mail…”Oh, my goodness,” said Little Orphan Annie and me.

I began to work on Huachuca Woman over twenty years ago and it will now, finally, see the light of day on paper and epub smaller than 8.5″x11.” Early on and for too long, I took the high road, looking for the power people (read:NYC publishers) and not getting past the gatekeepers (read: agents.) After the first seventy passes, rejections and no replies (a form of rejection,) I began to look at vanity publishing. For a mere $2-5000, I could fill my garage or spare bedroom (assuming I have one) with hundreds of my books to sell at book fairs, conferences, writers’ club meetings, beauty shops, medical offices and captive audiences (read: family and friends.) Did I REALLY want to do this, even if I could afford to? NOPE.

And so, I kept up the search for independent publishers where I passed on them or they passed on me.  And agents, at conferences, classes, forums or wherever I came across their paths. It seemed the personal connection would strengthen my chances and so I kept at it.  Last Fall, I thought I’d found the perfect match…only to have her reader pass. Whether on purpose or by design the reader’s notes were included in the returned manuscript, I was dumfounded. She couldn’t identify with the protagonist “despite the two deaths” in the pages she’d read; I wrote her off as a “22 year old with no life experience” and gave up my search for another agent’s reader.

Sometime ago, a guardian angel tried to convince me to epub and offered to cover the costs. I dithered with the same old fears: inadequate editing, wanting great quality, success/failure and a certain techno phobia. “Get on with it, find someone to do the technical work,” said Angel. And I did.

This was still a complicated process and I can’t imagine doing it all on my own. Writer friends my age have persisted in stretching their minds and joining the 21st century. I’m still very much in the 19th century with occasional adaptations to the 20th. Fortunately, I came upon a gifted man (Blake Webster: www.mediadesignpublishing.com) to upload my manuscript to CreateSpace and the Kindle and yet another to do my cover design (Kent Sorensen: www.kentwsorensen.com.) I feel very fortunate in being able to entrust my dreams to these men.

Where are you in your dream to publish?

What is/was your plan to get there?

What would you suggest to others?

 

1891 IN THE MEADOW

I wandered out from my chores in the morning with never a by-your-leave to Mother. I was too mad to ask permission when permission never seemed to come my way. All I wanted was to ride out with the new hand and show him the eastern grazing lands he was to cover. But Papa said ‘no,’ even used my middle name for emphasis.

“No is what I said, Miss Josephine Parthenia, and no is what it will stay.”

“But Papa, it would save you time. ‘Sides, you know I can show him where to find the lean-to, same as anybody.”

* * *

Papa turned his back on me and commenced talking to the new man. He was young with brilliant black eyes and dark hair that matched the color of his charcoal skin. His full lips and crinkly hair cried out for my touch. I felt a slight rumble move through my innards and didn’t know what to make of it. With my offer rejected, I stalked away from the ranch house and found my way to Manuela’s Meadow.

Photo by Stompro Photo Design 2010

At fourteen, I was a long and strong one, able to do many of the arduous chores found out on the range. I could throw a calf, handle the branding iron, pull a fence line well enough for a girl. I could mend harness, ride all day and holler up a storm after strays.

Mother and Manuela took me in hand from time to time, forcing me to learn my way around the kitchen, vegetable garden and Mother’s hand-turned sewing machine. I could feed twenty, sew up shirts and dresses, milk the dairy cow, round up the chickens and select the best chicken for dinner while keeping the windows glistening. I knew my way about the ranch in all its parts better than anyone, save my parents. I bucked at the restraints they occasionally wrapped me in when all I wanted was to take charge of something, of anything.

Stretched out under a cottonwood in a nest of sweet-smelling grasses, I was chewing over my father’s refusal when Manuela and the girls showed up.         Manuela approached the tree, sat down with her back to me, the better to track the girls.

“Now, hija, you going to stay hid here all day?” Manuela asked the air, her English now better than my Spanish. She was braiding long strands of honeysuckle together, intent on saving them for winter fever tea. It took me a while, but I did answer her.

“Papa treats me like some little baby. He just won’t give me any real responsibility. Bet if’n I was a boy, he’d of let me take that new hand out.”

“Si, hija, si. You speak wisdom now.”

“What do you mean?”  I was a bit peeved.

“You think your Papa don’t see the moon eyes you make at that Lincoln?  And him, a Buffalo Soldier, fresh out of the army. Little white señorita means big trouble for that boy. You stay away from him.”

I twisted to sit up and drew closer to Manuela’s back. “I don’t see how takin’ him out east woulda made for trouble.”

Hija, your Papa don’t go putting the bull in among the cows ‘less he’s wanting calves. Same way he’s not going to go putting his daughter in among the cowpokes.”

“Ah, Manuela, I ain’t going to make a baby with some cowpoke.”  I had that funny feeling again. “Was Francisco the first man to kiss you?”

“There’s kissin’ and there’s kissin’. Then, there’s kissin’ and tellin’. I ain’t tellin’. You just watch out for yourself.”  Manuela was on her feet, basket in hand, moving toward her daughters. “Hijas,” she called. “Vamos a casa.”

 I let out a big sigh. I didn’t understand my feelings any better than before.

I saw Lincoln Brisco two more times until, after fall roundup, he left for Nevada, to try for a homestead. Each time I saw him, he was polite, soft spoken and with some other grownup between us. I took to dreamin’ about him, making up poems I never dared show and found a way to comfort myself when the stirrings in my body made me restless with the itch.

Excerpt from HUACHUCA WOMAN

Going to Town for provisions was important to farmers, ranchers, and their workers whether town was near enough for a weekly trip  or so far that trips were seasonal. The Lazy L was far across the San Pedro River Valley so that in the early days, trips were rare. At sixteen, Josephine accompanies her father on a spring trip that widens her experience in several ways.

THE TRIP TO BISBEE 1893

Papa and me set out before light. It wasn’t so much the number of miles we had to go but the rough country we had to climb to get there. The road to Bisbee was pretty well laid out by 1893, but our house was set up in our canyon, about three miles off the main track leading north to the fort. From where we entered the road and turned east, the horses could just glide along in the ruts that the cavalry, banditos and ranchers laid ahead of us. Spring had everybody on the move, glad for the winter to be over and eager with the business of new livestock and new plantings. We joined up with Mr. Carlson and two of his boys toward the end of the first day. We camped out with them, up against a mess of tall stickery mesquite and had a good visit over a supper of beans and Mother’s tough old stewing hen. In the morning, we traveled on together.

A troop of Fort Huachuca Buffalo Soldiers caught up with us and stayed almost to Bisbee. The sergeant, with skin the color of black coffee, took Papa off to the side when we made a short stop to eat. The soldiers talked about raiders going back and forth to Mexico making more trouble than usual. Afterwards, Papa told me to roll my hair under his old hat and to loosen my shirt out of my pants, more manly like. I was already wearing the pants Mother and me usually wore when we did heavy chores around the place. A person can’t brand, help birth a calf or even plow the garden near so well if she’s wearing a skirt tho’ most women tried.

We’d gotten about halfway up over the Mule Mountains when the soldiers turned off toward the border. We waved them on and finished our ride into Bisbee at dusk. We could see cooking fires down in the ravine that sheltered the town and hear the shouts and music from the saloons in Brewery Gulch. It was as close as Papa meant to let me get to that part of town.

We put up at Mrs. Cragen’s boarding house where Papa usually stayed if he had one of us womenfolk along. If it was just him and Francisco, they’d camp out on the edge of town. I couldn’t hardly wait for daylight and the chance to see the town and the changes it had taken in the last year. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cragen fed us fried steak and canned asparagus, the only kind I tasted for lots of years, and her fresh baked bread. I was the only other female staying in the house so Mrs. Cragen took me into her bed and left Papa to share his with a drummer of men’s articles.

Morning was clear and sunny when I woke to find the bed empty. I could hear not so soft voices from the kitchen on the other side of the bedroom door.

“My boarders don’t much care what kind of problems keep you to home of a morning, Mrs. Hale.” Mrs. Cragen was put out for sure. “They want their breakfast and most want it early. Now, I don’t want to let you go, but I can’t be kept waiting again.”

“No, ma’am. I’ll not trouble you again,” said Mrs. Hale, midst a clatter of pots and pans.

I dressed quickly in my dingy old brown calico and headed for the outdoor conveniences. Passing through the kitchen, I looked for the mysterious Mrs. Hale and found no sign of her. Once outside, I nearly opened the privy door on a small, dark haired woman just coming out.

“Excuse me,” she said and pushed on by.

Her empty smile must have hurt for an ugly bruise stretched from eye to jaw. Whatever her problems at home, she seemed to have got the worst of it. Mother told me some men handle their women rough and I’d seen it some in travelers who stopped by our place. Wasn’t no way that’d happen to me without I’d be gone and the man regretting it.

HUACHUCA WOMAN…1952

HUACHUCA WOMAN started life as THE GRANNY JO STORIES and was work-shopped, critiqued, revised, edited, and advised about more times than I kept track of. Now, the book, much modified from those early efforts, is about to hit the market which is you, my followers and, I hope, many others. I am sharing an excerpt today from the first of the 1952 segments that are interspersed throughout the book as Josephine tells the old tales to two of her grandchildren.
Enjoy!

APRIL 1952

Early morning found Josephine Parthenia Lowell Judson Nichols moving stiffly across the kitchen, tea-cup in hand. Odors of oak and mesquite hung in the room. A thin braided rug covered a portion of the worn pine flooring, but couldn’t hide the years of wear and scarring. At the far end of the well-used room, pine-framed glass walls gave a panoramic view of the high desert, close in Huachuca Mountains and far-reaching sky. Rocking chairs sat in a half circle within the windowed alcove and it was to the easternmost rocker that the old woman headed.
She slipped into the rocker with its creaky protest and watched the sky lighten from pre-dawn lavender to a dusky rose. Rays of amber spread in slow motion into the desert moonscape. The promise of another dawn settled on her as muscles sculpted themselves to the contours of the oak rocker. A sigh fled her lips when Patches, the calico cat, leapt into her lap. Josephine set the tea-cup aside.
Wisps of whitened hair shadowed her face. A single braid, caught in a turquoise and silver clasp, reached to the waist of her faded dungarees. Rolled at the leg end and stiff from line drying, her pants gaped at the feminine waist they were never designed to fit. Curling leather boots stuck out below. A crisp new shirt of ruddy cabbage roses topped her outfit.
Josephine’s gentle strokes along Patches’ back soon took on intensity and such discomfort that the cat reached back, swatted her hand and flew from what had been a comfortable lap. He barely missed the much-mended wrist band from the Geronimo visit.
“Shoo, then, you ol’ varmint. Who needs you anyway?”
Frown lines ran across her forehead. She fingered the old band, then started her right hand thrumming on the arm of the rocker, beating out a wild drum roll. Josephine’s shoulders stiffened in a cramp as she fought against the conflicted feelings once again set in motion in the morning just past.