Editing, The Chicken Garden Analogy

 

So you’ve battled through the winter of your writing and you can finally breath a sigh of relief.  Your story lays stretched out before you, complete.  You have entered the final keys strokes, and your garden is green and lush and springing to life, the buds of your story beginning to bloom.  Your plot is growing roots, and your characters are shining in the sunlight.

YAY! All the snow is finally gone!

But wait, you notice flaws in your story, your precious garden.  That’s okay, you tell yourself, it just needs a little editing.  So you roll up your sleeves, dig out your tools and start the process with the best intentions.

There’s an old proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

grass will choke out all the native plants. Must eradicate it early in the season

You find invasive weeds in your garden in the form of plot holes and bad grammar.  You set to work immediately routing them out with a spade.

Fireweed is another if left to itself will completely take over a garden

Oh no!  They’re everywhere!  Even more weeds in the form of passive voice construction and dead-end characters.  What the heck?  I thought I was a good writer!

It spreads through the ground via its roots, like, well, fire.

An outhouse?  Of course, there’s an outhouse.  This is total c$@&!

Yes, that is a rubber chicken on the outhouse. I’ll explain some other blog.

Why did I put a big shiny piece of metal in my garden?  There was a point to this right?  How did this fit into the story again?

This is a sculpture my husband created out on our land.

Who the heck do I think I am?  Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m a writer.

After a while, I think you can get so absorbed in the tiny flaws that you lose focus of the big picture.  You have created something with a vision, a purpose in mind.

Take a deep breath, step back and put down the rake.

Me, in front of the cabin before we had windows

 

Have a drink with a friend

 

Me and my father-in-law Shep, having a beer at the bar in Chicken, AK

Call in a professional if you can.

 

My biggest critic and writing buddy.

Don’t lose perspective!

 

This was a shot I took September of 2017. This is the view from the front porch of our cabin.

 

But most of all, remember, you’ve created a place that people are going to want to hang out and enjoy.  Don’t be so hard on it that you destroy it before it has a chance to really flourish.

 

 

Walden Pond

“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

 

While staying in Concord, Massachusetts, we made a side trip to Walden Pond.  How could we not go to the place where Thoreau did his experiment, living in his cabin in the woods, especially having a cabin of our own out in the Alaska wilderness?

Though my husband warned me in advance, I was still a little disappointed.  Mostly because what was wilderness in Thoreau’s time is now swallowed by urban sprawl, complete with a major highway running right by the pond.  On the day we went, it was nearly 80 degrees, and people were out enjoying the water.  We walked around the pond and eventually came to the site of the old cabin.  Many people over time have come and placed pebbles and stones on the historic site.

View of the cabin looking up from the fire pit.

This trip really made me appreciate the solitude and peace we experience at our own cabin out in the interior of Alaska.  While Chicken is a tourist town of sorts, having been the second town incorporated during the gold rush days in Alaska, it will probably never reach the level of tourism that Walden Pond sees.  In the summers, with the mining activity, the region can see a population boom of about 300 people, not counting tourists.  In the winters, only 5 or 6 people stay to tough it out.

The cabin at night.

As I write this, we are packing our truck, getting ready to head out to the cabin for the week.  Already, I can’t wait to disconnect and do some good writing and reading.  Hopefully the snow will be gone and we will get some good snow.  I will let you know how it went when we get back.

Me, in front of the cabin in the fall of 2015, before we had windows.

See you Friday!

The MonSter Awakens

Sunrise and sunset during the arctic winter.

I sit here in my dusty office in Prudhoe Bay Alaska, winding down for the day, I look at the date on my computer and I realize I am a little over a week away from my anniversary.  Nope, not my wedding anniversary, that’s later this month.  The anniversary I am speaking of is the date that changed the trajectory or my career, my personal life, everything that I knew about myself at the time.  The date was June 1, 2000.

This is a tough one to write.  While a few of my closest family and friends know “what’s wrong with me,” it’s something I have kept to myself for many reasons.  This blog is a coming out of sorts.  Shining a light on the MonSter I have kept carefully contained in the closet.  I think I am also about to find out, just how many of my “Friends” really do read my blog posts.  I realized after I started blogging, this disease and disability is so intertwined in my life, who I am and my writing, that it needs a voice of its own.  This blog will probably become a category all unto its own as I write about all the things I pertaining to the MonSter, but I figure this is a good start.

I knew something was wrong.  I had known for a long time.  The strange medical symptoms had finally reached a tipping point when my right arm, and right side of my face went numb, along with the blurriness in my right eye becoming larger and larger.  The military doctor I had been seeing could no longer blow me off as just being a hypochondriac or his other favorite, “You’re fat, you just need to lose weight.”  I was thinner than I am now, but I digress.

I remember walking into the neurologist’s office on that sunny day with mixed feelings.  I had completed the MRI’s and other blood tests they had asked for.  I had spent three weeks on my back, trying to recover from a lumbar puncture test that wouldn’t heal properly.  The neurologist had warned me ahead of time that I should probably have someone come with me to the appointment, anticipating bad news.  Since my family lived 3000 miles away in California, I had no one close who could come with me to the appointment.  A fellow sailor on my crew in the Navy volunteered to drive me.  Part of me was hoping they were wrong.  It would be something they could easily fix.  They could just give me a pill or I could just lose 10 pounds and all the problems would go away.  Though it would be great to have a definitive answer; I didn’t want it to be what they suspected: Multiple Sclerosis.

I don’t remember much about that appointment itself.  It’s strange how I held it together just fine in the doctor’s office while he delivered the news, gave me pamphlets on the medications he was starting me on, and resources for information on the disease.  What I do remember is crouching down in the elevator as Paul and I rode down, eyes finally blurring with tears as the information sunk into my brain.

I had Multiple Sclerosis.  My Naval career was over

I couldn’t see much past that at that moment.  My world was crumbling around me.  It would take another 6 months for the military machine to process all the paperwork, but by December I was “retired,” and a civilian again.

In the book Anne of Green Gables, by Louisa Maude Montgomery, she refers to “the bend in the road.”  This was definitely a bend in the road I didn’t see coming.  For better or worse, it shaped my life in a way that can never be taken back.  I will do my best to explain the path I took, in the hopes that it helps others, no matter what you’re dealing with.

Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.  Fasten your seat belt, and hold on to the “oh—” bar, it’s going to get bumpy.

 

Paying homage at Orchard House

“I like the independent feeling; and though not an easy life, it is a free one, and I enjoy it. I can’t do much with my hands; so I will make a battering ram with my head and make a way through this rough-and-tumble world.” Louisa May Alcott, Letter to her Father 1856

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Sign in front of Orchard House, Concord, MA

When we started planning our trip to New England for my graduation from WPI for my masters in May of 2018, my husband asked me what places I would like to see in Massachusetts.  Without hesitation, I told him that we had to stop in Concord and see the Orchard House, the place where Louisa May Alcott wrote many books after she recovered from her near fatal illness contracted serving a nurse during the Civil War.

In the fourth grade, I checked out Little Women, at first from the school library, and then from the county library.  I watched the cartoon version on TV and then the 1933 version with Katherine Hepburn starring as Jo.  My mom and dad bought me a hardbound copy of the book which I kept until just a few years ago, which I passed onto my niece.  I read many of her other books over my formative years, and I enjoyed them all.  Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Jo’s Boys, the list goes on and on.  But it the life of the woman herself intrigued me as I grew older and became a woman myself.

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Orchard House, Concord, MA

I stood a little in awe at Orchard House, looking at the place where such afar ahead of her time woman lived and wrote.  From an early age, she loved to write and act and was encouraged to do both by her mother Abby May Alcott.  Her mother was an activist, a suffragette, and considered to be one of the first social workers in Boston, before the idea of a ‘social worker’ existed.  The family were staunch abolitionists and leaders in the Transcendentalist Movement.  The family often struggled financially but were surrounded but great thinkers of the time: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathanial Hawthorn, and not the least Margaret Fuller. 

On a trip such as this, one cannot help but indulge in buying books.  We are only half-way through our trip at this point, and I am already wondering if we are going to need to purchase another box or suitcase just for all of the wonderful little treasures of literature we have picked up so far on this journey.  One particular treat, which I will refer to often, I picked up while I was at Orchard House: Louisa May Alcott, Her Life, Letters and Journals.

While I have read much on Louisa, this book was both inspiring and humbling at the same time.  Possibly because of the point in life at which I find myself.  As previously mentioned, I am on this trip right now, to attend my graduation.  It has taken me four years (and a good chunk of my sanity) to obtain an online Master’s in Engineering in Electrical Power Systems.  There was quite a bit of struggle along the way, and more than once, I was sure I was doomed.  But here I am, in less than a week, about to receive my diploma.  And now I read about a genius of a woman, who read Plato and Goethe while I still played with barbies and had to work as a seamstress or a governess just to get by and support her family.

“Sewing was her resource when nothing else offered, but it is pitiful to think of her as confined to such work when great powers were lying dormant in her mind.  Still Margaret Fuller said that a year of enforced quiet in the country devoted mainly to sewing was useful to her, since she reviewed and examined the treasures laid up in her memory; and doubtless Louisa Alcott thought out many a story which afterward delighted the world while her fingers busily piled the needle.  Yet it was a great deliverance when she first found the products of her brain would bring in the needed money for family support.”

I read this, and I am truly humbled.  While yes, there is still much to accomplish to create equality for all, but at least I am able to support myself independently without worry.  I am financially sound and am recognized as an expert in my field.  What would she have accomplished if she were in my shoes and had the advantages that I complain about?  What great things could she have written if she had a job such as mine?  Am I doing everything I can to live up to the legacy that she and others laid down?

From Her Journal Entry in May of 1880:

“Thirty girls from Boston University called…Pleasant to see such innocent enthusiasm.  Even about so poor a thing as a used up old woman.”

Later in her life she suffered from depression, overwhelmed by her fame.  She became discouraged when young girls showed up at the house looking for Jo from Little Women and meeting her instead, a middle-aged woman, broken down from life, illness and worries.  Sometimes she would even pretend to be her own housekeeper and tell people she was not home.  According to the tour we took at Orchard House, she could vacillate between being highly social and then completely melancholy, using a pillow to signal that she wanted to be left alone.

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Gravestone of Louisa May Alcott, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA

I wish I could travel back in time and show her all I have accomplished, and all that I still hope to do.  Most of all, I want to let her know that I probably could not have done it if she had not paved the way 150 years ago.

Quote on plaque at Northbridge:

“By and by there will come a day of reckoning, and then the tax-paying women of Concord shall not be forgotten I think, will not be left to wait uncalled upon…I devoutly wish that those who so bravely bore their share of that day’s burden without it’s honor, will rally around their own flag again, and following in the footsteps of their forefathers will utter another protest that shall be ‘heard round the world.’”

-Louisa May Alcott on Women’s Suffrage

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Plaque at Northbridge, commemorating the battle of Concord

 

Reference

Louisa May Alcott, Her Life, Letters and Journals, J.S.P. Alcott, Edited by Ednah Dow Cheney; Originally Published in 1889, Applewood Books, Carlisle, MA

Feed the Birds

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The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I lived in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, in anticipation of starting at Seattle U in the fall.  Meanwhile I worked at the Federal Building downtown for the Vietnam Vets of America.  I was also taking some classes I needed at University of Washington.  Translation, I became a master of bus schedules that summer, riding the bus all over Seattle, with the bonus of a leg in a walking cast.

I immensely enjoyed my time spent riding the buses in the pleasant summer weather.  I would use the time to read some of my assignments, but often, I found myself people watching. One particular gentleman stood out from the rest.  People gave the tall muscular African-American man a wide berth.  He often sat alone on the bus, and though I never saw him harass or bother anyone, he talked to himself, mumbling obscenities while he listened to his headset.  He dressed neatly, often wearing shorts and a tank top, along with white tennis shoes and socks, the anti-thesis to some of the other people who rode the bus.  Whenever he got on the bus, he would drag a small carry-on suitcase with an igloo cooler bungeed to the top.  I would often wonder what was in the luggage he dragged all over Seattle.  I never imagined curiosity would be satisfied, nor would I have dreamed up what was actually in the cooler, either.

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It was a warm, sunny day and due to a doctor’s appointment, because of the aforementioned cast, I had taken a different bus line than usual, and I was now waiting to catch my bus up Capitol Hill to go home.  I remember looking up at the clear sunny sky, and then at the parking lot nearby full of high-end cars and thinking to myself how strange it was, there seemed to be so many birds hanging around.  Literally hundreds of seagulls, pigeons, and even ravens sat on walls, light poles and even on the top of the building of this one bank parking lot.  Shrugging and looking up, I saw a bus coming, but it was not mine.  Mine was the number 10.  I sat back down on the bus stop bench, as my ankle throbbed horribly in the walking cast after the session with the doctor.  Thankfully I would only have to wear it for another month, the break was slowly healing after six months.  I looked up in surprise as the gentleman with the cooler climbed off the bus, usual luggage in tow.

Without acknowledging me on the bench, he lugged his suitcase and cooler to the driveway of the parking lot.  The birds immediately swarmed at his appearance.  He opened the cooler, reaching in and pulling out bags of bread and bird seed.  He threw it into the parking lot, on top of all the nice cars, all the while shouting the obscenities he usually (I’m presuming) muttered only under his breath.  The birds eagerly gobbled up the offering, in the process defecating all over the vehicles in the lot.  He did this for several minutes, unloading a few bags of bread and bird seed, then he closed his cooler, re-strapped it to the suitcase and waited for the bus which now approached.  We both got on the bus, and he resumed his normal continence of sitting quietly and muttering to himself while listening to his music.

Admittedly, all I could think of was the lady from the Mary Poppins movie, singing, “Feed the Birds.”

 

From then on, whenever I saw him on the bus, I couldn’t help but smile.  While I am certain the people who owned the cars in the parking lot didn’t appreciate his antics, that had to be one of the funniest, clever things I had ever witnessed.  I often wondered what other places he visited and fed the birds, and why he did it.  I will probably never know.

Putting Myself “Out There”

Blogging and Getting Out There

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The cabin in Chicken, AK

I have been reading some great books lately about growing your platform as an author and creating a social media base.  I realize there is a certain irony, sitting in a remote cabin with no electricity, internet, running water, or indoor plumbing because you like to get away from people and social media; trying to learn about how to build a social media presence and get people to care about writing you’ve been tossing in the corner for years.  But I digress.  I have been reading and studying, in particular, Jane Friedman’s the Business of Being a Writer, and Rachel Thompson’s 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge.  I have always enjoyed writing, and it only occurred to me recently, that I should try to get what I write published.  When I decided to give it a try, I knew I needed to learn all I could about what it might take.  There’s a lot of great advice and insight out there, but what strikes me as interesting or maybe odd, is the level of resistance to good advice. Especially on selling yourself.  In particular, there’s an overarching fear that doing anything other than working on your art is somehow taking precious time away from what could be your masterpiece.  This in turn could make you miss your magical window or muse and be shut out forever.  I decided to write this blog on my thoughts on what didn’t realize until now was such a huge issue.

Video of phase III blow in the arctic, taken from the front door of camp

I work providing engineering support to an electrical power grid that sits on the Beaufort Sea, distributing power in one of the harshest climates on the planet.  I have seen ambient temperatures in excess of -65 degrees with a wind chill of -80, when outside work comes to a complete halt because frost bite occurs in less than five minutes.  At the same time, loss of electricity means loss of production which means loss of revenue.  A key factor of my job is being able to eloquently state the technical aspects of a problem and why it needs to be solved to a person sitting 800 miles away in Anchorage or even thousands of miles away in London.  This person may have no technical background whatsoever and has never donned a pair of steel toed boots or a hard hat in their life, but they control the purse strings. I must convince them that my problem is worth giving money to without losing them in the technical weeds or being so vague that they do not buy into my credibility on the subject matter.

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Sunrise and sunset during the arctic winter.

Every time I sit down and create my argument, I refine my writing skills more.  Sometimes it is just a smidge, learning to use a better word or phrase to express my full meaning.  Sometimes it is learning to when to use better brevity when the situation calls for it.  Other times it is learning how to read my audience and tailor my writing specifically to what they want and need from me.  Then there are other times, it is admittedly nothing more than getting one more task off my plate, so that I can turn my full attention to what I really enjoy.

Refining my Argument

I can almost hear the can of worms crack open with a loud hiss as I write this, but I am going to give it a go.  One of the things that we as women are often accused of in our writing and I will openly and freely admit that I am guilty of: rambling.  In technical writing and making presentations to someone whom you are trying to convince to give you money for a problem, this can be detrimental.  Think about it, when you are pitching your book, they want it short and sweet.  It took me a long time to get to the point of learning how to get to the point, and just deliver the message.  I can thank some great mentors for helping me refine my speech and my writing, so that eyes did not keep glazing over when I started to talk.  My presentations became more effective, my technical papers and emails clearer and concise.  I got what I wanted professionally and personally with far more ease.  I was taken seriously as an engineer.  I do my best to provide this same type of guidance to the engineers I currently mentor, who most of the time, hate writing.

Targeting your Audience

I am a geek.  My husband is a geek.  Get the two of us together, and we can sit for hours talking about our respective career fields.  His career field is Corrosion and Ultra-sonics, specializing in Non-destructive testing.  I have a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering with a Masters in Power Systems.  Believe it or not, there is incredible overlap between the two fields due to the underlying principles of physics and magnetics.  Get the two of us together and we can geek out for hours about hysteresis and ferro resonance in different materials.  In fact, this sums up our first date.  Right now, some of you are probably thinking, nerd, cough, nerd. And you’re not wrong.  I embrace it proudly, and I thoroughly enjoy it.  What’s the inherent problem with getting too technical?  People outside your discipline don’t get it.  And if you need them to understand it, at least enough to help fix a problem, you had better learn to write and speak in a way that will make them care.  That is something both my fiction writing and my blog helps refine my technical writing.  It is a constant process of improving my language skills and helping people to understand more about what I do and how electricity and energy are produced and distributed.

Every time I put my pen to paper or begin to type on this keyboard the feedback loop in my brain picks up, and my writing improves a little more.  This is an undervalued area of the writing process that should get a lot more credit than it does.  Sure, if you are blogging or twittering just to avoid writing your novel or magazine article, that’s a whole separate issue.

Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Back from our Chicken Run!

The cabin in Chicken, AK

 

We made it back from another trip to the cabin in Chicken, Alaska.  Not as cold as our last trip, getting down around zero at night, but sometimes hitting 35 or 40 degrees during the day.  Still quite a bit of snow, though it has melted down and is pretty compact now.  We were able to snow shoe in much easier this time, not sinking up to our hips in soft snow in 0-degree weather.  Unplugging once more, and spending my days reading and writing felt really good.

Breaking up the snow for water

But it is not all fun and leisure, we do have chores when we are out on the land.  Our biggest is making water.  Not only to drink, but to stock pile for later in the summer for our plants.  Ray cuts up wood, so we can keep the fire going in our wood stove.  I spent lots of time, knee deep in ice and snow with a pick axe and shovel, loading corn snow into barrels for later in the spring when we won’t see a drop of rain in the arid region with the exception of the occasional afternoon thunderstorm.  If we have to, we can get water from the RV Park in the “Town of Chicken,” but it is best to stock pile as much as we can from the snow melt in large 55-gallon barrels.

Floundering in the snow.

What are we watering?  Every year we bring hundreds of small ground cover plants and trees to resupply the barren landscape.  In 2004, 6.2 million acres of Alaska burned, the size of Vermont.  The largest of the fires was the Taylor Complex fire near our land.  That fire alone was 1.3 million acres.  The department of forestry had no choice but to drop flame retardant chemical on the few historical buildings and communities in the very remote region, then let the rest of the Yukon and Forty-mile area go up in flames.  What was left in the end was a standing dead forest that you can see in the background of my pictures.  It was even worse when I first came out to Chicken with my then boyfriend (now husband) ten years ago.  You didn’t dare wear white socks or light-colored pants.  You would be throwing them away later from the charcoal stains.

My husband Ray, and My father-in-law Shep, standing near one of our few big trees. You can see the ground cover we have gotten to come back in the foreground.

Now that we are ten years in and have a cabin built, we have been slowly coaxing the boreal forest back to life, planting native trees and encouraging ground cover to come back.  But we always try to get out to the cabin as early as we can in the season to stock pile water.

Scribble #1

Here is an Excerpt from a story I finished some time ago:

“So, what do you think, princess?  Can you fix it?” he asked with a laugh.

Silver eyes flashed as she paused in her work.  “Of course I can.  This is easy.  But why do you call me a princess?  Princesses in the books at the library wear big dresses and go to dances and do magic.  I’ve never worn a dress in my life.”  He laughed out loud at her honesty.  She was quite the little character.

“Maybe princesses do more than wear dresses, little one.  And maybe you’re doing a different kind of magic right now.”  She shrugged in response and focused on her task.  Before too long, she began to pepper him with questions about his car.

“I’ve never gotten to work on such a nice car before, though Mr. Hahn has lots of books about cool cars in his shop.  How long have you had it?”

“Not too long princess.  I had a 907 before this one.”  He said with a smile, not sure if she would know what that was.

“You had a 907 before this one?  Why did you get rid of it?  That was a really nice Porsche.  I read in Mr. Han’s magazines that they only made like, 103 of those.” She asked, silver eyes wide as leaned toward him like an inquisitive little bird.

He frowned.  He did not know how to explain it to such an innocent little girl.  He decided to just lie.  “I was driving too fast and I wrecked it.  So, I had to get a new one,” he said simply.

She paused in her work and scrutinized him with her piercing eyes.  She blinked those long, thick lashes a few times and scrunched her perfectly arched dark eyebrows together, and without saying a word, he realized the astute little girl knew he was not telling the truth.  Instead of calling him on it, she asked.

“Why were you driving too fast?”

“I was trying to get away from some really bad people.”

“But when you crashed, didn’t they catch you?” she asked, cocking her head to one side, gazing directly at him. He smiled to himself, once more reminded of an innocent little bird.

“Almost.  I was able to hide until they went away.”

She nodded and then resumed her questioning, still gazing at him. “Why were bad people chasing you?”

He decided to be a little more direct.  He leaned toward her.  She mimicked him, leaning close, thick dark lashes blinking, silver eyes wide and curious.  He was close enough that he could detect the scent of black licorice on her breath.  He definitely could tell now that most of dirt on her face was faded bruises, at least on her cheeks.  But her skin underneath the dirt and bruises was soft and fair, otherwise flawless on her innocent heart-shaped face.  He could not help but think to himself she would be a pretty woman one day.  He was in turn curious to see her response.  He felt wicked, almost like a villain in a fairy tale.  He lowered his voice and said, “Maybe because I’m bad too, and I did something bad.”

She gave him another sharp look, but she did not pull back.  “You don’t look like a bad man.  Not like the guys my mom hangs out with,” she stated bluntly.

He threw back his head and laughed out loud.  He was tempted to reach out and touch this innocent, honest little girl.  He got the impression she would not take it well, she would probably burn him with that hot iron.

“Oh princess, don’t judge people by how they look.  It will get you into trouble someday.”

She bristled at his teasing, her full, pink, licorice-stained lips pursed into a frown.  “I don’t,” she retorted stubbornly, “But you don’t seem like the guys my mom hangs out with.  And they are bad.  They do bad things.  Gross things,” she said assertively with a small shiver and then sat back and soldered a wire.

I have no doubt about that.  He thought to himself.  Who knows what this little girl has seen?  “Princess, maybe there is more than one way to be bad.”  Who would have thought he would be sitting in a small desert town on a Sunday afternoon having a philosophical conversation with a little girl about good and bad?  It made him laugh harder.  He was beginning to wonder if he had slipped into another dimension.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked suddenly staring down at the part she was working on.  It looked as if she were almost done working on it.  He was impressed by how fast she wired it back together.

He laughed again, “You mean, in addition to all of the other questions you’ve already asked me princess?”

“No, I have a serious question this time,” she said.  She reached for some of the wires that she had pulled off the old wiring harness.  They were lying in a pile on the table, fluttering a little in the afternoon breeze.

Unsure where this peculiar little girl was going with the conversation, he replied, “Sure princess, ask whatever you would like.”

“Did one of those bad people put acid on your wires?”

 

Off the Grid

As we make the turn off the ALCAN at Tetlin Junction onto the Taylor Highway, I look over at Ray in the driver’s seat of our Subaru and ask, “So, how many do you think we will see?”

Keeping his gaze focused on the winding, chip sealed road, he drums his fingers against the steering wheel for a moment then makes his wager, “”I’m going to bet 2.”

“I’m going to bet 1,” I reply, as I settle back into my seat.  It’s almost 10 o’clock at night, but the light is just beginning to fade in the land of the midnight sun.  Though it is technically well into spring, the snow is barely melted in this region, and the tourists won’t really begin to show up for another month or so.  Our cabins is a seven hour drive from Anchorage, and we are on the final, lonely stretch.

Taylor Highway Closed

We always make this bet as we turn onto the Taylor Highway, leaving behind the remnants of civilization. Cell phone signals dropped out several miles back, when we passed the Weigh Station about ten miles east of Tok.  Radio Stations? Forget about it.  Too many mountains.  Utility power?  Nope, maybe someday we will put in solar, but only if we can get batteries that are rated down to -70, which this region is known for reaching those temperatures during the winter months.

View from our fire pit. Current temp, about 5 degrees.
Travel Beyond This Point Not Recommended

Here lately you see so many people crowing about how they turn off their cell phones for the night, or maybe for a whole hour for dinner. When we go to our cabin, we are completely off the grid, sometimes for a week or more if we can pull it off. My cell phone becomes nothing more than an expensive camera/clock. Sometimes in the summers, we will bring along a small, portable generator to make ice or run power tools for construction projects, but most of the time we leave it off.  We like the quiet.  The ability to focus and be in touch with our thoughts is what draws us to our cabin and our land.  The guests we bring out to visit love it as well.

We reluctantly bought a satellite phone for emergencies last year.  Mostly because of the aforementioned bet.  It is not uncommon during certain seasons to go a day or more without seeing a single car. If your vehicle breaks down, or you have some other emergency, it can be a long wait or walk back to safety. From October 16-April 1, the road is not maintained, so it is use at your own risk.

Some people are intrigued by the idea of going out into the wilderness the way we do.  Some are appalled.

“What if something happens?  Aren’t you scared?”

My response is that we plan our trips appropriately. We tell people where we are going, and when we will be back.  We don’t take unnecessary risks.  We always keep in mind, that while the back country of Alaska is beautiful, it is at the same time highly unforgiving.

So far, the risks have been well worth the rewards.

Back to the Start

Deep breath, then start typing.  Normally, I write everything on notepads, then I transfer it onto a computer.  A little clunky, I know.  This will be an interesting experiment for me as I start trying to put my random thoughts out there for all to see.  I have always enjoyed reading and writing, but I never really thought much about getting published or whether anyone would like to read what I wrote.  A few years back, I read an incredibly terribly written novel, and I thought, if she can get published, why not me?

I read other books and realized how few of the female protagonists I could truly relate to.  I have been working as either a technician, operator, or an engineer for over 20 years now, and I don’t need a study to tell me there are not many women in STEM careers.  Therefore, there are not many women in books in STEM careers either.  I decided I would try to write some romance and action stories about the female characters I would like to read about.  For better or worse, here is my best attempt.

Meanwhile, I will use this blog to explain a little about how I got to this point.  How did I end up so far from where I started?

It started with the desire to get the heck out of a small town called Victorville, CA.