I'm taking a month's working vacation at Coyote Ridge, our log cabin in New Mexico, on the eastern slope of the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The peaks are often blood-red in the morning sunrise: hence the name, the blood of Christ, given by the pious Spanish when they traveled through the area in the 1600s.
Our cabin is on a long mountain slope overlooking the broad valley of the little Rio Manuelitas. In the fall, the valley grass is bronze and coppery and the aspens are bright gold. In the winter, after the snows begin, it will be an unbroken sweep of white, rimmed by snow-covered mountains. In the rainy season--June and July--it’s a sea of yellow-spangled green. It's always beautiful.
This valley has a long and vivid history. It was part of the Apache and Ute migratory range, then claimed by Spain when it conquered Mexico in the 1520s. It was a Spanish possession until Mexico declared its independence in 1821, then became part of the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848. For another sixty years, it was part of Texas--until New Mexico became a state in 1912. Three small villages were settled here: Rociada, at the head of our valley; tiny Upper Rociada, a few miles higher in the mountains; and even tinier Gascon, another mile farther, still higher.
In the 1870s, Jean Pendaries and wife Maria left their native Gascony and came here, making part of the long trek by wagon along the Santa Fe Trail. Pendaries helped to build the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, on the north side of Old Town Plaza. Then he and Maria moved to this valley and established a ranch in the river valley. It was isolated then, a full day's trek by horse/wagon from Las Vegas, the nearest source of supply. I like to look out over the valley and try to imagine life as it was then, with all the challenges of the seasons and the uncertainties and threats of the frontier. But mostly I admire the changing landscape as the sun moves through its daily arc over the valley and our mountain slope.
Book report. I took a week away from writing for the Women Writing the West conference in Golden CO, and for lovely visits with Colorado friends and family. A Wilder Rose was a finalist in the WWW Historical Fiction competition, and I enjoyed giving a talk on the book. If you'd like to read it, go here.
Now I'm back at the writing desk. As you probably know, the finished manuscript is not the end of a writer's work on a book. The next step is checking the copy-edited manuscript. Used to be: this pencil/paper process would take a week, and there would still be errors. Now, everybody uses MS Track Changes, and about 95% of the errors get cleared up. In the last few weeks, I've had two copy-edited manuscripts (CEMs) to work on: Bittersweet (China Bayles' April 2015 mystery) and the Lake Union reprint edition of A Wilder Rose. I love this part of the process, which generally takes about 3 working days.
Now that the CEMs are out of the way, I've back at work on Hick and Eleanor (a novel about the friendship of Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt). For me, the research is one of the great pleasures of writing biographical/historical fiction. I've been researching Hick for several years now, and have compiled an interesting shelf of research materials. If you're interested, you can get a look at it on my Goodreads Roosevelt research shelf, which is a work-in-progress. I'm always finding more good books about the subject.
Some of you have asked (thanks!) about the audio edition of A Wilder Rose. I haven't heard when (or even if) that will be released, but I'll keep asking and let you know. We do have a cover for the reprint edition and I love it. As soon as Lake Union gives me the go-ahead, I'll post it for you. It's quite splendid.
Other Stuff. We don't have TV here in the mountains, so in the evening I read and work on a couple of needlepoint projects I've brought with me. If I get tired of that, there's the floorcloth I started a couple of years ago--it would be nice to finish that, at last.
I'm also watching David Attenborough's The Life of Birds, a quite remarkable series--and I have all the seasons of Foyle's War, and a shelf of classic movies. Tonight, I'm watching Amadeus, which is at the top of my list of all-time favorites. I don't miss television in the slightest.
Reading note. It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.--Roger Ebert [I'd say the same thing about a good book, wouldn't you?]