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March 2024 Winter wrap-up.

Greetings fellow readers!

On the last Saturday of February, I participated in the Friends of Lebanon Public Library's first ever Local Author Fair, where I had the pleasure of meeting other authors and exploring an impressive selection of genres, both fiction and nonfiction. Friends and family and neighbors dropped in to show their support and make the day go by way too fast. I haven't done an event like this since before the pandemic and didn't realize how much I'd been missing the vibe of writers and readers gathered together in one room, surrounded by books, books, and more books.

Photo of a store shelf in Brownville museum, Oregon.

Based on author and walk-in attendance, the Local Author Fair will become an annual event!

With this year's fair behind me, I've had more time to spend working on the next frontier western, Becker's Trail. I'm happy with the progress I'm making. Of course it's never as fast as I'd like it to be, but any kind of forward movement is a good thing! The plot has taken a new direction, bringing the story closer to the happy ending I'm looking for. I've talked a lot about the story without giving much in the way of details. So, here's a short teaser from Chapter One:

Lebanon, Oregon 1867

"Don't try to move," Levi told his mother. "Doc Hanlon says it's best you lie still." Ma set her blue eyes on him. Levi thought she had the prettiest eyes in the county, but right now they looked unfocused. Drugged. "Go to Quartzville," she said, her voice a rasped whisper. "Find your father." Pa said he was going to strike it rich prospecting for gold. "In a couple months, we'll be living high on the hog," he declared before leaving them to run the farm without him. He should have been home for planting time. It should have been him driving the wagon to town for seed and supplies. Ma was in this fix because of him. Levi's mother gave his hand a weak squeeze. "Take May." He frowned. "But she's just a girl. I don't know how to look after her. Aunt Ada – " "No. Your sister's fragile." A tear rolled from the corner of Ma's eye and into her ear. Levi swallowed the lump in his throat, the pressure of responsibility weighing heavy on him. Fragile was not a word he would have picked to describe his stubborn little sister, but his mother was right. May did not belong with Aunt Ada. They wouldn't survive under the same roof for an afternoon, much less the time it took him to reach Quartzville, some thirty miles east, locate their father and bring him home. "We'll find Pa together," he promised his mother, "don't worry."

And that's how thirteen-year-old Levi and his nine-year-old sister, May, find themselves riding to the booming mining town of Quartzville, Oregon, where they discover they aren't the only ones looking for their father.

I just finished reading The Memoirs of Chief Red Fox, who, in 1971, celebrated his 101st birthday the year the book was published. Fourteen hand-written notebooks filled by Chief Red Fox over the course of seventy-five years served as the source material that covers his childhood living with his family in a tepee and food was hunted on foot with bow and arrow, to traveling the world with Buffalo Bill. A candid, heartbreaking, enlightening must-read for western history lovers.

As a footnote, when I read that Chief Red Fox "became a sailor on the high seas" in the spring of 1884 at the age of fourteen, I realized he was two years younger than Alice in Come Snowfall.  I love it when my fictional characters mesh with history that way. It makes them all the more real to me.

Photo of our dog jojo racing across the beach at Seal Rock, Oregon.

Photo of the surf at Seal Rock beach, Oregon.

Photo of me and our dog Jojo enjoying our time at Seal Rock beach.

We celebrated the last day of winter with a drive to Seal Rock beach on the Oregon coast. It wasn't as warm as we'd hoped, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the fresh air and exercise, especially JoJo. Grilled fish and chips at Luna Sea restaurant finished off the day deliciously.

May your days be filled with interesting stories, fresh air, and good food!

January 2024 Research trip.

Photo of Brownsville Museum in Oregon.

Brownsville Museum, Oregon.

Inside the theater at Brownsville museum, Oregon.

Museum movie theater.

Picture of the move poster Stand By Me.

Stand By Me poster.

A few days before Christmas, my husband and I drove to Brownsville and visited the Linn County Historical Museum, also known as the Brownsville Historic Pioneer Museum. Exhibits are displayed in Brownsville's original railroad depot and six Southern Pacific railroad boxcars, and cover Native People, Oregon Trail immigrants (including the original covered wagon that carried the Drinkard family to Oregon in 1865), regional mining, the filming of Stand By Me (1986), and so much more. There's even a 29-seat theater in one of the boxcars!

But it was the extensive genealogy section and the lovely staff member who dug up rare bits of information on the short-lived mining town of Quartzville, Oregon, that made the day for me. I now have a map showing where the town was located and a detailed description of the area's geology.

Yes, Becker's Trail is fiction, like all of my books, but it's important that my stories have a base of realism. If you watch the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska this March, you'll see that my characters in Iditarod Nights stop at the same checkpoints and follow the actual rules of the compition. The places that Ray, Benny, and Grace see in Destination Stardust can be found on any road map. And Alice's journey in Come Snowfall follows the historic Oregon Trail route from Baker City, Oregon, to Little Medicine Bow River and Laramie, Wyoming. I want readers to finish a book feeling like they were there, that the story could have really happened.

As for the gold panning in Becker's Trail ? I've done my share.

Photo of a store shelf in Brownville museum, Oregon.

Store shelf display in the Brownsville museum.

And now we're halfway through the first month of the new year. I'm not big on resolutions; they're a fast track to disappointment. Would I like to get Becker's Trail published this year? You bet. But time will tell. There are eleven and a half months to go!

2024 banner.

November 2023 One-year anniversary.

Strawberry Festival in Lebanon Oregon.

Lebanon Strawberry Festival.

My dog Jojo at Seal Rock Beach Oregon.

Jojo at Seal Rock Beach.

Photo of our garden harvest, summer of 2023.

Garden Harvest.

We've been in our new home for a year, and what a busy, fulfilling year it was. With home improvements, a 15'x20' vegetable garden (canning, freezing, and dehydrating included), and day trips to places like Newport, the Scio Covered Bridge Loop, and Smith Rock, is it any wonder writing has taken a back seat?

That's why I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. Writers challenge themselves to complete a 50,000-word rough draft of a novel during the month of November. I put my own twist on the rules and have challenged myself to write every day for 30 days, and to finish the current draft of Becker's Trail, which got its start as a NaNoWriMo project two years ago. (Check my March 2021 newsletter for details.) I am closing in on my goal!

Possible book cover for Becker's Trail.

New releases to announce! Thanks to a collaboration between Apple and Draft2Digital, my back-list romances, A Bed of Roses and Her Phoenix Heart, are now available in audio books, narrated by a digital voice based on a human narrator, through Apple Books. Ooligan Press released the audio of Iditarod Nights in 2020, narrated by Desiree Wilson, making my romance audiobook library complete.

As 2023 quickly comes to a close, there are still boxes to unpack and an endless amount of stuff to organize, but I keep reminding myself to be patient. New beginnings take time. I'm grateful every day for the changes in my life, the new friendships formed and those that have endured time and distance, the continued strength of family bonds, and the wonder of discovery around the next corner. What are some of the things you're grateful for?

Photo of a book shelf full of Louis L'Amour Books

Cheadle Lake on a calm morning.

If you have a good read to recommend, or would just like to say hello, please email writer@cindyhiday.com I'd enjoy hearing from you!

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