Monday, November 28, 2011

Bigfoot Blues

     My grandma and grandpa lived near Peckwan when I was a toddler.  If you aren’t one of the lucky folks who live in the far north of California, you’ve got no idea where that tiny community is. Unless you’re a fan of Finding Bigfoot, in which case you’ve watched Bobo and the team tramp through manzanita and salmonberry bushes, ford the jade-green Trinity River, and wade through primordial forests in search of The Big Guy.

     In the early 1950’s, Peckwan was a tiny community in the mountains populated by local Indians and by my white grandma and grandpa who were there because local Indian Bud Ryerson was Grandpa’s logging partner. If you’re A Believer, you’re ears ought to be pricking up about now.  Ryerson reported the first recorded Bigfoot sighting in the area and his wife, Vera, famous for her woven baskets, reported sightings no less than six times. She was also my grandma’s best friend.

     I spent a month or so each summer with Grandma. Grandpa was rarely home. He and Bud lived mostly in the woods, building logging roads and harvesting trees. It was mostly just Grandma and me in an old cabin on the side of a mountain. Vera lived just around the bend of a short trail, walking distance even for my short legs except for the sows that roamed free, rooting up acorns and occasionally eating some unwary child who got too close to their piglets. That’s the way Grandma told the story anyway.

     I grew up hearing tales of Bigfoot the same way I heard stories of black bear or cougar or wild hogs. One summer -- I must have been four that year -- a young male Bigfoot hung around and spied on the women as they worked in the community garden or hung up their clothes to dry in the hot, dusty air. The women whispered of “desires” and “kidnappings” and occasionally of “rape”; the atmosphere titillating and ripe as they giggled and compared notes of sightings until Grandma reminded them that, “Little pitchers have big ears.”

      The local children and I rode bareback through poison oak on stolen piglets, picked berries and even gathered acorns to store in wooden chests and bury in the creek for the cold water to filter so the women could make acorn flour.  But, I understood, even as a toddler, that the Indian world of my summer friends was different than my white world. Indians saw things I could not. They knew what roots to gather to make baskets, which mushrooms were delicious in stew and which gave you daytime dreams. Their world was both deeper and more narrow than my own. I don’t believe Grandma ever came right out and said so, but I understood that Bigfoot belonged to the Indian world.

    So, when my level-headed, German Grandfather returned wide-eyed from a logging trip with stories of road building equipment strung all over a mountain side and dozens of giant footprints – it made an impression on me.

     My newest novel, Bigfoot Blues, is the result of that impression.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The True Cost of War

Veteran’s Day is over for another year. For most of us. For my husband, Jack, and hundreds of thousands of this country’s warriors, the consequences of war never really end. These combat soldiers and sailors and Marines don’t want our pity.
A free lunch at Applebee’s is grand. Cards and cookies from school children go a long way to promote the healing of old wounds. But there’s a better way to honor these men and women we claim are so important to us and to our country.

Our politicians wrap themselves in a flag colored in someone else’s blood, call for justice and vengeance and plain ole love of country.  That’s fine. War is necessary from time to time. But the next time you have the urge to put a military boot in some countries ass, consider the true, the real cost of war.  All war.
You want to honor our veterans? Do it all year long by recognizing that there is no glory in war.  Not in any war. Ever.  Honor our veteran’s by thinking long and hard before voting for, before even thinking about, sending young men and women into a bloody situation from which they will, quite frankly, never fully recover.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview with Ruth Burkett Weeks

Interview with Ruth Burkett Weeks

Ruth, the first work of yours I read was your War Between the States novel, Soldiers from the Mist. I was blown away by the absolute authenticity of the characters. I’ve since heard part of your new book Dixie Dandelion and a section of your paranormal romance and you bring the same life to these characters as well.  So, how do you it?

Well . . . to be honest, I cheat. 

It would be a lie if I told you I sit for hours developing my characters—what they look like, where they live, their strengths, their weaknesses, etc, etc.. The truth is my protagonists come to me with their stories. All I need to do is listen and type their words. Soldiers From the Mist, for example, was told to me by the ghosts of the Civil War soldiers that haunted my house.  Their dialogue and personalities are so real because they were real.   My character, Dixie Dandelion was me in a past life, so she’s easy to bring to life.  And Raven and Roark in my paranormal romance, The Rook and the Raven, exist in a higher dimension and are quite alive. 

So, now everyone knows my secret—I “channel” my characters. However, I’m not alone. I think every writer that gets into that groove we writers love so much—the times where our fingers fly across the keyboard trying to keep up with the words and thoughts of our protagonists, when time disappears and we type for hours without fatigue, and when we sit back and say to ourselves, “where did this come from?”—is a form of channeling.  

I know you are more attuned than most of us to the supernatural. You read tarot cards. The inspiration for Soldiers in the Mist came to you, as I understand it, from the ghosts of the historical characters in that book.  I’m fascinated by your ability to see through the veil. Tell us about that gift please.

  I’m not sure if “gift” is the correct word. Everyone has the ability. Some choose to ignore it, others embrace it, and some just forget they have it. 

In my efforts to become more spiritual I attended quite a few guided meditations that took me through quiet meadows, crystal streams, and dark caves to find my spirit guides. I enrolled in the School of Metaphysics and tired to conform to their teachings. None of these things worked. Then I went to a Tarot card class. The instructor told us to keep things simple.  That the secret to communicating with the other side and to card reading was the mental pictures we got when we looked at a certain card. So, I started to just look at the cards and say the first thing that popped into my head. That opened the gate. My guides talk to me through mental pictures. I don’t have to physically see anything.  However there are occasions, when I do see a misty or shadowed figure materialize before me and as well as auras.  I also learned that what others call “imagination” is actually communication from the other dimensions and worlds.  So, don’t pooh-pooh your child’s imaginary friend as it well could be their guardian angel standing beside them.

You have an acting background, right? How are acting and writing the same and how are they different in the channeling of creative energy?  And how has that background helped you in writing and in promoting your books?

Acting and writing are kissing cousins.

In drama you literally step into your characters shoes and take on his/her personalities.  In writing this is called, POINT OF VIEW.   In acting the stage crew builds a town or set with nails, glue and wood.  In writing this is known as, SENSE OF PLACE.  An actor studies his character trying to find the reason he was motivated to do what he did.  In writing this is called, INTERNALIZATION.  Many times when I get stuck on a scene that I’m writing, I act it out. The only difference between the creative energy is that in drama you act out the words the writers thought up.  A writer can exist without an actor but an actor is dead in the water without words to interpret.

 My acting experience gives me a HUGE advantage in promoting my books. I’m not afraid to speak in public in fact I look forward to it.  I know how stand. How to enunciate.  How to “read” an audience and grab their attention. How to never, ever let them see me sweat!

This is a question for Ruth Burkett Weeks the person more than the writer I suppose, but you grew up in North West Arkansas before the rest of the country discovered it for the beautiful place it is.  How has the area changed since you were a kid and do you feel a bit like your home is being occupied by outsiders?

I was born and raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I loved my home town and when marriage took me away to other states and cities I was terribly homesick.  I used to ride my horse on what is now the by-pass, grandma’s house stood on MLK boulevard, it was safe to walk the streets at night. But the quiet little town of Fayetteville has gotten too big for its britches. The University has always played a huge part in Fayetteville’s growth and the politics connected with it have tarnished the town. Hwy 71 looks like the Vegas strip with signs and the god-awful traffic.  I won’t live in Fayetteville now.  I can’t blame people for wanting to move here but I do long for the good ol’ days.

I’m going to steal this question from you because you posed the query but never answered it yourself. If you could spend an hour with anybody in history, who would it be and why?

Oh,not fair!!!!!  Anyone?????????    Hmm . . . God.     I just got to know what HE was thinking when he started all of this.

Describe yourself in ten words or less. Good luck with this task.  I’d take me 1,000 words just to tell how funny you are.

I just laughed out loud. Glad you think I’m funny.

1.       I am a child of God and strive to reflect HIS goodness.

2.       Witty.

3.       Sarcastic

4.       Opinionated

5.       Full of laughter

6.       Intelligent

7.       A little ditzy

8.       Compassionate

9.       Talented

10.   One of a kind