Today I was in the living room by a big window and heard a soft thump. I realized that a bird flying outside had hit the glass. I went out and spotted a hummingbird lying on its back on the ground. I picked up the tiny bird and gently coaxed it back to consciousness for a few minutes. Then it flew off, wonderful. … Yeah, Tucson. Now I’m going to put stickers on the window so birds can see the glass better (I already put stickers on the sliding-glass door a while ago).
My process begins with ideas, of course, and listening to the words. Deep into it, I’ll print out a draft of a novel, then I’ll reread and rewrite, then I’ll print out another draft for another round of rereading and rewriting, and so on. I’ll do some doubling-back to see what I had in some previous draft, all of this for draft after draft until I need to stick my head in a bucket of ice. Sometimes the writing feels as good and easy as singing. Sometimes it’s like digging up rocks with a pickaxe, still kind of enjoyable because it’s solving problems.
A nice surprise — my new novel showed up in the hands of Tom Zoellner during Tom’s August 9 online talk for the Border Community Alliance. Tom is based in the L.A. area, and I was watching his talk on my computer, enjoying his remarks about his eighth book, Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona. Suddenly he’s recommending my novel to the audience, saying that Montana Blues is “really outstanding fiction … a fast-moving, suspenseful story.” Tom is an Editor-at-Large for the Los Angeles Review of Books, along with teaching as an English prof at Chapman University. Kindness is one of his traits. Thanks, Tom.
My new novel cools off by the Colorado River, just upstream from the confluence with the Gunnison River — thank you, Ted Moorman, for venturing out there in the mid-August heat.
In August, my new novel climbed to roughly 8,000-feet elevation in the cool forest on Mt. Lemmon, the biggest peak looming over Tucson. Thank you, Doug Biggers, a longtime leader of Tucson journalism (Doug was the original editor and publisher of the Tucson Weekly and the Edible Baja Arizona magazine).
In late July, Margaret Regan made my new novel another beach read along the Jersey Shore, at Brigantine Beach. Margaret is a wonderful writer. Her career includes two heartfelt pro-immigrant books and a stint as “a French editor for TV Guide.”
In mid-June, Montana Blues traveled to the immense Great Plains grasslands. I grew up on Illinois prairie, next to a great swamp that got me interested in the wild at a young age. Some scenes in the novel are on Montana’s grasslands. Thank you, Colorado friend Jim Horvath, for taking the novel out on the grass during a road trip.