Oct 29, 2010

Terror in the High Desert - At the Swarm's Mercy

Happy Halloween!

Part 8 - At the Swarm's Mercy

Brett reached for the door handle. Her fingers shook then dropped away. She couldn't bring herself to open the door. "This sucks."

The bees swarmed closer. One hit the windshield of the truck. Then another.

Worse still, her cell phone chirped, the battery dying.

"This sucks more."

She gripped her shaking hand with the other, but nothing would steady her nerves. "Damned if I do. Damned if I don't." If she sat inside the truck she was no better off than taking her chances out there. "I need that key."

Her quaking fingers edged toward the window crank. When she touched the scorching metal, she yanked her hand away. Her fingers burned. Just like the bees. "Brett, you dumb ass, it's hot in here. Truck's been sitting in the sun all day."

Forward ventured her fingers again. With gentle pressure she cracked open her window. She held the dying cell phone to it.

The swarming bees backed away.

A sob wracked through her as her hand crept toward the door handle. "I'm sorry." She blubbered at the bees. I'm not ready to die. Whatever my crime, I don't deserve to die. "I'm so sorry."

She held her breath and jerked open the door. As if on fire, she jumped out. "Please keep calling, Bill. Please keep calling."

Toward the back of the pickup she stole careful to place her feet unhurried and with as little noise as possible. The ring of her phone faded. The tone distorted. La la laaaawwhaaa. Sickeningly. Brett shook it. "Not now!" The battery symbol blinked. Its warning so dire. Then it went black.

"Damn it." Brett ducked below the truck's bed and crawled under the rear axle. She reached for the back tire and the key. The nearing buzz made her heart pound. It grew louder. Her fingers fumbled around then yanked the magnetic holder free. It dropped into the dirt several times as she struggled to open it. She heard the key rattling inside then clutched it like gold when it fell into her palm. She pressed her lips to the key, inundating her senses with the tang of metal.

 She crept forward toward the cab. When she got there, she peered cautiously out. A black cloud marred the blue sky.

If she didn't get in the truck, she couldn't recharge the phone. She couldn't get out of here. To stay here was death. To risk it was death. "What a choice!"

What should happen to Brett next? Get involved with the fate of the Volcanic Killer Ash Bees.
Previous episodes of Terror in the High Desert can be found at: http://mpaxauthor.blogspot.com/p/terror-in-high-desert.html

Oct 27, 2010

Crack in the Ground

Crack in the Ground is just outside the town of Christmas Valley, OR. Like Fort Rock, it was once part of a vast inland sea. It is said, Crack in the Ground was formed by a lava tube under the water. Native lore says it and Hole in the Ground were created by Giants. Giant aliens? Hmmm. I'd have to go with that theory. I'm sure that doesn't surprise you.

Christmas Valley, OR

Christmas Valley is dotted with corporate farms and not
much else. The soil is very silty. So I can believe it
was once all covered by a sea. I had as much sand in
my shoes as if we went to the beach.

Entrance to Crack in the Ground
The temperature inside Crack in the Ground is about 20 degrees cooler. The pioneers used to have picnics in it during the summer. Natural air conditioning. Snow usually does not melt in the crack until sometime in July. They used it to make ice cream. Who'd think to go to the middle of nowhere for ice cream?

There is some rock climbing to be done inside the crack, but nothing too strenuous. I don't care for heights at all and I didn't have too much trouble.

looking up

Proof the area was once under water

Above Crack in the Ground
It was a very otherworldy place. I read a ley line runs between Crack in the Ground and Hole in the Ground. Visiting was research for my third novel. Wonderful research it was. Thank you Weird Oregon for the mentions. Otherwise I never would have known about these places. I am certainly glad I got to see them. And I am glad I have pictures a plenty to look back on and remember the beloved years spent in Central Oregon.

Next week I shall introduce you to some of the creatures I met at Crack in the Ground.

When you are out in nature without any civilization to be seen, the Earth hums. Husband and I could hear it plainly at both Hole in the Ground and Crack in the Ground. There are many other places out here in which I hear our world's place in the Universe. Awesome!

Where have you been where you can hear the Earth?

Oct 25, 2010

Innerstate Love Song

Bend, OR - the most awesome place on Earth

Since last Wednesday, I have been quite blue. Turns out we will have to leave the most awesome place on Earth sometime in 2011 to return to Portland. It breaks my heart on a level as grievous as mourning a loved one.

The writer in me takes notes of all sorrow's nuances - the physical, the emotional and the toll it takes. I use it and pour it into any place appropriate. My characters feel it with me.

When we came here, I felt as if I had been called - like Bend had been waiting for me. Life here has been so awesome. I've never been happier and was building a good life. I grieve to leave it, Pine Mountain and my friends. My chest aches all the time. Sometimes I can't catch my breath. I weep at the slightest provocation. I eat only when hunger makes me. Yet my stomach gnaws constantly. Feeling chafed and raw. Sometimes the sorrow grabs causing me to gasp and stop. I feel light headed and under water. All at the same time.

I have nothing against Portland. I like it well enough. It's the most liveable city I've ever lived in, and I've lived in a few - Buffalo, New York City and Washington, DC. Portland has many lovely attributes. But here is where I woke up and claimed to be a writer. Central Oregon feeds my soul. Here I found passion to feed my creativity.

I suppose I'll manage a weekend or two a year at the observatory. Hardly the same. I will miss it dearly. I will manage to start anew. But I don't like it. Not one bit. Bend will keep my heart. Always.

I am hugely grateful we are staying in Oregon. To leave this state would grieve me more. And, I am thankful everyone is alive and well. I'm trying to be positive and have a good attitude. I think it will take some time. The tears run as I write this. The world weeps with me - its so dreary and dark out. Drippy. Like me. I asked Husband, "When do I start to feel better?" He shrugs.

Then I make notes as my main character in novel#2 can certainly use some of what I'm feeling. Her losses are more profound. Are they? To lose the one place one feels at home feels quite provoking to me. [seems someone has been reading and watching a lot of Jane Austen for some consolation - I better be guarded my characters don't take on English accents]

I feel quite lost. Cast adrift. My anchor is to be yanked away. I can use that, too. Through most of the novel, my main character flounders lost. Searching. At the end, do I find solace and hope like she does? Time will tell. I will certainly write about it here. And in any piece I write from here on out.

So see, it's not all bad. Horrible events have their uses. Writing certainly helps me cope.

How about you?

Oct 22, 2010

Fort Rock

Fort Rock was once a volcano under water. A little east of Bend begins the northern edge of the Great Basin, a shallow sea once upon a time. Natives used to canoe over to Fort Rock, which was an island before the great volcanic eruptions which covered this area in lava. The oldest pair of shoes were found in a cave at Fort Rock, about 9,000 years old. A pair of sandals woven from native plants that still grow in this area.

Surrounding landscape

Fort Rock, OR
 Hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of Fort Rock, OR. Next week we shall travel to Crack in the Ground.

I have to say, I think I live in the most awesome place on Earth. I had no idea how much I would love Central Oregon before we moved here. But I do. Growing up on the Great Lakes, I cringed at the idea of a desert. So, yeah, it surprises me. A lot.

Now it seems we might have to move back to Portland. I am more heartbroken than I know how to express. The tears are chapping my face. My insides feel battered by shards of glass. Siiigh.

Oct 21, 2010


So begins my astronomy series based on photos taken by the camera mounted on the 24" telescope at Pine Mountain Observatory, Summer 2010. Taken by Eric Holcomb. Encouraged by moi. The camera mounted to the telescope does not show what we actually saw through the telescope, but it gives me pictures to use while talking about various astronomical objects in the northern skies.

M31 is better known as the Andromeda Galaxy. Charles Messier catalogued 103 objects. The list took on a life of its own afterward and now totals 110. Messier was actually looking for comets, so catalogued fuzzy objects that might be comets. Fuzzy they often are. The smaller the telescope, the fuzzier they look.

Andromeda is the closest galaxy to our own. Approximately 2.5 million light years away. A light year is about 6 trillion miles. So the distance is 6 trillion x 2.5 million. Yup, that's a lot of zeros. It is a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way and part of our local group. Galaxies travel in clusters. Our group consistes of M31, M32, M33, M110 and the Large and Small Magellan Clouds, which can be seen without a telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.

Andromeda is large and bright in telescopes. On a dark night, you can see its two companion galaxies - M32 and M110 - in smaller scopes with an eyepiece that gives a wider field of view. It spans a 32mm eyepiece in my 8" dobsonian.

Andromeda is visible to the naked eye on a dark night. I'm always pointing it out up at PMO. It is easier to see with averted vision [not looking directly at it]. You just need to know where to look.

The three galaxies are always a showstopper when I can show them. When the moon is bright, Andromeda is still usually visible in a telescope. Because of it's size and brightness, it is one of the easier objects to find, if you know where to look. It was the first object I found on my own. Istill love to gaze at it and its companions.

Oct 19, 2010

The Dark Side of Shadow

Today, my flash fiction, The Dark Side of Shadow, is featured on Nomar Knight's blog Knight Chills http://knightchills.blogspot.com/2010/10/dark-side-of-shadow-by-m-pax.html

Go check out another free read from moi.

Oct 18, 2010

The Company of Writers

This past weekend was busy, but it was also wonderful. Connecting with other writers is the best way to keep my confidence and perspective in tact. It is comforting to know I am not alone.

Neither are you. If you don't have a posse of writer friends [or others reaching for the same goal as you] to talk to, go find some. Only another writer can commiserate on rejection and the frustration of the road to publication. Another writer, who has succeeded on novel #9, is encouraging to another floundering writer like me.

I think it's important to have a plan to keep myself moving forward. Always. When I get a rejection, I send out 2-3 more submissions. And I have my next project lined up. I make sure it's something I'm enthusiastic about. I've been out and about doing research for the novel after this. I keep myself going. So much easier to do when there are others around me who have been where I am and succeeded, or are still where I am and we muddle about together.

Attend workshops, join a writers group, get a critique group together. All of these things are invaluable. They help keep me grounded, encouraged and supported. My reading at the library is also a big boon to me. It's a way to get my work out there while I wait for my break. Wait is the wrong word. Work. While I work for my break. It is certainly a lot of work.

I keep my mind open to learning and improving. No matter how good I may already be, there's always room for improvement. Most times, I'm not aware as to where I need improvement. I only have a vague sense I do. So, I go out and learn and sometimes I hit upon, 'Aha'.

Literary Harvest on Friday night was wonderful. It is a great thing to help nurture other talent and there is nothing like hearing an author read their own work. You get to hear the cadence and rhythm that isn't always picked up on right away when reading. Congrats to the winners. Lindy Jacobs, the Guild's events director, did a fantastic job of putting the event together. We had it at Hitchcock Auditorium this year at the college campus.

Saturday was the workshop given by our keynote speaker from Friday night, Elizabeth Lyon. It was way more than I expected. So much better. So, thanks to Elizabeth for giving me a few more pieces to make my writing all the better. It really was a fantastic and informative workshop. Rich in marvelous nuggets to help writers at any level.

If you have the chance to take a workshop from Elizabeth, I highly recommend it. If not, reading her books is a good substitute. I usually learn best in a lecture type setting.

We all met for dinner Saturday night - Guild friends and new literary friends - and had a marvelous night with good conversation and great company. Lots of talk about writing and books. Then lots of storytelling from our lives. Great fun.

Great timing as I have started revision on my second novel. Now I see I have more prep work to do. It gets me all excited to now have more tools in my arsenal to do the piece justice. Keeps me moving forward. I am not a patient gal - my husband will tell ya. So, I am prone to fits of frustration. Being active in the writing community and planning for these pushes forward are essential to keep me moving.

So, get out there and get involved. Enrich your life. It will enrich your writing or whatever your aim is. The most important thing is to keep an open mind in order to keep growing. And, to be quite stubborn - never give up.

How do you keep yourself moving forward?

Oct 15, 2010

Hole in the Ground

Well, my PC is still not connecting to the internet. Plus, the husband unit has been on vacay. So, we've been out and about.

First off - Happy Birthday Husband!

Yesterday I baked his birthday apple pie. He prefers pie to cake.

It's a big weekend of literary events. The Guild's annual event, Literary Harvest, is tonight. Tomorrow is an all-day workshop.

Hole in the Ground is an old volcanic crater. Because there is little rain on this side of the Cascades, it did not form a lake like Crater Lake. It was a great hike. We didn't see another soul.

Steep Trail
A mile across

To my left

To my right

At the bottom
Wouldn't be a photo journal from me without
pics of plantlife

Took the trail thru the foret back up
A burnt tree & a bleeding tree intertwined

Back at the top

Oct 12, 2010


I'm going to start today with the awesomeness of my friend, Loretta. She graciously created the most fantastic art for one of my stories, Stopover at the Backworlds' Edge. My imagination created a world to which stock art would not do. So, I am very grateful to Loretta for taking this on and giving me something as fantastic as the story. Stopover is one of my favorite pieces. Take a gander at the fantastic art. http://lorettasjourney.blogspot.com/2010/10/day-425-determined-toon.html

She also graced me last week with a friendship award, which I will pass on to my video genius and back to Loretta. Not only does Nicole/Raven create awesome videos for me, she never complains about the rambling e-mails I send her. When I get stuck in the process, I write her e-mails that go on and on. Often, by the end of the e-mail, I work out my own problem. I send them to her anyway. Sometimes I don't work out the issue and she helps me out. She's been through all the reincarnations of my first novel, all of my short stories and the second novel. She's heard my musings on the third and fourth novel ideas. I e-mail her my work everyday. She acts as a 2nd, 3rd and 4th backup in case this computer commits suicide by setting itself on fire like the last one. I lost my entire hard drive except for my writing. Phew! She's as much a sci-fi head as me, which is how we met. A very talented and invaluable friend.

Loretta, too, has been an awesome friend. Not only for making the awesome artwork, but for being supportive and encouraging as well. In this profession of mine, the more support the better.

It's awesome friends that make a great day. I am honored to be surrounded by so many amazing people with amazing talent. Say what you will about the internets, I've met some wonderful people in cyberspace. I am grateful for Loretta and Video Gal and the rest of you in my life.

I did read Under the Moon on Sunday. It went very well. Met more people. They seemed to really enjoy the story, which makes me happy. I'm glad to get the learning curve out of the way on this aspect of an author's life.

Evil Dead the musical was hysterical. As long as zombies are singing and dancing, they're OK. We had a good time. I was one row away from the splatter zone, so got splattered. They pretty much got the whole audience in the last act. I recommend it. Highly amusing and ... different. We were all definitely entertained.

I've begun the spit and polish on my second novel. I wrote up the character goals, motivations and conflicts over the weekend. I'm really excited to get back into the story and mold my sorry ashtray into a masterpiece vase [pronouncing voz]. That's how I think of writing. I throw down the clay and mold and form it until it's pretty.

Oct 7, 2010

Evil Dead Under the Moon

This Sunday, I will be reading "Under the Moon" at the Bend Public Library, 2:00 p.m. For more information on this short story, see: http://www.mpaxauthor.com/biblio.php?storyid=32

The featured author this Sunday is Denise Fainberg. She has lived in the Northwest since 1988. A freelance, writer, her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Spiritual Life, and other publications. When she’s not traveling, she teaches foreign languages at Central Oregon Community College. She lives in Bend and is the author of Oregon: An Explorer’s Guide, and most recently, Washington: An Explorer’s Guide.

For more information: http://www.deschuteslibrary.org/2ndsunday/

Welwyn Wilton Katz is holding an online workshop. She is an award-winning, highly acclaimed author writing for young people. For more on Welwyn and her workshop see: http://blog.booksbywelwyn.ca/2010/10/you-want-me-to-read-your-writing.html#comments

I've been teasing my husband that I'm going out with my boyfriends tonight. For a 'thank you' for our dedication over the summer, the observatory is taking us to dinner and a show. The Evil Dead. I told them I hate zombies, but I suppose that if it's in the Thriller vein, I can handle it. I'm sure it will be fun.

Next week is a huge, big literary week. The Guild's annual special event, Literary Harvest, is next Friday. Saturday is the revision workshop with Elizabeth Lyon. See, http://centraloregonwriters.blogspot.com/

Diane Hammond is reading at the library on Thursday night and I'd like to go. She gave a wonderful presentation to the Guild about a year ago. From her I learned there are levels of rejection.

There's a critique group meeting on the 18th. Guild meeting on the 25th. Ursula K. Le Guin is reading at Camalli's on October 29th. Critique group meets again November 1. I have a workshop with Nature of Words on Saturday, Nov. 6th then I'm reading at the library again on November 7th. Saturday, November 13th is the sci-fi convention in Portland, Orycon32, and I'm signed up with a writers workshop for it with one other amateur and two professional sci-fi writers. Critique group again on the 15th. Then another Guld meeting on November 19th.

What have you got going on? To all of you unpublished and seeking, keep going and learning. Keep reaching out to people. Knowledge is your best offense.

Oct 6, 2010

Return of the Vortex

This week, after spending hours upgrading the Guild's blog and this one, the vortex ate my internet connection. My desktop is still refusing to connect to the internet by refusing to assign itself an IP address. Husband is on the problem and it will eventually be resolved, but I miss the beast's speed on the internet and, of course, this tiny beast has some limitations like no printer, can't access my outlook e-mail address book, graphics, etc ... are on the PC. Everything on the PC is working except for no internet. Siiiigh. Doing a lot of online on the netbook is a pain in my backside. But something is better than nothing.

Such is life. How's your personal vortex? What's it done to you lately?

My kitties love when I buy
new shoes. They luv the
Yesterday I had to take Makayla to the vet. She's been having troubles with her back legs for some time. My cats are going to turn 14 in December, so slowing down is expected. But recently her back was feeling different, so I took her in to be checked and for some x-rays. Turns out to be a soft tissue injury and she's on a round of steroids. It's cherry flavored. So, she's really digging it. Not.

Don't let this innocent face
fool you.
I have to commend the vet's office for asking about Nini without flinching. My little Tazmanian Devil tore them all up in the spring when she went to have her stitches removed. She sent the vet to me 3x with bloody arms and 2 vet assistants. She also took on 2 dogs and another cat. Evicting a large dog from his cage, Nini landed in his water dish. So I went home with an unhappy, dripping cat. The vet said she did not need to see Nini again any time soon. lol

So, they were happy to see Makayla is mellower.

Wistful Reads is a go. Click on the 'Bookclub' tab at the top if you're interested in joining in. We're reading Replay by Ken Grimwood. We'll be discussing the first six chapters [up to page 85] in a couple of weeks.

Oct 4, 2010

By the Light of the Cheeto Moon

I played with my filters last week and took photos of the moon in different colors. Our favorite was red. The light blue seemed to allow me the best photos however.

Yes, I miss the observatory. It was really weird not to head out there Friday and Saturday night. Click on any of the photos to enlarge the view.

Through the light blue filter, the moon looks nautral.
The moon is made of green cheese. Didn't you ever hear?

Yellow moon was very glarey. It did not cooperate
with photographic efforts. Nor was it friendly
to the eye.

Blue Moon. Left me standing alone in the dark with Orson by 10:30.
Skeery! Red was the easiest on the eyes. It cut
the most amount of glare. Too much for the camera.
But it still looks cool.
Cheeto Moon. Looks like someone took a bite out of the bottom. Mmm. Cheesy.

My desktop is having internet issues again. I'll catch up with you all when it gets fixed.