Glorious Nature by Janine Donoho

Mountain lion in snow

Mountain lion in snow

Black bear and cub

Black bear and cub

Where we choose to live speaks volumes about who we are. That’s especially true of the wildlife sanctuary where Intrepid Guy and I live. After more than a decade in this space, we continue to coexist with the natives.

Weasel, eater of eggs

Weasel, lover of eggs

Except for a few aggressive yellow jackets, no critters have been harmed during this sojourn and, by enhancing our landscape, more have benefited. We minimize disruptive interactions and remain courteous. In retrospect, human exchanges prove much more challenging.

Please enjoy this pictorial view of a few striking critters in our ‘hood.

Red-tailed hawk landing

Red-tail hawk landing

Deer in silhouette

Deer in silhouette

Flock of wild toms

Flock of wild toms

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male

Immoderate Blue Grouse Male

Coyote eyes

Coyote eyes

Young Kestrel

Young Kestrel

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

 

Osprey with fish

Osprey with fish

Goshawk

Goshawk

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

How Natural Settings Double as Character by Janine M. Donoho

Ponderosa pine forest. Kings Canyon National Park, California, USA.The boundless wild has always called to me. Growing up in, then choosing to live in rural high desert brings primitive territories into focus. With critters ranging from scorpions to rattlers to black bears, I’m reminded that we humans are only one among a vast suite of species—all subject to catastrophic events

Daily serenades by coyotes punctuated by rarer wolf howls add to the sense of being a part of this greatness. That awareness leads me into ongoing studies of biology—literally ‘study of life’. Thus when I write, the natural world takes precedence.

While finishing yet another edit, this one epic fantasy, I noticed again how nature intrinsically evolves through story. Then I strengthen those components through sensory detail beyond the visual. What does Natural granitegranite smell, taste, and feel like? When you crush a jaffafruit, what do you smell, taste, and feel? Confronted with a clowder of mekesh, how do they smell, feel, and look? For me the quality of setting begins with detailed natural elements as filtered through my characters’ emotional responses.

For instance, Elishandra ser Dancheʹ serves as a trained observer in an unfamiliar world. When voids spring up from the rift between, she recognizes their wrongness, then extrapolates what causes them and how this incursion affects natural systems. She takes personal responsibility for the degradation and commits to stopping further invasion. Most other inhabitants simply see ruin where thriving systems once lived. Fear, anger, and confusion drive their responses with nuances specific to each.

Sun superstormGauging these changes over cyclic time also informs story. For instance, out-of-sync seasons reveal Morchem’s effects in two ways. First otherworldly beings rush through the widening rift. These exotic beings have no natural predators in this world and many find the existing natural systems ill-equipped to meet their needs. They cause havoc. Then Morchem corrupts life energies, exposed by huge shifts between extreme conditions and growing pockets of devastation. Again perceptions and emotional reactions differ according to which person’s point-of-view carries the scene.

Understand that each character’s history colors their view of their surroundings. The warrior Galena ben Inees is more likely to kill a predatory lifeform first, then ask questions later, while the Zinolian Culturist attempts to accommodate lifeforms unless they place her charges at risk. Having retained clarity throughout her studies of various worlds, Lisha tends to analyze before acting. For others, the choice is simply the difference between yum and yuck.Yuck or yum

Taking this deeper yet, setting in terms of time and place varies dramatically with each viewpoint. Multiple viewpoints actually strengthen setting, since each imbues the environment with that person’s emotional memory. While Ambassador Anmir reacts with deep shock and mourning at his civilization’s ruin, Galena chooses culturally prescribed defensive strategies first, then progresses to offensive mode when that proves inadequate. Lisha attempts to understand the destructive mechanism even as she searches for a remedy.

To my eyes, the natural world displays a layered richness missing in human contrived settings. What may appear to characters as chaotic often equates with too narrow a view—or lack of knowledge. Besides when it comes to raising the stakes of your story, what works better than placing entire worlds at risk?

Sending love deviant artists

Sending love deviant artists

Highland Autumn by Janine M. Donoho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, I admit to going all geeky on you last week with not one, but two posts about points-of-view and how to incorporate them into story. So this week—a respite.

http://www.pinterest.com/zephyrsaerie/highland-autumn/

As we put our gardens to bed for winter and I finish my edits on CHOSEN BY MIST, the 3rd and final installment of MISTBORN CHRONICLES, you’re invited into this pictorial journey of our highland fall. I hope you come away refreshed. As you might guess, I draw my inspiration from this wild beauty. Where do you find yours? 

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A Quality of Light by Janine M. Donoho

Warbling VireoDo color and texture equate with sound for you? Consider the warbling vireo

Panting whippetIf we allow ourselves to do so, we humans revel in sensory input. Then there’re those extreme moments when our survival depends upon paying attention to our environment. As writer and fledgling artist, I try to capture sensory qualities. This presents an ongoing challenge.

For whatever reason, today’s hike focused on visuals accompanied by sound. Have you allowed yourself to become Sunlight through leavesfully engaged within properties of illumination? At different times sunlight through leaves captivate as a zephyr Black-chinned Hummingbird, adult malerustles an aspen branch. Or the sheen off my whippet’s brindle spots and my greyhound’s tortoiseshell coloration enchant me even as their panting ripples light along their coats. Then there’s the bending of light that gives feathers their iridescence as a black-chinned hummingbird shrilly claims his territory. Texture combines with color and sound to draw me. When that happens, my breath catches and the pace falters.

During my final edit of CHOSEN BY MIST, book 3 of the MISTBORN CHRONICLES, I attempt to infuse detail into story without losing pace or scene focus. Sometimes it works. How do you incorporate sensory detail into your writing and visual art?Mariposa lily with lupine

Feeding Hope by Janine M. Donoho

Planting the moundsEach spring I plant my annual fruit and vegetable gardens. While winter offers the joy of seed catalogs and visions of succulent melons, eggplant and tomatoes dance through my mind’s eye, the real application starts once frost’s threat ends. During the planning stage, I dream big–think Mediterranean shoreline big.

Then I get a grip and narrow my choices to the reality of intense gardening-by-the-square-foot. At this stage companion plants come into play. That denotes matching cucumber with pole beans and radishes, which belly up to peas and carrots before leading into tomatoes, basil and…

Poster for Companion PltgWell, you get the idea. Separate mounds hold my hopes for watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe, and brassicas. Since I love kale, beets and mescuns, you’ll find those, too. I mix basils, nasturtiums, and marigolds among plantings that benefit from their association. You’ll find spinach amid my strawberries, too.

So what do I relearn each growing season? Why how much groundwork, planting and harvesting a garden has in common with writing. It becomes a litany:

Plan

Amend

Plant

Revise

Harvest.

Yes, a garden benefits from editing much as stories do. In the final stages I force myself to be ruthless in both while taking the useful and transplanting it elsewhere for superior impact. It’s how I approach my current edit of MISTBORN CHRONICLES, book 3.

As often happens my process makes me curious about yours. How do your life practices move your writing from here to there? Is your life shaped more by how you approach writing? Or does writing mold your life choices?

IG in the greens

True North by Janine M. Donoho

Anna's Hummingbird

The science of true north

Bundles in magnetic snouts

Of rainbow trout or the 

Cryptochrome eyes of Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Even cows align along axes north-to-south.

Lacking their animal magnetism

I face into polar winds

Cascading from icy fields

Where Auroras shimmer.

My shivering hounds race toward me–

A locus of heat and comfort.

Aurora Borealis

A Dog’s Tale by Janine M. Donoho

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Kartouche’ as Nina Sophia’s Manny

Not all hiatus are planned. In this case, mine has its roots in a dog’s tale. You see, my sweet 5-year-old greyt began seizing in June–at night between 2 and 6 am. We’ve belonged to each other since his puppyhood when he was an underweight 5 pounder at 9 weeks.

Kartouche’ arrived via a Colorado rancher who uses his hounds to run coyotes. Greyts love to course, and thus chase coyotes for the sheer pleasure of the act. Yet when they corner a wild trickster, it’s all tooth and nail. A greyhound might not return from such battles. They’re thin-skinned, lightly furred and lean. Think lovers and runners, not gladiators. They’re also rocket scientists among canines. When his rancher tells the wounded greyhound to go after the next coyote pack, the greyt politely says, “No thanks. You go this time.” Then the rancher might shoot the useless hound. Thus even though Kartoucheʹ came from different stock than my previous ex-track greyhounds, I consider him a rescue, too.

3 Dog Night by the Stove

3 Dog Night by the Stove

When Kartoucheʹ started seizing, I stopped sleeping. These aren’t dainty petit mals, mind you, but messy, dangerous grand mals that he leads into with an attempt to outrun them–at 45 mph. That’s what’s known as his aura stage, precursor to the tonic-clonic stage. This is a dog friendly house, but walls and furniture prove deadly to a greyhound running blind before he ends in scary collapse. Yes, I’m a biologist, but Kartoucheʹ is one of my beloved hounds. Seizures scare me–each one could be his end. As his human, it’s my job to keep him safe.

Despite living in extremely rural Washington State, we’re fortunate to have a remarkable and compassionate vet. She started Kartoucheʹ on a drug regime, but he continued to experience tonic-clonic clusters every two weeks. So we took her advice and visited the eminent WSU Veterinary Hospital in Pullman–5 hours away. We discovered another great team of vets there, thus expanding our canine health squad to four, all of whom communicate freely. Even so, it’s taken until now to find the right balance of drugs to keep Kartoucheʹ from damaging himself further.

The good news? He’s been tonic-clonic free for 4 weeks now. He still has nocturnal moments that I call ‘flight responses’,

Snow pack

Snow pack

when he struggles to his feet and takes a few steps before regaining consciousness, then returning to bed. While I still respond in PTSD fashion with flashlight and pounding heart, this signifies a vast and positive change from where we started seven months ago. What it also means? My creativity and energy have returned.

In macro terms, let me leave you with a few life lesson reminders. All-nighters ruin your health and sleep really is essential. Stamina only takes you so far. Eat well and exercise, no matter what. Go anywhere and do anything within your means for those you love. Deep creativity requires rest and peace of mind.

So welcome to my year of the hounds. Now we’re off to enjoy a snow hike–full pack press. Shout out to MuttLuks, YakTrax and other winter gear. Happy New Year!

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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