Out of the Blurry Darkness by Janine Donoho

How cataracts affect vision

How cataracts affect vision

Like a lobster in a pot of cold water, over this last decade the water heated to boiling, yet I’ve been unaware. High desert sun initiated a progressive slide toward dwindling eyesight long before sunglasses offered more than a fashion statement. All that sunshine led to cataracts, which combined with extreme nearsightedness, ended in a debilitating cartoon fall last April. Small stuff compared to seeing the world in blurred and murky outlines, especially in dim light.

Retinal detachment with floaters

Retinal detachment with floaters

Then in January, I stepped onto a fraught road back to vision, shepherded by my fabulous ophthalmologist. Over five months bookended by cataract removal, she also repaired retinal tears—repeatedly—which pushed back my quest for sight. The unintended journey filled me with dread of what could become constant nightfall.

More than anything, I missed my lifelong habits of reading or writing. Gone, the effortless navigation through my rural surroundings. Without binocular vision, tiny rivulets of erosion appeared like canyons, the high points like mountaintops. Perspective flattened. I dreaded another tumble that could compound long-term issues from the first one. Can I just say I’m not a graceful dependent? Thus, a dark night of the soul indeed.

How we see perspective

How we see perspective

Finally in late May, I emerged as a sighted person with only minimal correction. When sprung from the gloom, we went mobile and off the grid, traveling to visit friends in Oregon and family in Nevada, then back again. Then we took off for more exotic climes, disembarking in Japan. More on these adventures in future posts.

Now I’m back in my mountain home, surrounded by brilliant hounds, who shadow me as I pluck a fall offering of tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons—thank you drip system. Then on to winter prep, while anticipating a blissful season in my writing cave. In other words, paradise.

Fall garden harvest

Fall garden harvest

I look forward to reaching out again to those who follow this post along with those readers anticipating new works. Thank you for your patience, my friends, and know you’re always welcome into my worlds.

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Famous, Infamous, and Notorious Firsts Revisited by Janine M. Donoho

Self portrait

When this website launched, I introduced myself via firsts, and a giddy lift-off it was. Never fear, the navel gazing implicit in attempts at age 7 to write about planets (of which Pluto no longer qualifies), my angst-riddled teen poetry, and my first produced play at 16? Omitted. In fact, I didn’t want to write about writing at all. Instead, consider this my hand extended to those who relish a shared virtual journey.

Cowgirl

Cowgirl resolve

So, ahoy, fellow voyagers. Let us cast off from the shores of Mundania and make this fun. There will be pictures…beginning with my 1st cowgirl hat.

Springer spaniel Pete & me

Springer spaniel Pete & me

1st best dog buddy: Springer spaniel Pete, who saved my diaper-clad butt by grabbing onto it as I rolled out the car door on a corner in South San Francisco.

1st best girlfriend: Teresa Giles, with whom I fished for catfish and carp, rode horseback through the Ponderosa pine forests and sagebrush steppes of our youth, and survived the first 10 years of schooling in Washoe Valley, Nevada.

Swing in Washoe Valley - Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

Swing in Washoe Valley – Polly Jo, Robbie, moi, Shell, Teresa

1st amazing son: Chad Elliott, young man extraordinaire, who finds his joy with his equally brilliant and beautiful companion Shannon. He spins and mixes incandescent music, then prepares incomparable meals paired with

My oh-so-cool DJ/Chef/Sommelier son

My oh-so-cool DJ, chef, & sommelier son

the perfect wine.

1st best horse buddy: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, who I miss daily; great-hearted beauty of thoroughbred and quarter horse ancestry.

My very own Jumpin' Jack Flash

My very own Jumpin’ Jack Flash

1st whippet: Amanda Pandemonium, a washed-out show dog at birth, who brightened my day with her liquid gaze and joyous attitude even as she proved lethal to rodents.

Patrick & Mandy

Patrick & Mandy

1st rescued greyhound: Patrick, a magnificent companion gone from this world. This greyt continues to romp through my dreams.

1st girlfriend trip through EuropeBackpacks and public transportation saw us through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Gnocci, anyone? Here we are at Der Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

Besties in Munchen at Hof Brauhous

Besties in Munchen at Hofbräuhaus

Malaysian gate 17

Land of extravagant gates

1st trip to Malaysia: I emptied my backpack to bring back gorgeous fabrics and other lush trifles.

1st trip to Morocco: Yes, I went to Morocco and all the boys at home got Moroccan soccer jerseys. For me, mint tea began to equate with stunning rugs.

Rugs and mint tea

Rugs and mint tea

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

1st Class whitewater rafting: We began in Tumwater Canyon on the Wenatchee River—and yes, I went for my first swim. Here’s a river picture with the Captain of my Heart.

1st trip to Greece: History, anyone? Also, dogs & cats galore with all their bits attached—so shocking to Americans, who spay and neuter most domestic critters.

Nafplio - Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs--perfect

Nafplio – Dog, butcher shop, guy with opposable thumbs–perfect

Clockwise in the thumbhole to make a wish

Clockwise in the thumb hole to make a wish

1st trip to Turkey: Cities carved from the earth and amazing textiles became my focus along with a millennia of sustainable agriculture. I once considered living there…

1st trip to Spain: Otherwise known as the sangria tour. We wept at the beauty and rhythmic poetry of Andalusian stallions, who danced just for me.

Seville April Fair

Seville April Fair

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

Hiking along the Portuguese Med

1st trip to Portugal: Can tiles be more beautiful? Also, we experienced the best calamari ever eaten.

1st trip to Egypt: Baksheesh demanded and sheesha experienced; Bedouins on the Red Sea. ‘Nough said.

Donkey drover & me

Donkey drover & me

1st pedicure: Yep, and most likely the last. Too much lost life in maintenance, don’t you know?

Now let us raise a glass to all the firsts in life—and perhaps to those finales we’ll have before we’re done. What’s on your list of firsts?

1st Moroccan carpet

1st & perhaps last pedi offset by Moroccan carpet

A Tale of Dismemberment and Mayhem by Janine Donoho

An Impressionist's view without correction

An Impressionist’s view without correction

Following a first cataract surgery with another scheduled in mid-March, I’m literally bumping my way through a 3-D kaleidoscopic life over the next month and a half. Once healed, my eyes will see the world in HD panorama. High density plastic lenses? Recycled and swapped for standard reading glasses. Yes, cool science has come through for this blue-eyed blonde who grew up in Nevada’s great outdoors—sans sunglasses. Ain’t life grand?

Future serial killer

Future serial killer

However, story will out. Within this very household, an exposed serial killer reveals himself via strewn limbs and mangled Awful Mad Kitty and Big Mean Kitty torsos. Reading further is not—repeat NOT—advised for the squeamish among you.

Dismembered

Dismembered

Nine months ago, we welcomed into our home a murderer, whose demeanor showed nothing of the impending catastrophe. Even as we allowed his tender looks and seemingly joyful attitude to lull us, his darker side took root. The rest of this story unfolds in pictorial devastation. WARNING: Graphic content of chilling mutilation follows.

Awful Mad Kitty

Awful Mad Kitty

I leave you with the knowledge that I am held hostage in this house by the perpetrator, even as a pile of ‘dead’ stuffed animals accumulates on my sewing box. Among the mortally wounded: Dirty Rotten Kitty, Real Mad Cow, Cold Hearted Snake, and Rocky Raccoon. Only when I can see well enough to mend the broken, the torn, the disemboweled, will this house be populated once more by squeaking plushies—lopsided though they may be.

Future Victims?

Future Victims?

Awful Mad Kitty deconstructed

Awful Mad Kitty deconstructed

The Fallen

The Fallen

The Perp

The Perp

My Bridge of Sighs by Janine M. Donoho

This blog might have dealt with persistence. Sigh. However, after an evening in Tonasket at the annual Community Center’s Girl’s Night Out, thank you Suzanne, this idea of story awoke me this morning. Maybe it was Lindy, a wonderful poet, who edged me in this direction with her stunningly tactile quilt of a poem. Perhaps it was the exuberant time spent with two student dancers or the carafe of sangria we shared afterward. Or it might have been the experience of dancing for the first time since shoulder surgery. Okay, dancing might not give you the complete picture, for my shoulder limited me somewhat. But this body knows how to isolate muscles and break a move in equal parts to Pussycat Girls’ Buttons or Elissa’s Tloud Temana.
 
Which brings me to what, how and why I write. Also the what, how, and why we all may share a passion for what we do. What makes a story, chorography, painting or even a gathering of friends ring true? I believe it’s a matter of maintaining linkage to our vital essence.
 
A recent opportunity to meet-and-greet mustangs serving our local border patrol presented itself. Captured wild and gentled by Colorado Corrections inmates, these bold animals appear to be perfect for their endeavors. Who taught who more–horse or inmate–before being integrated into the fold of this rugged Border Patrol station poses an inspired question. Surefooted, brawny, intelligent, they’re still enough mustang to stand against grounded cougar or foul malefactor and even stomp a rattler mid-strike. In other words, they retain their horsey essence–their wild being. For that we can thank the humans who chose to shape rather than break. Both wrangler and riders recognized the importance of maintaining their mustang’s nature even as they partnered with them for the rugged terrain in which we live. This is not a trivial matter, since each depends upon the other for life.



As when confronted the extermination of wild mustangs during my child- and young adulthood in Nevada, when reading accounts of stories, both long and short, that have been through a purported gazillion editing cycles, a part of me recoils. Another part longs to read the story, which is often what happens. Here’s my take.

Some stories survive the process of editing to become better, while others wither from the writer’s imposition of will. The latter lose their spark. Those of you who write with equal parts persistence, joy and heartbreak know what this means. On of my BGFs met the heartbreak of this headlong. She took an award-winning Scottish historical romance, then proceeded to break its spirit in hopes of crafting a bestseller. She was young in the art of the edit then and has since cultivated a more deft hand. Stories from short to novel to series in length have met the same fate. Obviously, these have been published, but they’ve been edited to the point of schlock. Schlock for me means that after reading the story, often with vast tracts of skimming, it will never ever be a keeper on my limited shelf space. Instead, it will go back to library or be found in a Friends of the Library sale. Often that author will never again grace the endless list of books I want to and do read.
Then there are the keepers. My friend Susan Wiggs wrote one that brought out the clichéd response in me–I laughed, I cried, I rooted for the protagonist and threw virtual rotten tomatoes at the antagonist. This was her novel JUST BREATHE. I felt the same about George R. R. Martin’s first few novels of his SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, which since has shifted from fantasy masterwork to perhaps simply lost and unfinished. Sigh. Another friend and writer Anjali Banerjee writes young adult novels with a beating heart–stories that deal with ISSUES, yet remain true to story. Her first was LOOKING FOR BAPU and her latest SEAGLASS SUMMER. She edits, bends, spindles and mutilates herself over the process, which as her friend I wish she’d simply trust, but ends with these beautiful stories with essence intact.
 
Which brings me to my stories. Two have been beautifully published on a small scale, found a tiny, but growing readership, and continue to haunt me. For you see, Susan and Anjali have become well-published authors with a vast readership. Sigh–again. Granted, an infinitesimal distribution and zero public relations combined with living in a sparsely populated county with one struggling indie bookstore has been problematic. However, if my stories had sold to a large publishing house, would that have made a difference?
 
Perhaps. WILDFIRE and CALLING DOWN THE WIND, award-winners that they are, might have reached a wider audience, found more of those who love them, then been touted to their friends. I’ve done the same for stories I love. Yet here’s the problem. Four, possibly five of my novels loosely fit into either what’s called contemporary fantasy, magic realism, speculative fiction or urban fantasy, although really four of the five are actually rural or ex-urban fantasy. Large publishers refuse to fully embrace any of these categories. Just look at the well-established Alice Hoffman’s lovely novels, that bounce from literary to fantasy dependent on the bookstore or marketer. Of course, there is my homeless high fantasy trilogy that’s too big to take on with an ‘untried’ writer. Why can’t too big to fail work in this case? Sigh.
 
But I stray into rant and really, here’s the gist. My editing, like my dance, taps into the feral side. No, I’m not talking lizard brain, but the part of me that disdains being overly civilized. As an editor, I’m ruthless about craft, but mostly true to self when it comes to essence. How else could I have worked in male-dominated fields without losing my edge species element that takes ultimate joy in raqs beladi? This side mourned the loss of dogness in my retired runner greyts, then slowly and surely brought them back into touch with their essential dog nature. This part of me revels in my tuxedo cat’s inability to be wholly tamed.
 
This landscape in which we live embraces the wild as much as my writing. Yes, I grow annual vegetable and fruit by the square foot, but only in response to predatory deer who would leave me nothing. Elsewhere, it’s drought- and deer-resistant plantings that follow the curves of the land and find homes where they’re most likely to take root and thrive. Drip system all the way…
 
So why try to form story into cubes that fit the perfect square systems that our current publishing world clasps to their collective chest in a death grip, which indeed may turn out to be the death of them? I can count on one hand the books I’ve purchased as keepers in the last year. This from a voracious and careless reader.
 
Thus my conundrum. From the onset of writing a draft to publishing, where do we draw the line at editing for publication? Well, my answer changes dependent upon the compelling inner essence of each story. For now, only the beating heart, the coursing blood, the heightened sense of story lures me to the keyboard. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes and hope you’ll share your insights with me. Sigh.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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