Natural Observers: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Hunter Austin, and Nan Shepherd

By Karen Wills

Nature writing reaches my heart. It does that through poetic, detailed description of an outdoor setting. In the last months I’ve read three wonderful books by women nature writers. Let’s consider them from earliest to most recent.

Susan Fenimore Cooper, James Fenimore Cooper’s daughter, founded an orphanage in Cooperstown, New York, a town established by her grandfather. She made a success of the enterprise in every way. In 1887 she also wrote Rural Hours, nature writing that covered a year in Cooperstown season by season. Much of it appeared as journal entries recorded after walks that ranged over the countryside. Both writer and artist, she also made watercolors of birds, flowers, animals, and the lake near the town that drew her to its shores over and over. Her writing was accurate and poetic.  “Spring has a delicate pencil; no single tree, shrub, plant, or weed, is left untouched by her, but Autumn delights rather in the breadth and grandeur of her labors, she is careless of details. Spring works lovingly-Autumn, proudly, magnificently.”

Already sorry for the damage caused by the post Civil War increase in America’s population, she also conveyed a warning familiar to modern conservationists. “The rapid consumption of the large pine timber among us should be enough to teach a lesson of prudence and economy on the subject.”

Mary Hunter Austin wrote a collection of nature essays, The Land of Little Rain, in 1903. mary austinShe focused on the Mojave Desert including Death Valley. She considered Nature as an entity with a beneficial connection to Native peoples and recent arrivals alike. She mixed small matters of opinion in with the big themes.  “This is the gilia the children call ‘evening snow’ and it is no use trying to improve on children’s names for wildflowers.” She is poetic. “The origin of mountain streams is like the origin of tears, patent to the understanding but mysterious to the sense.”

Finally, there’s Nan Shepherd who wrote her best-known work, The Living Mountain, with a mountaineer’s authenticity. Her setting is the Cairngorm Mountains of Northern Scotland. Writing in 1944, she shared her belief in nature’s grand unity. “The disintegrating rock, the nurturing rain, the quickening sun, the seed, the root, the bird—all are one.”

Each of these writers had a poetic respect and thorough knowledge of her most favored area of the natural world. We are the richer that each shared her love of nature with us.

https://karenwills.com

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April Book News

 

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, April! Such a tease of a month in Northwest Montana. Days can be wintry or warm, snowy or sunny, often all within a few minutes!

April is also home to National Library Week, April 8-15. The Montana Library Association is hosting its annual meeting in Bozeman, April 11-14, and I’m delighted to be the Author Brunch Speaker on Saturday, April 14. I’ll be talking about the cozy mystery — the light-hearted side of the genre — what it is, a few trends, and some author recommendations.

IMary Fields‘m also pleased to say that my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, will appear in the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, available mid April, by subscription and in bookstores and newstands. Set in 1885 in Montana Territory, the story features Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and later worked for the Ursuline Sisters at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade. On a trip to the mill to pick up lumber for the girls’ school, Mary encounters a young family in trouble, and uses all her wits—as well as the skills of young Sister Louisine—to save a child and mete out justice, or as much justice as can be had in this fallible world. Look for another Mary Fields short mystery next year.

Happy reading!

March Book News

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Cookie CrumblesWhat a winter! Cold and snowy, calm and lovely. We are all delighted to see the days grow longer and the light stronger. And I’m thrilled to share some Very Big News! My Seattle Spice Shop series will return in early 2019 with CHAI ANOTHER DAY, from the wonderfully excellent Seventh Street Books , named for the street Edgar Poe lived on. Meanwhile, the fifth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, will be out in June, in paperback, e-book, and audio.

My first mystery publication ever was a short story, and I’ve been rediscovering my love for the short form recently. “With My Eyes” appeared in the February issue of Suspense Magazine, one of the premier short story publications. Subscription only, but it’s such a great magazine that I’m sure you’ll love it. My story is set in Seattle and Athens, and was inspired ages ago by our honeymoon trip to Greece. The Greek gods and goddesses were often tricksters, and if one still roamed the earth, she might be called Melina…

Stay warm, and curl up with a good book!

January Book News

Montana Welcomes 2018

January Book news from Betty Kuffel

Happy New Year to all!

After writing diligently for many years, I’ve made progress toward completion PyreCoverKAand final editing of three novels. The first is Deadly Pyre, book one in the Kelly McKay medical thriller series. With Debbie Burke’s success and assistance, I submitted Deadly Pyre to the Amazon Scout program.

Kindle Scout is a reader-powered publishing contest for new books. If a book is selected, it will be published by Kindle Press with favorable royalties and a small advance. You can check out my book and see how the program works by clicking on this link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/UP3KDBM7PVVU

I would appreciate your nomination. It would help my success, and if chosen, you’ll receive a free e-book copy.

My second book in the series, Deadly Spin is set in Alaska and is also ready for publication. If Deadly Pyre is not chosen, my plan is to indie-publish both of them later this month.

AKFlilghtCoverK7In a few days, Alaska Flight, a romantic medical thriller will be available on Kindle. My husband is in the process of formatting and uploading the manuscript to Kindle. When it’s ready, I will let you know.

 

My fourth book is Fatal Feast a biological thriller set in Montana. I have nearly finished a major rewrite following input from two beta-readers. I will be submitting it to a professional editor in about a week, so watch out! It will be finished soon, too.

Deb Burke blogs regularly on Kill Zone and wrote an excellent article about Kindle Scout that you may be interested in reading. https://killzoneblog.com/2017/04/kindle-scout-a-two-year-performance-review.html

I would also suggest you follow her blog at: http://www.debbieburkewriter.com

Deb’s Scout winner, Instrument of the Devil is on sale for the month of January for $.99. It’s action-packed. Her second book in the series is ready to publish. Both are great reads.Instrument of the Devil

For more information on Kindle Scout check out this link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/about

Note: Tom will format and upload manuscripts to Kindle and Create Space for paid members of Authors of the Flathead. He does not do covers, so you need to have one ready if you want him to help you indie-publish.

Join Authors of the Flathead at: https://www.authorsoftheflathead.org

Check out the weekly meetings and join the group of writers helping writers.

Best wishes and happy writing in 2018.

Betty

Precise Vocabulary and Passion

By  Karen Wills

I just finished Helen Macdonald’s edgy, tender, and thought-provoking book, H is for Hawk. It’s about her love for her father, her grief over his death, and her lifelong passion for falconry and training hawks. One goshawk named Mabel helped the writer through her worst pain.

As I grew up, I developed passions for certain activities. My passions had their own vocabularies, far too precise to be jargon. As I remember, I think the vocabulary became a part of my love for both language and ballet. For example, in ballet there are five positions. In each, the arms and feet are placed in only one way. A pas de deux is always a dance for two, and so on.   In class, we were taught the vocabulary of ballet and expected to remember the words and put them into precise movement. Otherwise the beauty we aspired to would just turn uncertain and clumsy. The language of ballet was all language and movement. Most people only recognized the dance.

Macdonald had a passion for falconry even as a child. Here is part of the reason for her passion.

“Young birds are eyasses, older birds passagers, adult-trapped birds haggards. Half-trained hawks fly on a long line called a creance. Hawks don’t wipe their beaks, they freak. When they defecate they mute. When they shake themselves they rouse.”  She adds, “I wanted to master this world that no one knew, to be an expert in its perfect, secret language.”

There’s a dark side to working with raptors that means it could never be my passion, but I fully understand the attraction of words so perfect in sound and meaning that they become irresistible.

I’m grateful this Thanksgiving for many things, especially for words and that putting them down on paper is the longest lasting passion of my life.

Writing has allowed me to feel like a passage, but never a haggard. I hope your passions come with words that feel like magic.