Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Starting out with pleasant creative writing. I was enjoying being in Grafton and starting on Joseph Gibson's Navajo Lake cabin. I stopped and leaned back in my chair. My family is almost convinced that when in that position I am still working.

Felt I needed to know more about the genesis of the lake's name. Certainly, the Paiute Indians that lived there in 1863 didn't call it Navajo Lake. The Navajo were their enemies. Navajo raiders would kidnap Paiute women and children and sell them as slaves to the Mexicans. Research reavealed the Paiute name was "Pacuay", or Cloud Lake.

This is one of those times when the research took on a life of its own. What began as a simple search for a Paiute word became much more.
The genesis:
1. Original name of the lake from the Paiutes is "Pacuay", "Cloud Lake" translated into english.
2. Settlers changed the name to Navajo Lake due to a skirmish between pioneer cattlemen and Navajos that had wandered into the area and were stealing cattle.
3. No more historical facts about the skirmish, so in my mind, the cattlemen were Gibson finding a better place to graze their cattle in the summer than in the summer heat of the Valley around Grafton.
4. Found a commercial lodge on Navajo Lake and contacted the owner.
5. He told me about the temperatures and snowfall at various times of the year.
6. He calls me back to tell me of an out of print book about the lodge and Navajo Lake written in 1931 by the lodge's builder (1925), Dr. Atkin ("The Doc Atkin Story"). He finds artifacts in the dirt of his meadow every time he ventures out there and digs around a little.
7. I call him back to ask about trails from Navajo Lake to the Virgin River Valley and Grafton. Says there is a forest service/national park trail (North Rim Trail) that leaves the lodge and takes two days to get to Rockville. There is also a rough road that leaves from the lodge and goes to Rockville after a two hour drive. For my purposes, the trail that is presently there follows an old Indian trail that Joseph's Indian guide uses to take Joseph to Navajo Lake the first time. It is good enough to travel on foot or riding/leading horses and pack mules. The road will have been built in the track of the road that the Gibsons cut to take a wagon to the lake in one day instead of traveling many miles out of the way to get to the lake from Cedar City, taking three days.
8. Now to get it all in the book!!!!!

Navajo Lake

Been a long time and I have been working on the book, but not as much as I should have. Curses to you, Farmville and Facebook! Most of my work in the last few months has been just transferring data, historical facts. Grinding, not too inspiring or creative work.

Two weeks ago I came to a real blockage. Do I really know what I am doing? Is the present scope of my novel too large? I was actually afraid to get back to work. While my mental dilemna worked itself over and over in my head, it eventually worked itself out. Worked itself out by forcing myself to work on the manuscript. As soon as I started to work, problems cleared up. I realized that I needed to give all my characters as much life as possible and forget my worries about the manuscript. Just work, and things will fall into place. I need to keep myself open to the still small voice that is there to guide me. I am still concerned that the manuscript in its current evolution is too large a scope to be finished by June or July.

Oringinal idea has been to chronicle the struggles of the Gibson family as they carve a settlement out of the desert of southern Utah. To create a page-turning story of this family's life from the first settlers of the Grafton Utah in March 1863 to the death of the family's patriarch, George Gibson, in August 1875.

Then I thought that I would tell the 1863 to 1875 story five times, in five different volumes, each from the aspect of the five sons of George Gibson. Each son had his own struggles, some remarkably different from that of any of his other family members.

Current thinking is that in my writing I will concentrate on the story from one son's point of view. I have chosen Joseph Smith Gibson, who was 18 years old when entering Grafton with his father, mother, brothers, and sisters March 3, 1863. His story contains much fiction, as little is known about him. The facts and history that surround him will drive the non-fiction. I can therefore have as much fun as I want with him without stepping on any historical toes. His mountain cabin is located at Navajo Lake, on the Markagunt plateau 5,000 feet above the Virgin River Valley and Grafton. He is a two day walk, three day wagon ride, or one day horseback ride from his parents in the valley. He lives in the wilderness alongside resident and nomadic Indians that come in and out of his life. He is a loner, but he falls in love. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as he is totally settled and happy with his trapping and hunting lifestyle, he falls in love. He marries amid conflict with his and her famly. Cedar Mountain is no place to raise a family they all tell him. His wife wants to change everything he has in place, and he gets frustrated. When she becomes pregnant, his father in law's, his wife's, and now his own urgings tell him it is time to grow up and become more than he has been. It's not just about him anymore. He comes down off the mountain and becomes a farmer/rancher with his father and his brothers. His father in law offers him a job as well. He becomes a prominent member of the community until he, in a very short period of time, loses his father, mother, wife and children to scarlet fever. He considers a permanent return to his mountain retreat to reclaiming his once happy life. A fantastic personal struggle ensues...not sure how it turns out yet... he could just end up back on the mountain...becoming a crazy old mountain man that everyone learns to avoid.

Monday, November 30, 2009

17 hour marathon writing binge last night and into today. Slept about 5 hours and here I am again. I'v noticed that sometimes I just don't want to start writing. I realize it will be hard to put the book down once I start. One fix seems to be to decide what part of the creative process to push myself into. I don't always want to sit here and create detailed storyline and dialogue. That can seem like too much work sometimes. There is always research to do more of, organizing saved files of information, and facts to expand a little or a lot depending on how I feel. Once I get started, however, the choices seem to filter themselves in or out of my efforts at the keyboard. I may decide that I am not in the mood to expand a particular idea with dialogue and detail, so I block it out with an outline of ideas for future expansion when I am in the mood. That done, I open up a file of information or a research book and transfer snippets of facts to my novel's timeline, placing my characters into the setting. Now, I might be just putting the facts in and intending to move along to the next piece of data, but something grabs me about this data and creative juices begin to flow. Suddenly, I am totally engrossed in the story. Expanding ideas, creating dialogue, inventing twists and turns that seem so plausible when compared to the actual historical events that of course they happened just the way I am writing them. I have, at times, found myself saying things like, "The activities of the Grafton Freight Company saved the town of Grafton from oblivion in 1864." Which is an element of fiction I added that has turned out to be a mainstay of the novel. It has become so real to me, and fits into the actual history so well, that I have to be careful lest I get lost in the fiction as truth, instead of remembering the fiction is a very well written, dare I say inspired, nay brilliantly crafted, plausible fictional account of what really happened.

I assume other novelists go through these same configurations in their creative efforts, but I really don't know. I am, for the most part, winging this novelist thing. I only know what I have read. Writers read and writers write. The creative processes that writers experience on their way to being a successful writer are not known to me at this juncture, but I am still out here plugging away, learning more every day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Day in Grafton

I did get some writing done yesterday after the yard work, hauling chairs from church, grocery shopping, and preparing and serving refreshments at the piano recital my wife held in our home for her piano students.
Mary and Ann Gibson made soap for the holidays using star, tree, and bell molds that their husband George made for them.
George also made a mold for round bars of soap by cutting a 2 foot length of cottonwood tree in half and hollowing it out. Bind the halves together, stand the mold up, pour in the hot soap, cool, open, and cut. George made a "branding iron"....GG...stands for Gibson Girls. They sold their soap blends all over Dixie and beyond.
Mary made butter, and poured off George's beloved buttermilk....no one had better drink any of HIS buttermilk.
George built a milk room on the side of the barn.
George built an ice house.

2009 Utah Trip

The 2009 tax deductable drive to Utah and back is complete. The last two weeks in September were spent taking lots of pictures, visiting historical sights, museums, graveyards, and ghost towns. Followed the Oregon Trail through Idaho and entered Utah by way of Bear Lake, south through Logan, Salt Lake City, I-15 through to St. George, and east to Zion National Park (Grafton).
Characters in my novel have roots starting at Bear Lake and touching every 1863 pioneeer foothold all the way to Nevada and Arizona. The focal point of the journey was the 2009 Grafton Pioneer Ancestors Reunion, held the last Saturday of September, in Grafton, for the past 50 years. There were a few ancestors there that have attended all 50 reunions (1959-2009).
There are 72 or so people buried in Grafton Cemetery and I have ties to 45 or so of them. Settlers there had a long journey ahead of them to find members of the opposite sex, so many of my ancestors just married other people in town. In some cases, one wasn't enough. James Andrus had two wives. Both of them, Laura and Manomas, were Sisters from my Gibson line. One of the Gibson men marred to sisters as well.
I met so many relatives there I never knew I had before. And, of course, they were all great people. Some things just get passed on. It was wonderful to listen to songs and poetry, anecdotes, and scandalous pioneer histories. I was able to spend time with a newly discovered cousin searching for and finally locating where the Gibson and Andrus homes were located at one time.
The entire trip allowed me to gain perspective as to where things were, and how things looked in the mid to late 19th century in Utah. In many instances things that I had learned before had to be trashed and the truth put in its place. Many new ideas came flooding into my writer's brain, and new stories are begging to be inserted into the manuscript.
'Twas a fantastic trip for the novel, and the personal parts of the trip were just as amazing. Can't wait for next year.


I suppose it is time to look for an agent. At least, that's what people on the Internet are saying in their writing tips. Even after reading the info on their web pages, I still don't understand the "how" to finding the best agent. They tell me I need one....they have me convinced. But how?

Has it Been That Long?

Last posting in May??? Wow...no, I haven't been neglecting my novel, just my blog. Finished chapter 1, "Cows Float"....at least until someone else reads it, I suppose. Most of chapter 2, "The Call", and continuing to fill in the spaces with bits and pieces for chapter 3, "Exodus", and chapter 4, "New Grafton".