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Buttermilk - Ready for His Close-Up

11 January 2023

This past December, Chance the wonder-hound needed to have a skin tag removed. It was supposed to have been a minor operation, using local anesthesia. Chance, however, is delicate where strangers touching him is concerned. He didn’t take kindly to the hands of the local vet, known as Joe, in the area of his chest, or, more precisely, smack dab in the middle of the furry white super-zipper that this beagle possesses.

I promised Chancey Boy that if he got through the procedure and recovery in tip-top shape, I’d give him the crucial role of Buttermilk the Hound in my next novel, THE SILENT HEART. He has to be fully ready for his close-up.

Buttermilk is the name for a motherless calf, a dilemma that describes Riego Riley, the hero of this Western. I’d shied away from using any dog at all in this fiction because Riego is such a horse-lover. But dogs and horses can get along quite well, and, so, this canine creature began to take form during the winter of 2022-23.

I’d promised myself to take a year off from novel-writing, but the last week of December and the beginning of the New Year brought buckets of rain and wind. Day after day after day after day, week after week after week. There were at least three weeks of back-to-back storms in northern (in all of) California, starting in mid-December. It was sunny on Christmas morning, if I recall correctly. It’s all a bit awash in my foggy memory!

That December deluge was followed by the January vortex-torrent. Today is 11 January; it’s still raining — And the reservoirs still aren’t full!

On 7 January, I took the command pen in hand and wrote the first scene of THE SILENT HEART. The weather forecasters (per the National Weather Service) predicted another wind-tossed storm that day and night, followed by an even more wet and windy and wild storm. Under such saturated and accordion-barometric conditions, my sinuses suffer. The mind itself suffers!

I only glance every few days at the online line-up, the row of Rogue’s Gallery digital pix known as the forecast. The monotony of the images gets to me. Why torment myself?

Under such abject meteorological conditions, the daily progress on my objectives and goals becomes wearily waylaid: Can’t read, can’t sew, can’t work out, can’t iron, won’t clean house, no place worth driving to.

But I can write.

You gotta play the hand that’s dealt you. My hand from mid-December 2022 until mid-January 2023 (as of today) has been:

Official Winter Storm Warnings, cold fronts, warm fronts, wind and heavy rain just kept coming. The Pineapple Express won’t stop creating:

dark and stormy nights, filled with lightning and thunder, and days of soggy, overcast skies, emptying out over the Tahoe National forest, with slashes of bright sunlight, for an hour or two, in preparation for the next wave of intense precipitation, hailstorms, and, the always lovely blanket of FOG.

Thus far, there’s been only 1 power outage, making for one very dark and stormy night last week. The hum of the generator can be a soothing sound. I nonetheless keep a pocket-flashlight on me and one on the nightstand. This much-practiced precaution, brought to me by the State of California Turning-the-Daylights into Pitch-Black-Darkness, reminds me immensely of my first year of living in this Dream House, Larkhaven; and of the two previous years (2018-2020) in the power-grid starved rental dump in Auburn.

California Dreaming takes on an entirely different definition in the modern state of chaos that is Gavinville.

The world outside currently looks very spongey-pondy-mildewy here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. By the afternoon of 10 January, I’d written the first four chapters of THE SILENT HEART. Today, I realized that this novel is not gonna end where I’d thought it would end, thereby necessitating a lengthy operational pause.

Yup, this book looks to be a 2-parter, not voluminous, but the more I fleshed out my characters, the more clothing my characters needed to be adequately outfitted in their fictional roles.

I wouldn’t want to send them out in the world buck-naked!

The first part ends in the summer of 1895, but it wouldn’t be right to journey all the way to the San Juan Mountains, and not show winter.

Chance has been right there beside me, oftentimes with snout on me to let me know he’s there, for me.

In a similar vein of loving devotion, Buttermilk is right beside Riego Riley in the log cabin built by this horseman in Montrose, Colorado. This large hunting hound is the sole confidante for Riego, at least at the start of the novel.

Buttermilk, or Milky, for short, is a loyal companion to Riego, a guy who must learn how to sing from the heart, a heart that been’s too silent for too long. As for the milksop in the story, we need look no further than a very antagonistic antagonist, the curr of a half-brother, Isaac.

It was always a dog’s life for that crude coward. Riego, however, with Buttermilk beside him, learns that every dog has its day. He follows his silent heart to the love of a woman who, likewise, learns that freedom holds the key to true love.

The pathway toward that key is a bit longer than I’d intended, but, at some point in writing-time, my Muse takes over, and I must follow her lead. For the moment, we’re riding high on that Uncompahgre Plateau, enjoying the view!


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