After taking a hiatus for the summer I am back in the saddle and writing again.
We have had our first snowstorm of the season at the cabin. Thankfully, it has melted but we know more will be coming our way.
I have some encouraging news to share. My short story, "Silent Mistress" has been accepted for publication in the Illinois State University digital journal, "Euphemism" in late November. I will put my nose to the grindstone and proceed on my newest writing endeavor, "The Rabbit Girl", which is another novel set in the North Woods. I will try to write more frequently as the winter season will be upon us very soon and I will be consigned to the indoors.
In my last letter dated February 2, 2020 I wrote that I would include a synopsis of my short story collection, "North of Nelson". Here is that synopsis as follows:
SYNOPSIS: “NORTH OF NELSON”; Hilton E. Moore
A collection of Eleven Short Stories from the Great North
This fiction collection is commonly referred to as a story cycle or linked stories in which the characters and events are intertwined in some manner, much like the popular and award winning commercially successful collections of short stories titled Olive Kitteridge and Jesus’ Son.
The setting for this series of short stories is a mythical village called Nelson in a remote area of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This village in a vast and near-wilderness is the origin for a series of tales that span more than a hundred years and incompass a swath of humanity that live in or near Nelson. The characters and themes in this novel transcend a narrow geographical area and as such are universally accessible to readers both rural and urban.
In the first short story, A Beast Called Fate, Mark Johnson and his teenage daughter Kate have an idyllic life in a wilderness gorge until a developer threatens to close the road to their farmstead. A confrontation ensues and in a twist of fate the issue is resolved.
In the second short story, Woodsmoke, William Martin, a retired social worker must confront his own mental illness and the tortured delusions he has of a long dead classmate. Ultimately his poor health and his unpleasant memories push him to take his life.
In the third, Ditch Dog, Bryan’s young life and faithful dog Ellie May are entangled with Bryan’s irritable Uncle Al, a former pipeliner. Al had made a promise to Bryan’s late father, to instruct Bryan in the art of pheasant hunting. In the midst of a snowstorm Bryan must travel from the Upper Peninsula to Al’s hunting camp in Miller, South Dakota. Bryan’s former girlfriend and a tragic character in an old novel haunt him as he struggles to have a meaningful relationship with his uncle. In a fateful hunt Ellie May is shot by an angry farmer and Bryan returns heart sickened to the Upper Peninsula. Later, in a redemptive act Al tries to make up for the death of Ellie May.
In story four, A Shotgun Wedding, Cassandra relives her life as a reluctant prophet, unable to affect the outcome of her parents’ difficult relationship and the suicide of her biological father. She struggles throughout her life with her “gift” aware that the world never accepts the word of an unwilling soothsayer.
Story five, In a short story titled Silent Mistress, set during the Great Depression, Lizzie, a Native American, must deal with her disdain of Catholicism, abject poverty and finally, the tragic and fatal alcoholism of her husband.
Story six, Requiem For Ernie, opens in the village of Nelson where the young male protagonist, beset by untreatable polio, finds solace with his chubby friend Ernie and the game of baseball.
In the seventh short story, Ode To A Lone Wolf, Randy Johnson and his young son cattle farm in the isolated Sturgeon River Gorge near Nelson, where they are in a constant battle with the elements and the hated wolves that prey on their livestock. Randy’s girlfriend, Laura Kingsley, a conservation officer, assists in Randy’s arrest after he illegally shoots a protected wolf.
Short story eight, The Cell Tower, is a startling tale of incest and guilt set in a isolated cabin in the stark frozen winter. The female protagonist, Micah, is torn between saving herself from her own shameful acts, or saving her mentally ill brother, Edward, from the buffoon deputy sheriff Larry. Edward’s illogical obsession with shooting out the lights of a remote cell tower and consequent possible imprisonment come to a deadly head as Larry confronts Edward.
In story nine, A Dog Named Bunny, Robbie, a young man is incarcerated for murder of a neighbor lady and his younger brother Alan, both of whom he accidentally poisoned. The crimes were prompted by Robbie’s anger over Mrs. Larsen’s insistence that his dog Bunny be destroyed for killing her prize chickens. Robbie’s father, Reverend Hank Martin, a minister in the village of Nelson is deeply affected by an unfortunate lie that led to the tragic consequences and the fate of their pup and to Robbie’s fateful incarceration.
Short story ten opens in the year 1883 as The Irascible Pedagogue, Horace Nelson, a rural school teacher, becomes captivated by an intelligent and beautiful student, Lilith. A covert but unromantic courtship ensues as Horace privately teaches her the French language. Horace, who is unable to find suitable employment due to a charge of immoral turpitude at Yale sees a marriage with Lilith as an avenue of respectability. Horace and Lilith attend a dance at the Grange Hall and Horace rebuffs Lilith’s requests to dance. Lilith asks a young, handsome and prosperous farmer named James to dance and Horace’s fate is sealed. Lilith marries James, and in anger Horace has a small house built just up the hill from James and Lilith’s farmhouse. Lilith undresses seductively in front of her bedroom window, and over time slowly exposes her body to the unremitting gaze of Horace. Horace eventually becomes enraged by jealousy and murders James. Horace is sentenced to life in prison and Lilith sells her farm and sails to France. In a letter from a former lover, it is related that Lilith died of complications due to syphilis having spent her youth as a model for impressionist and passionate painters.
Short story eleven. Lust And Lightning, is set in the early 1970’s and chronicles a young college student, Duane’s life and loves in a tourist city in Northern Michigan. Duane is infatuated with a small town girl, named Judy as well as a wealthy college student named Heather. Duane buys an old sailboat from Heather and a relationship ensues despite his occasional sexual trysts with Judy. Judy’s boyfriend is Roger, Heather’s former boyfriend and a self-proclaimed poet. This entanglement in relationships plays its way over the course of the summer as all parties involved work out their respective needs. Judy is gang-raped by Roger and his cohorts and she disappears leaving Duane alone. Heather and Roger marry and Roger becomes an acclaimed poet. Duane, in turn opens a bookstore in the resort town and silently refuses to sell Roger’s books.
I hope this synopsis has piqued your interest. Please don't forget to subscribe to my website to keep updated on upcoming additions to my blog.
I took a long hiatus from my website as I needed a break from writing. I apologize if this left some of you out in the cold.
Time to get back into the saddle. I recently finished revisions of my short story collection "North of Nelson", which Carol Gaskin, my line editor intends to get to in March. Then I will need to complete her revisions and start the process (again) of seeking out an agent. Whew!! Much work but that is how the publishing business is these days.
I will include a synopsis of "North of Nelson" in my next letter.
Thank all of you for your insights and patience.
Hmm, been awhile. It was my initial desire to update my blog once a week, but as many of you might have guessed life kind of got in the way.
Anyway, time for an update. I was at the camp much of the last two weeks and I have no wifi there so I have to wait until I return to town to update my blog (i.e. Letter) and place it on the web. This also means that my dear old friend Bob who has been editing my work can’t receive my latest chapters, or in the case of plays the recent acts. Oh well, it all works out in the end.
An update: my novel, Wilderness Of The Beast was requested by a literary agent for review, at this time I don’t know the fate of this manuscript. Here’s hoping. Also a Script Service in the UK has agreed to take my one act play Confidant For Tea and one on my three act scripts, The Buddha Trout for their play registry. Essentially, the play service pays royalties for the use of your play by theater groups of any type that wish to use the script. The script service has a catalog online and theater groups may select plays for production. I have another iron in the fire, a US based script service that I am waiting to hear from before I sign with the UK service. Enough business talk for now!!
Having some dirt work done at the cabin. A number of trees blocking the views of the lake have been removed and the accompanying holes are being filled. For the moment it looks like a bomb has been dropped on the back of the place, but it will great once it is completed.
Wednesday night is chicken wing night at the local VFW in the village near the camp. I generally go there and consume wonderful hot wings and cold Keweenaw Brewery beer. It is a great place to catch up on the local scene. Come on up and I'll introduce you around.
Well, time to sign off.
This week my family and I will be headed to Oregon for a vacation. Should be back to the UP in a couple of weeks. We will attend a wedding at a vineyard near Salem, then off to Mt. Hood, where we are renting a beautiful log cabin almost in the shadow of that great mountain. We will hike and loaf; though for myself the loafing may be more my style.
Was at camp for several days. Mowed the lawn; er, maybe I should call the yard what it is, a weed bed. Anyway, it got mowed. Keeps the black-flies and mosquitoes down. Or, at least that is my theory. If the UP has one thing in plenty that we could use less of, it’s biting bugs. Damn things.
Fixed my leaky 14 foot pram. It isn’t an expensive high dollar bass boat, but I seem to catch a few fish with it. It isn’t purty, but if you don’t mind a little bit of water seepage it does the trick.
While at camp I sometimes frequent the local VFW for a snort. The Covington VFW is open to the public, if you call the general group of locals, maybe 5 or 6 old coots like me the public. Whiskey always tastes better when your swapping lies with the lumberjacks and truckers that haul the heavily loaded logs to the mills. By the way please drink your whiskey neat the way God intended.
Till I get back. Have a good one and toast to a better tomorrow.
At Camp. There is a slight drizzle this morning, like a melody on the forest canopy. The drops make a pleasant sound, like an articulation made by some amiable mythic god. The irregular tempo of the rain on the the red maples invite me to listen carefully as if mother nature had something she wished for me to hear. I try to listen.
As I pay attention to the sounds I am aware of the cascading trill of a robin, whose vociferous insistence is surely a defense of his territory. His call is pleasant with a hint of stridency. As I once read this is a sign of a territorial imperative. His mate must certainly be near and listening to his demands. Other male robins should heed his warnings.They are truly his adversaries.
The drizzle is intermittent. I suppose it would be reductive to say that mother nature was in control, as what nature does is rather chaotic and unpredictable. Although the turn of the seasons seem to be a reliable predictor of nature’s patterns this really seems to be as much happenstance as a anything else. In case you live in a bubble it is plain that weather patterns are changing and the end of quasi-predictability may be at hand--although the climate deniers are rampant. I live with an apprehension of the future of the human species. It makes me sigh.
I suppose the drizzle also makes me melancholic but I will shake off this blase mood when the sun comes out. At least I hope so--but only time will tell.
Till next time.
Hilton Everett Moore
I sat on the back deck the other morning, the sun low in the eastern sky. I struggled to come awake in the early dawn, my hands cupped tightly around my favorite cup, sipping down a hearty Ethiopian roast. The aroma rose in the air like an errant kite and my nostrils flared trying to suck in the scent like some old bird dog on a grouse.
Above me dragonflies flicked back and forth like sophisticated army helicopters, darting here and there in the treetops sniping their prey. The ability of these dragonflies to maneuver is, to say the least, incredible. Sometimes it even seems they can fly backwards, but I know that is impossible. Loss of wetland habitat has severely affected the number of these beautiful insects, and if you pray, you might want to offer one up for their survival.
It’s very warm today and my wife swam across the lake and back. The water in our shallow lake is refreshing but stained a deep brown from tannin which puts off most city folk. Amy is a good swimmer and seems to swim the distance with ease. I don’t attempt this swim with her as my swimming stroke is more like a flounder than anything more adept. Generally I just wade in and dunk myself a few times, and call it good. Blue, the English Setter, wades in to his chest and looks out at the humans that are in over his head and, --my guess, thinks we are crazy to venture so far from shore. As you might know most upland bird dogs have no affinity for water.
Well, enough for today. My coffee cup needs to be refilled so it’s time to say farewell.
Till next time.
At Camp. I sat on the back deck this morning, as I like to do when the weather cooperates, drinking a hot, fresh brewed cup of coffee. Swirling, helicopter like maple seeds twirled down on the deck and yard, a natural, yet amazing sight. I remember as a young child being fascinated by these acrobatic maple seeds. I would toss them in the air and watch them whirl to the ground with delight. In reflection, I suppose children still do that. This notion gives me pleasure.
Up close, the maple seeds are exquisite to look at. It is interesting to note that the seed pod on the wing when it swirls to earth most always lands with the seed down. This natural arrangement allows fortunate seeds to root when a passing foot, either human or animal steps on it, essentially planting the seed pod.
The single wing appears almost gossamer, translucent, sometimes with a light mauve or purple edge.This coloration seems quite inexplicable. Nature has stumped me on that one but I know this coloration is not by chance; nature doesn’t work that way. Perhaps, squirrels which have some color sensing abilities, may be better able to see the display of color on the edge of certain seeds. To the squirrels these colorful and edible maple seeds must be a delight. The squirrels would then bury the seeds that are the most visible to them and in a sense become inadvertent farmers. A good guess? Who knows? For now, I just appreciate the seeds for what they are, a lovely creation of nature.
Till next week.
As you might have noticed my letter last week was tardy. This was because I was out to camp for the better part of a week. Fortunately or unfortunately, you call it, we have no wi-fi access there to send out a letter to you. I write at camp most of the time but have no way of sending out my thoughts. I suppose some of you might think all of this is quite primitive but it is a compromise I am willing to make for my needed time away from town. The time away is like a beneficial tonic so I will just apologize for the delay and call it good.
My wife gave me a late Christmas present the other day. She had cleverly hidden a beautiful photo under our bed in town and had then promptly forgotten she had done so. It remained hidden there until the other day when a friend of hers who had been with her when she bought the photo asked why it hadn’t been placed on our wall. My wife sheepishly handed me the belated present. The lovely photo is of a mother loon and her little ones. One of the chicks is perched high on her back, while the other one, perhaps more adventurous rides calmly in her wake.
From time to time I can hear a haunting loon tremolo on our lake though I have never seen a nesting pair. I have wondered why, as the lake as remote as it is, would have little human interference that would drive the mostly misanthropic loon to leave. Hmm, as an aside, can a loon be misanthropic? At least in my mind they are. I suppose technically a reader may say they can’t be but I’ll leave that question to the writers of dictionaries.
I suspect that the loons avoid our lake because it is so deeply stained with leaf tannin. The dark water probably doesn’t allow the diving loon to catch the small fish that are the most part of its diet. At least that’s my theory. Every spring I listen attentively at night for the lonely call but to this date have been mostly disappointed. Unfortunately, in Canada due to lake acidification and the resultant depletion of small fish there has been a profound loss of the loons over much of the country. Pollution of this sort has its cost.
I sincerely hope there are loons where you live and that you can experience the lovely call of a returning loon in the spring. Listen.
Till next time.
This month the earth here in the U.P. has been parched. The languid air seethed in the balsams and the lake as if taking human form appeared almost listless. The woods were only a spark away from a potential disaster as there had been little moisture for weeks.
On Saturday we had a series of thunderstorms which drenched the fecund soil, sending wafts of forest smells into the air. The local robins sang with joy as worms worked their way to the surface and made for easy pickings for the hungry birds.
We took our first swim of the season on Saturday. The water was cool but refreshing. The lake has a peat bottom which turns off many city folk but we find it to be a pleasant swim. Our lake has only 7 cabins and for the size of the lake there are not many summer tourists. Most of the time we have the lake to ourselves, except of course, opening day of walleye season. On opening day the locals drag the bottom with various crawler harnesses and the faithful Rapala lure. After opening day the lake is rarely fished. We keep an old flat bottom pram ditched on shore. It leaks but only slightly, so we ignore the puddle in the bottom of her and fish late in the evening. Walleye are spooky fish and often don’t bite when it is light out. The pram lets us get close to shore, and we weave in and out of the weeds like the Great Blue Herons looking for an easy meal.
As I write this, the clouds are parting and the gentle breeze is tempting the surface lof the lake like a lover caressing his partner. We are cooking out to night and I look forward to the sizzle of a steak on the grill and the delight of fresh sweet corn.
I hope your Memorial Day weekend is filled with friends, family and good beer.
Till next week.
Hilton Everett Moore
Letter From The Cabin 05-20-2018
Last fall I had confirmation that the three towering birches on the lakeside of the cabin were dying. In the spring no buds had developed. By fall I was fairly certain that were not likely to make it through the harsh winter. The November winds are particularly hard on aged birch trees which often have death seeded in the center and topple over in strong winds. These trees were shedding large branches not unlike a buck shedding his stately rack during midwinter.
In my sleep I had a dire premonition that one of these hulking giants would fall on my cabin, crashing through the timbers, and demolishing my lovely camp. Not really a very pleasant premoniton, I might add.
I had appreciated these trees over many seasons. Though not as stately as the towering white pines that still exist in areas of the Upper Peninsula, nevertheless trees, provided a sense of solace. They would end up as firewood now and offer another type of warmth.
I knew that these birch trees needed to come down and got out my chainsaw and winch. The trees leaned awkwardly toward the cabin and would make for a dangerous felling. I had to emotionally brace myself for the unpleasant task at hand.
My son and I tightened up the cable from the winch to an adjacent tree. This anchor would help the falling birch tree fall away from the cabin. I considered this arrangement a safety measure against a ill-made notch. Seth tightened up the winch as I made the front notch. Carefully, I cut the back of the tree with a well placed slit. Seth hurriedly tightend up the winch as the tree leaned precariously almost rebelling against the inevitable. It came crashing down, safely where we had wanted it to lay. We fell the other two trees without an incident.
A week after the beautiful birch trees were felled a surging wind storm ripped through the area. A neighbor’s tree fell across his trailer crashing the roof. My advice is to give premonitons due diligence. Till next time.
Hilton Everett Moore