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Demented Author Moves to Southern California During Covid-19 Pandemic
Why would anyone plan to move to a different state during the summer of Covid-19 Pandemic? I pondered this question for many months as my husband David and I were deliberating about leaving our home of 13 years in Silverton, Oregon. Oregon is a beautiful state—during the summer, that is. We lived near Silver Falls State Park with 11 stunning waterfalls, and next to the iconic Oregon Gardens. So why choose to leave, especially since we have a nice network of friends?
Anyone who has not endured Oregon winters may well ask why. What we didn’t know about Oregon, having only visited during the summer, was just how dreary and long the winters are. Around mid-September the weather gods turn off the sun switch, relegating the Pacific Northwest to unrelenting months of rain, gray skies, fog, bone-chilling cold, various amounts of snow and ice, and short gloomy days. Weeks of grayness and gloom, moist cold, and persistent rain send me into a seasonal depression (probably the dread SAD-Seasonal Affective Disorder). David isn’t so bothered by that as by being cold all the time, despite keeping the heat going. He huddles with a throw blanket over his shoulders while wearing heavy sweats plus a jacket.
We’re quite miserable during winter, which seems interminable. A few bright days in March or April taunt us, sparking hope that soon dies as rain and gloom return. They say that summer doesn’t arrive until after July 4. It’s often raining on the Independence Day parade.
We tried taking trips during the winters, which works for a few weeks but is a temporary respite. For us, it’s hard to swing for long both financially and dealing with our two cats. So we explored places with sun and warmth during the winter, including Hawaii, Arizona, and California. Love-love-love Hawaii but too expensive and far from family. Arizona might work but didn’t have as much appeal as southern California, where we have family. As former Californians, we’re familiar with the state’s peculiarities and challenges. It was a lengthy process, but we settled on a senior 55+ community called The Colony in Murrieta, CA.
As we’re both well over 55 this is a good choice. Another reason for moving was the new development that sprang up behind our Silverton house over the past 4 years. Initially our back deck looked out over a serene meadow with tall grasses, blackberry vines, and stately spruce trees. We watched deer wend pathways through the meadow and coped with excursions by skunks and raccoons into our yard seeking tidbits. Rather suddenly our little nature preserve disappeared, invaded by clanging and belching heavy equipment digging ugly trenches and scraping away trees and vegetation. What a sad sight! We felt so sorry for animals and the golden eagles that occasionally perched in the tallest spruce.
Quickly there were new streets, house pads, and construction in full swing. Over 40 houses were built, too large for their small lots with painfully repetitious, ugly designs. A cul-de-sac just behind out house attracted a seemingly endless swarm of kids riding bikes, playing hop-scotch, and tossing basketballs into a portable hoop. Our own neighborhood children were never so noisy. Yeah, we’re old curmudgeons but just don ‘t like screeching kids right behind our home—especially during happy hour as we take advantage of the few warm summer days that Oregon has to offer.
Oregon has great wine, by the way. We lived in the Willamette Valley that specializes in world-class pinot noir and other cool tolerant grape varieties such as pinot grigio and chardonnay. But, we’ve not lost access to great wine by moving to Murrieta, twin city to Temecula, one of California’s primo wine producing regions. Due to different climate, Temecula wines are warm weather varieties such as cabernet, merlot, viognier, Spanish and Italian varietals. We’ve already found several outstanding wines such as sangiovese, Montalpulciano, big red blends, and delicious peach-melon viogniers. Not suffering in the wine department! Even joined our first wine club here, Robert Renzoni Vineyards.
The Colony is a beautiful gated community for active seniors with a large pool and nice golf course (we aren’t golfers but there are several in our family). It comes with the usual amenities, such as clubhouse, gym, tennis courts, bistro, and innumerable activities. At present due to the virus, these facilities have limited use and most activities are canceled. Speaking of Covid-19, we were fortunate to make trips for house searching and the two-day moving ordeal without coming down with it. This area of California takes prevention seriously, nearly everyone wears masks, and businesses follow guidelines for social distancing and limiting customers. We are very appreciative of this.
Of course, the noise level around the community is quite low. No more screaming kids! Our back patio feels like an oasis surrounded by tall palms and yew trees giving shade and seclusion. The house stays nicely cool due to thick stucco walls and great air conditioning. Yes, beware what you ask for—we’ve endured two intense heat waves with several days in triple digits. One might say unrelenting sun and blue skies. Not as dry as Palm Springs due to higher elevation (1200 feet), more vegetation, and proximity to the coast about 30 miles west. It’s a reverse weather pattern from Oregon, with two intensely hot months (July, August) and then temperate days with cool nights the rest of the year. Plus lots of bright sunshine.
Well, maybe I’m not so demented after all. Now let’s stay safe and take wise action so this virus pandemic can finally end. Maybe I’ll even get back to writing before too long!
Not much that a good glass of wine can’t fix!Leonide Martin, Author Historical Fiction
“The Devil is in the Detail” implies that although something might look simple at first, there is a catch hidden in the details.
Often an idea seems wonderful, but turns out impossible to implement. We may be able to agree on generalities, but come to blows on specifics. A project may appear straightforward and easy, but takes more time and effort to carry out than we expected. “The Devil”—our difficulties and challenges—hides in the details.
This is the contemporary understanding of the idiom. But, it was not always interpreted this way. Use of the phrase goes back at least to the early 1800s when French writer Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) said “Le bon Dieu est dans le détail.” By saying “The good God is in the detail” Flaubert was emphasizing that details were sacred and significant.
Whatever one was doing, it should be done thoroughly and with full attention. Details are important.
The actual source of the idiom is unknown. It’s generally accepted that German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) used it, but almost certainly did not invent the phrase. It was a favorite of German art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) although his biographer could not be certain it originated with him. Some have attributed it to Michelangelo (1475-1564). Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations lists it as an anonymous saying.
Whether “The Devil” or “The Good God” is in the detail, we are led to conclude that details are very important, even possibly sacred. Writers of historical fiction know this all too well. Get the details or facts wrong, and you’ll never stop hearing about it from readers and critics. Put in too many details, in hopes of giving readers a rich and full experience of a culture and time period, and you’re criticized for unnecessary information that slows down the plot. Put in too few details, and readers complain they cannot get a good sense of the setting, culture, character, time period, geography, and so forth. The historical fiction author has then failed in the all-important task of “world-building.”
Books about well-known societies and cultures have fewer challenges in world-building. Most readers already know the Regency or Victorian era, the Tudor or Plantagenet dynasty, Renaissance Italy, medieval times, and popular ancient cultures such as Rome, Greece, or Egypt. Historical fiction authors writing about less known cultures have more need for thorough world-building. In particular, I have in mind ancient Mesoamerican civilizations. Even indigenous groups in North America lived in worlds generally less understood by most readers. In these cases, putting in sufficient details is important.
My HF novels are set in ancient Mayan civilization. There is a dearth of literature focused on this culture; even the Aztecs and Incas get more press. Because of this, my books include details of everyday life, technology, arts, and cosmology to provide a fuller picture of this advanced culture. I weave this information into the story with several writers’ caveats in mind: whenever possible “show rather than tell,” make expositional dialogue seem natural, make the details serve the plot or character development. Most importantly, keep it interesting.
Ah, there’s the rub. How much is enough and not too much? Reviewers have called my books “well-detailed,” “no light read,” full of detailed descriptions,” “complex world-building.” They also say the books “provide a realistic feel,” give “depth and meaning to overall events,” and make “the Mayan world and its underlying influences come alive.” But one review from a pricey and well-respected source felt there were just too many details. While the information was captivating, there was far too much for an enjoyable novel. Besides, they complained that readers really didn’t need to know about the “trapezoidal linear truss using high strength timber crossbeams” that made Lakam Ha’s architecture innovative.
Who would want to know? Anyone interested in ancient Mayan civilization.
One often pondered question is how the Mayas built their soaring pyramids of huge stones in a jungle environment without metal tools. Ancient Lakam Ha (Palenque) is widely known as the most graceful and architecturally unique Mayan city. A good deal of literature examines how they built and what innovative technologies allowed Lakam Ha to create its harmonious structures. Mayas traditionally used a corbel arch technique to form ceilings of chambers and passageways. Not a true arch, this technique lacked support strength. At Lakam Ha, ceilings were higher and rooms wider than at other Mayan cities. The trapezoidal linear truss was the technology that made this possible.
In any case, this is mentioned only once in a short passage of three paragraphs. The description is set in dialogue between ruler Pakal and his chief architect. To my thinking, it is such tidbits of detail that give readers a good sense of this remarkable culture’s immense creativity.
But perhaps I get carried away . . . in my most recent book about Mayan queens, publishing in October 2018, one major character is a brilliant astronomer and numerologist. Kan Bahlam II, who becomes ruler of Lakam Ha when Pakal dies, invented the 819-day calendar and a secret code language based on astronumerology called “Zuyua.” He conceived and had built The Cross Group, a three pyramid complex considered the ultimate statement of Palenque creation mythology. Panels in these pyramids are carved with hieroglyphs and figures that embed the secret codes and calendar, and weave them with Kan Bahlam’s personal history. It is pure creative genius.
Therefore, I wanted to share this knowledge with readers. After sending the manuscript to my beta readers, however, their feedback made me realize that although captivating, this really was too much information. Several pages of explanations and examples of astronumerology were cut from the book. After all, it had taken me several years of study to understand it and I couldn’t expect readers to grasp it on first exposure.
Because the Devil is in the Detail.