From Here to There was an opportunity for me to explore what being 'western' means today. I liked the idea of writing a story about ranch living and set it in a state where I don't live but have often visited and love-- Montana.
The ranch world has a lot of hard work attached, but there is joy and satisfaction in finishing jobs where you can see real results. This book got into some of that along with the mythologies that are so much a part of the western ethos-- how much is real? Do western mythologies interfere with a realistic view of life? Some would say they do. I think they do not unless people don't really understand what the West was like.
To add to the reasons for this book was to start a story when the heroine has gotten married but realized at the wedding it was a mistake. The man she married wasn't a cowboy. That meant he wasn't strong, right? What did she know about what love should be or for that matter what made someone a cowboy?
In this book, I explored two marriages, journal writing, and finding our own purpose in life. It looked at what our expectations are and how we sometimes miss out on the real deal if we aren't paying attention to what is in front of us.
I also created to have a few secondary characters, rich in the western character as I know it to be, where a lot of readers thought they were the best part of the book. I took this ranch two years into the future and wrote the novella, A Montana Christmas which was a chance to explore what important rituals can mean to a family-- ranch style.Oh and just might do a second full length novel where I give one or more of these characters their own love story. It's certainly in my mind for something down the road as a continuation of From Here to There.
Snippet of From Here to There:
Outside, as he looked at the truck more carefully, he saw that there was a missing door on the passenger side. Maybe this truck wasn’t more likely to keep going than the even older one down by the barn. He wondered how far the near antique was capable of being driven before it became a permanent part of some junk pile, and if he was driving it when that happened, would he get the blame?
Curly climbed out the cab. "Everything you need's in back." He pointed to a reel of barbed wire, clips, tools, and metal posts. From his back pocket, Curly extracted a pair of cutting pliers. "You ever do fence afore?" he asked as he put them with the other tools.
"No, but how much can there be to it?" Phillip asked yawning and reaching for his cigarettes."Not a whole hell of a lot," Curly said with another sly grin. "You ever use a posthole driver?"The answer was obvious, but Phillip shook his head anyway as he lit the cigarette.Curly showed him roughly how the piece of modified pipe worked, then added, "Just make sure you tighten 'er up afore you call 'er done. Leave that wire loose, and you might as well of saved yourself the trouble of driving up there." He pointed to an odd metal tool in the bed of the truck. "Ever use one of those?""No."Curly snickered. "Bout what I figured. You're a dude, ain't you." It was not a question but a statement."What gave me away?" Phillip asked sarcastically."Heck, if you ain't a dude, you oughta to sue your face for damages and get a verdict," Curly cracked, chuckling and slapping his bony knee."Very good," Phillip retorted dryly. "You think that one up all by yourself?"Curly snorted. "Wished I had.""So, if you didn't, where's your source of great Western lore? Maybe I can get in on some of these one-liners." Or at least look up their meanings."Tell you the truth, I changed a word or two, made it fit better, but I got most of it from one of the greatest Western writers ever was.""Louis L'Amour?" Phillip guessed, naming the only Western author whose name he knew."No, dangnabit. Ain't him. He was an upstart, come along later. Not that he weren't a great writer, but I'm talking about William MacLeod Raine.""Never heard of him."Curly's mouth dropped. "Never heard of him! Dangnabit, that ain't possible."Phillip only smiled.Curly shook his head with disgust. "I got near every book he wrote. He was a ranger hisself. Wrote about the Old West just about the time it was all ending, but that man... he knew his people, knew the men, the country. Maybe he did kind of sissify up the gushy parts, so's to appeal to the ladies, but he wrote dang good stories."Phillip snorted. Another unrealistic Westerner, dreaming of a past that was dead and gone--and a good thing too. He smoked a moment. "Isn't there anybody out here who doesn't either listen to country-western music or read Western fairy tales?""Wal, I don't know why there'd be. Them books was writ about country like this, about men coming in and fighting the Injuns, building ranches, drivin' off rustlers." He shook his head, a look of regret in his eyes. "Ain't never going to see the likes of them days again."Rather than to say it was a good thing, that the pioneer West had offered a lot of hardships as well as adventurous times, Phillip said, "You know the pulp writers didn't always portray the west the way it really was. A lot of it was made up for Easterners."Curly sneered. "If even half of it was so, it'd be enough to make a man wish he'd been there. Man could make his fortune in those days." He looked slyly at Phillip. "Shoot men who got uppity with him.""Or end up on boot hill himself," Phillip said under his breath."What'd you say?""Not much." He smiled. A wisely unspoken question was how cowboys got any work done if they were constantly reading stories of the old West. Instead he commented, "I wonder if the Indians around here like those Western books so much as you cowboys.""I've seen plenty of them reading 'em. Like take old John Eagle. He can answer most any question about anything Zane Grey ever wrote. He knows all the books, the characters. You ask it and he's got the answer practically afore you got the question out of your mouth.""Why?" Phillip's question didn't pertain so much to why the man might read Zane Grey, whoever he was, but more as to why he'd take the time to learn so much about it.Curly shook his head. "I'll tell you this. Men were men in those days.""What are they today?" Phillip asked with a humorless grin. This was one question to which he already knew Curly's answer."Soft. Don't know how to hammer in a nail straight, ain't never broke a horse, can't work more'n an hour without getting blisters on their soft hands." He sneered derogatorily toward Phillip's own long fingered hands. "I'll tell you this. My pap, he could've still worked rings around any young whippersnapper twenty or thirty years old." He looked derogatorily up at Phillip as he added, "Even when he was seventy.""Interesting. How'd he ever get work done, if he was always talking about the West?" Phillip asked sardonically.Curly glared at him. "You makin' fun of me?" he snapped.Phillip shook his head. "No, just if I'm going to get done before dark, you better tell me about this fencing business." He wasn't interested in trying to change Curly's low opinion of him--which was fortunate because he doubted it would be possible anyway.Curly gave him a quick demonstration on fastening up wire, then was off to his own chores, whistling Home on the Range.Already happy, Phillip thought wryly, at the thought of the botched job he expected from the fence repair. Probably already had the jokes thought up.