Heart Wood Interviewed!

A friend stopped me in the fruit isle of the grocery store recently and asked what I’m doing now that my book is published. Hanging out at the river? Reading? Cooking gourmet dinners?

I chuckled and rolled my eyes.

For authors, writing a book is only the tip of the iceberg. The real work comes afterwards with promotion, interviews, public book events (pre-COVID), and for me, expanding my website to share my “behind the scenes” research and inspirations for my novel.

One of my first goals was to have my eco-novel Heart Wood listed on Dragonfly.eco

Dragonfly.eco is a place to find meaningful stories about our natural world and humanity’s connection with it. The site explores the wild, crazy, and breathtaking literary trail of eco-fiction, with a large book database, spotlights, interviews, and more. Our motto is “blowing your mind with wild words and worlds.”


Not only was I recently listed (thank you to all the readers who gave such positive reviews on Amazon/Goodreads), but I was selected for a feature interview with Mary Woodbury, Dragonfly.eco’s founder. Mary asked me some intriguing questions, which you can read here: https://dragonfly.eco/

In addition to my interview as an Indie Author, I found several other features interesting, especially the results of her Survey on the Impacts of Environmental Fiction. Mary Woodbury describes her insightful survey questions:

“I wanted to explore how readers were affected by fiction (including environmental fiction) that they had read. What were their favorite novels of all times, eco-novels, characters? What did they like and dislike in such fiction? In what ways were they inspired by this fiction, and did they move to action–or how else were they socially impacted, either negatively or positively? What genres and subgenres did they enjoy the most? Did they think eco-fiction impacted society, and how? “

You can read the summary of what she found here:  https://dragonfly.eco/impacts-of-environmental-fiction-survey-results/

Now, back to what I am doing now that I’ve finished my book. To be honest, I also spend hours in my veggie garden picking off tomato horn worms (camouflage experts), figuring out what to do with the dozen cucumbers I pick every day (please send recipes!), packing my emergency “Go-Bag” in case we’re evacuated by a wildfire (welcome to California), and best of all, river time with my husband and dog (yes, river is good medicine).

Be well, be safe, and be kind!

You can purchase Heart Wood for yourself or as a gift to others at all brick and mortar bookstores, Independent Book Stores, and online at Amazon.

Where will the sea first enter San Francisco?

This is first in a series: Behind the Scenes of Heart Wood

San Francisco 2075 –

“San Franciscans were surprised by water falling from the sky. Most water crept in at them from the sea.”  (Heart Wood, page 5)

I originally wrote the opening scene for Amisha (year 2075) set amidst the rising sea levels propelled by continued climate change. The sea would first encroach San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean side, I imagined, then move eastward and slowly flood the city from the beach, up the avenues and into Golden Gate Park.

I was wrong. 

According to professional future projections of rising sea levels, salt water is first going to enter San Francisco from the bay side and flood the waterfront piers, Embarcadero, Financial District, and China Basin – areas mainly built on landfill.

I discovered this, thanks to my friend Mark, who sent me websites that project future sea level scenarios – websites used by land use planners as tools to help understand, visualize, and anticipate vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storms.

This San Francisco map is from Our Coast Our Future (OCOF) at 6.1 ft – 20-year flood. Light blue areas are under water.

Try it yourself! Select a map location on these websites and play with various scenarios. California: http://cal-adapt.org/sealevel/ and USA: Sea Level Rise Viewer  https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/

Based on these projections, I moved the rising sea level scenes away from Golden Gate Park near the Pacific Ocean, and in its place, described the park as “a three-mile long tent city that generously houses Oceania’s Pacific Rim immigrants.”  

According to a 2017 report, at least eight low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean have disappeared under rising seas. 

After studying the map projections, I decided the most likely place for Amisha to encounter the encroaching sea was in the San Francisco Bay, across town.  From Heart Wood:

(Earthquake) Rubble that wasn’t hauled into the ever-moving sea walls of the Embarcadero, Mission Bay, and Financial Districts was piled high, casting shadows over surrounding buildings. (Page 39)

Amisha and Orion walked through the old Financial District while waiting for the ferry to take them across the bay to the Martinez dock.

Amisha felt herself losing ground. “How much longer ’til the ferry?” she asked, reflexively waiting for Nib’s reply, but getting nothing.

“Forty minutes, at least.”

“Let’s walk then.” She struggled out of the truck and started down the street toward the old Financial District but didn’t get far. The district, once a vibrant collection of purposeful high-rises, was now a forest of toppled buildings standing like barren tree stumps in a swamp. The street ended abruptly at lapping water. Boats floated in front of each building. When did electric power start failing? If she couldn’t remember on her own, then how was she going to know things now? She reached for Orion’s arm, feeling a queasiness return. She could still stay. He’d cover for her.

“Eight minutes,” Orion said, and guided her back to the truck.

When did the sea invade the ground floors? she wondered, unable to stop thinking about the inevitable. (Page 40)

Are rising sea levels inevitable? With the COVID-19 pandemic and political uncertainties currently sweeping the world, we have so many new, urgent problems, yet in the background, the earth continues to warm; the seas continue to rise.

How does global warming cause sea levels to rise? When I’m faced with a complex situation – more than I can get my head around – I first look for easy-to-understand descriptions and suggestions. Here’s a start:

First, as carbon-dioxide traps more heat on the planet, the oceans get warmer and expand in volume. Second, ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica as well as other glaciers start melting, pouring more water into the oceans. Once these processes get underway, they won’t stop quickly, even if we ceased putting carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere tomorrow. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/11/01/can-we-stop-the-seas-from-rising-yes-but-less-than-you-think/

Is it hopeless? In imaginary conversations with my character, Amisha, year 2075, she asks me if I even tried to do anything, or like Harmony, did I give up assuming it’s too big a problem for one person to make a difference? With a little research, I found a list of “Seven things you can do today to reverse sea level rise.” 

I decided to start with these:

Check the list yourself https://www.thebalance.com/sea-level-rise-and-climate-change-4158037  Maybe there’s some things you can commit to as well.

I invite you to browse my website, www.shirleydickard.com, where I will be gathering information and links to issues covered in Heart Wood.

PURCHASE HEART WOOD at your local independent bookstores or online at Amazon

Open House at shirleydickard.com

You’re invited to an Open House at the newly remodeled website dedicated to my eco-novel: Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.

Years ago, when Heart Wood was in its infancy, I created my first website and blog. Having since outgrown the space, I’ve been working with a web designer to give it an updated look with new rooms and décor. Please stroll around and take a look!

There is one last room I want to remodel and I’m hoping readers can help me. If you click on the “Research” tab, you’ll see tabs for Past, Present, and Future. These are where I’m gathering Present data and evidence of mankind’s cumulative impact on the Future, as well as my family’s historical documents from the Past.

If you’ve read Heart Wood, you may share my concern for what we’re doing to our air, water, food, and earth, and the impact on our health and longevity – especially of our children. You can contribute by sending articles and links that I can post. Discussions welcome!

Thank you to Sky (who actually spent her first years in the mythical “Luna Valley”) for this first article: Why the World is Becoming Allergic to Food  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-the-world-is-becoming-more-allergic-to-food?utm_source=pocket-newtab.  Cue the rise of Pharm.food!

For history buffs, especially my family, I will post all the documentation I gathered about my great-grandparents, Emily and Charles Hoppin of Yolo, California – the inspiration for the characters of Eliza and Silas in Heart Wood. In my research, I found previously unknown speeches, writings, and interviews with Emily Hoppin. She was a woman before her time and now, 100 years later, her voice can be heard! I invite anyone with information about Charles and Emily Hoppin to add to this documentation on my website.

Please sign the guest book by leaving a comment. If you see any corners that need attention, let me know. I’m learning how websites nowadays must work across all types of screens: computers, tablets, and mobile devices – rather like a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe board! My appreciation to Katie (who also grew up in the “Luna Valley”) and her design team at Urban Sherpa Marketing: www.urbansherpa.marketing 

Hold on for my announcement!

If you recently received posts from my website/blog dated 6.13.20, please just ignore and delete. They should have been tests to me, not made public. You will soon get an official announcement from me of my new website and blog. I can’t wait to share it with you, so do watch for it!

Welcome

Welcome to my blog, where I gather thoughts on Heart Wood, the environment, eco-fiction, feminism, writing, and more.

Heart Wood has Arrived!

Now that social isolation has become the norm, how about curling up with a good book? The coronavirus will continue to alter our lives in unimaginable ways, but at least we can still enjoy reading! 

Heart Wood will transport you into the lives of three women of the past, present, and future as they cope with their changing worlds. No viruses, I promise! The most common reaction I do get to Heart Wood is “this gives me goose bumps!”

You can order Heart Wood on Amazon Here

The ebook version will be available online soon and Heart Wood will eventually be available in local independent bookstores. Be sure and ask for it and support your local indie bookstores!

“To my own surprise, I don’t expect new authors to be so sly or quick in engaging, holding, and enlightening their readers. Whenever I pick Heart Wood up, I always regret having to put it down. Shirley DicKard is extremely good.”
             – Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, essayist, environmental activist 

SYNOPSIS

Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future

Deep in the heart of a small oak writing desk is a legacy that mysteriously connects three family women across centuries and generations in their fight for the future.

     Shima’a, an ancient woman with disturbing visions of the Earth’s demise, sends a message of warning, and a seed of hope, forward in time within the heart of an acorn to three family women:

     Eliza: Post Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley, late 19th century.

     Harmony: Back-to-the-land homestead in the Sierra Nevada, late 20th century.

     Amisha: Dystopic San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada, late 21st century.    

Writing on the heartwood of the old desk, each woman is influenced by the ancient message as she views mankind’s escalating destruction of the natural world through the eyes of her time. The women learn to listen to the silence, hold the earth in their hands, gather the women, then do what must be done.

Heart Wood is a compelling family saga set in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Its characters shift from one generation to the next, as do the struggles they face in saving their homestead from the ravages of climate change, fire, and human greed. But it’s mankind that poses the most dire challenges to the land and to those who seek life upon it. Heart Wood speaks of the collective power of feminine energy to protect the Earth. If you feel you’re not doing enough or that it’s already too late to make a difference, Heart Wood may change your mind. An eco-speculative-historical-magical-feminist novel.

Welcome to Heart Wood!

What happened to The Desk – the epic novel I’ve been working on for nearly ten years?  It has a new title – Heart Wood and it’s very close to being published!

Coming March 2020
Coming March 2020

Heart Wood – An eco-speculative-historical-magical-feminist novel

Let me fill you in. Heart Wood was actually the original title before my working title of The Desk. After several early readers spontaneously suggested that Heart Wood would be a perfect title, I agreed and returned to the original title. Heart and Wood are themes interwoven throughout the novel.

I’ve chosen to publish independently for several reasons: time and control. I hold the rights to my novel, I control the cover and content, and I can publish it now through my local writing group’s imprint: Sierra Muses Press – not years down the line with a publishing house. The trade-off is that I’m responsible for all the work that a publisher would do for me: editing, design, proofreading, printing, etc. Luckily, I’ve had the support of many local professional women. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m not alone. In 2018 there was a 40% increase in independently published books.

Save these Dates!

MARCH 21st, 7 pm: Soft launch at Wordsmiths & Musicmakers at the Camptonville Community Center (camptonvillecommunitycenter.org)

MAY 3rd, 3-5 pm: Sierra Muses Press Book Launch at The Open Book, Grass Valley, featuring books by Shirley DicKard, Mila Johansen, Leslie Rivers, and Jenifer Bliss.

Dams: A 19th Century Solution to a 21st Century Problem That Won’t Go Away

Dams have been in the news and on my radar again. Just as I’m revising the chapter in my book about fighting a dam back in 1990 (yes, the novel’s still in progress, but I’m pedaling faster now that I’m working with a writing coach!), here in Northern California the Oroville Dam spillway break caused the evacuation of 200,000 people in the Yuba-Sutter lowlands,  and a new dam is being proposed on the Bear River in Nevada County. 284

I totally emphasize with all that would be impacted by the Centennial Dam that Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is currently proposing for the Bear River west of Colfax (Nevada and Placer Counties). Back in 1999, the Moonshine Road area of Camptonville was faced with the prospect of a dam on the Middle Yuba River. Without benefit of today’s social media, our very small community of 600 people organized, educated, then partnered with SYRCL to form our own MYRACL (Middle Yuba River Area Citizens League). Eventually, the Yuba County Water Agency took the Freeman’s Crossing Dam off the list of options for flood control. But in the current political culture of abrupt reversals, no one can afford to be complacent. Thankfully today, myriads of new organizations have joined SYRCL to focus on protecting our rivers and environment. Folks are better connected, informed, and proactive.

If you want to become informed about the Centennial Dam proposal and learn how to impact the process, here’s some links to check out. Citizens have until April 10th to give public comment to the Army Corps of Engineers, so do it soon!

www.SaveBearRiver.com, and SYRCL’s http://yubariver.org/get-involved/

Now back to my writing. Dams provide the dramatic backdrop for my present-time character, Harmony, a back-to-the-lander religiously devoted to saving the planet.  Based on the true events  in Camptonville, Harmony  was part of a group that struggled to ward off a dam that would have inundated over a third of the families in her small, rural, community.

But in the end, it was the children who saved the river.

Excerpt from The Desk:   (Note: “The Desk” was the former working title for “Heart Wood” before 2020)

       Back then, the prospect of this dam hung like a shroud over our school kids. In classrooms, bathrooms, lunchrooms, and recess, all they could talk about was that half of their friends would be flooded out; families would be forced to leave; the school would have to shut down.

      Mrs. Watson, the fifth grade teacher, understood that the best antidote for anxiety was action. She assigned her ten-year old students the project of creating a plan. What did they want to happen?  Who could they approach?  What would they say? Soon parents and school staff got on board and helped the class get on the Supervisor’s Agenda. TV and news media were alerted, and at ten am, the school bus dropped twenty children into a throng of reporters and cameras in front of the county government center.

   

CV Students Oppose Dam 1999
Grass Valley Union Reprint, April 28, 1999

  Once inside the Supervisors Chambers and called to speak, students displayed their six-foot, hand-drawn poster depicting how the dam would destroy their community. One-by one, four students stood at the microphone and read the speech they had practiced in class. How, they asked, could the Supervisors purposely wipe out one of its own communities?

     Towering above them from their elevated desk, the five Supervisors leaned back in their seats, taking in the children, cameras, reporters, then back to the children. The Chairman thanked the students politely and announced they would make their final decision by the end of the afternoon, then added he wished he could to bring his own constituents to the school to learn how to make a good presentation! 

     The next day the school’s hallways were plastered with news coverage of the childrens’ appeal….the children who saved their community from being flooded.

Flash forward to 2,020. Having once defeated this dam that would have flooded her home, Harmony is now faced with the revival of the 19th century solution to the 21st century problem of droughts, decreasing water supply, and increasing demand. What is now different in this (hopefully)  fictional account is that by 2,020, the environmental regulatory process has since been dismantled. No more red tape, pesky regulations, meddling oversight, or tedious public input. Developers are freed at last to finally get things done!

May I repeat how you can impact our future right now?

Check out: www.SaveBearRiver.com and SYRCL’s http://yubariver.org/get-involved/    The public has until April 10th to comment on NID’s plans to construct Centennial Dam – a new reservoir on the Bear River between the existing Rollins and Combie Reservoirs. It’s up to us citizens to take notice and take action.

Despair

Wednesday, November 9, 2016my-2-pink-flowers

I stare into the open refrigerator, my bare toes curling on the cold linoleum. I need comfort food. Where’s the custard, or mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese? I woke up feeling punched in the stomach. This is not my morning; he is not my president; this is not happening. Joe comes down the stairs in his robe and I shove the refrigerator door closed. He shakes his head; we exchange glassy stares.

Curled into a chair, I hug my knees. All we’ve accomplished in the last eight years will be wiped out in one coup. I listen to Dora sputtering a message on the answer machine but can’t bear to take it.

”No one saw this coming,” Joe says, his fists are curled tight like he wants to bash someone.

I rummage around the pantry shelf hoping that the old box of Cream of Wheat is still there. It isn’t. I settle for polenta instead and pour my grief into the hot water along with the yellow corn.

“Such a sad, sad day for Mother Earth.”

“And health care, honesty, clean energy, integrity, respect…”

I stop Joe with a wave of my hand, too weary to commiserate.

After a warm bowl of polenta smothered in melted butter, I change into sweat pants and go outside to rake leaves, same as I did when my father died, or when words are too much a struggle. I haul a garbage can full of musty oak leaves up to the garden and dump them into the open graves of my raised beds.

“I’m so sorry,” I whisper, as I yank a few dandelions out of the carrot patch and toss them onto the pathway.

I thought maybe you could change something, comes a whisper back.

I drag myself to the house, heavy with despair. I can’t think, can’t read, can’t write. I draw the curtains and curl up on the couch.

My stomach remembers third grade.

“Draw something that you really care about.”  Mrs. Clark gave us two days to create a masterpiece, and I worked on it every spare minute I had. While boys drew hot rods and fancy bicycles, I drew flowers. Not just flowers, but intricate specimens from the garden beds that surrounded my home: pink hydrangeas, red bottle brush, white calla lilies, purple rhododendrons. From mom’s cutting garden I drew snapdragons, pansies, and zinnias. I even drew a few weeds, like the ones with long pointed swords you could join together to make scissors.

The day our art projects were due, I still had one blank space to fill in, and decided I could finish it during morning recess. Though I knew it was off limits for third graders, I slipped my art page into a big picture book, hid a yellow and a green pencil in my pocket, and sneaked out to the baseball diamond where I knew dandelions grew by the dugout. I was almost finished when shadows from behind loomed over my page.

“Looks like your flowers need some dirt to grow in.” Fat-bellied Percy dribbled globs of mud onto my page then leaned over and smeared them into my flowers. His friends laughed and jostled about, even Bruce who would never hurt a fly. “Good goin’ PC,” they said. I froze.

“Hey, let’s make flower seeds and plant them.” PC snatched my beautiful flowers and in slow motion, tore them into small squares that drifted to the dirt in front of me. Ricky, David, Bobby, and even Bruce hung around PC, slapping his back; all wanting to be just like him as they strutted back to the classroom.

I hung my head. I knew I shouldn’t have been out there. Fighting back tears, I rushed to the bathroom, closed the stall door, held my stomach, and cried. I didn’t recognize the anger then, I thought it was shame.

Mrs. Clark cocked her head when I dropped my white page with two nondescript pink flowers onto her desk. I lowered my eyes, and back at my seat, buried my face in a book. A week later, I got my page back with a frowny face on top and her note: “It looks like you didn’t try.”

(From The Desk, a work in progress)