The Challenge of Zooming in the Mountains

It’s shivering cold inside the room where I’m about to take part in my first webinar panel about writing Heart Wood. If this had been old Japan during a freezing mountain winter, I might have kept warm by sitting at a table with a brazier of hot coals by my legs and a thick futon draped around the table to enclose the heat like a tent – a warming method called a kotatsu.

But it’s 2020, and without broadband internet access at home, I’m seated in our unheated Community Center in the Sierra with my own version of a kotatsu. Instead of hot coals by my feet, I have a small electric heater under the table. The wool blanket draped around the table and a wool sweater on my shoulders keep me warm so my teeth don’t chatter as I discuss writing with the other authors.

Kotatsu zooming in the mountains

My guess is that webinars and virtual zoom meetings are here to stay, so I’d better figure out how to make them work! I’m not a luddite, but I tend to embrace new technology reluctantly – just ask my husband. Without his penchant for upgrading all things techie, I’d still be getting up from the couch to change the channel at my trusty-old 1980’s-era TV set. 

Being an active participant via Zoom is easier said than done when you live in the mountains without cable, where satellite connections are fickle, and where there’s an awkward half-second lag before people hear the words you just mouthed. (BTW-most of us mountain folk still cling to our landline phones because mobile phones don’t always get good reception – a fact that’s lost on my urban friends!) But necessity is the mother of invention, so when I must be at my virtual best, I reserve a room at the local Community Center and use its high speed WiFi. 

Looking good on camera is another problem. YouTube is now filled with people offering advice: how to place your lighting so you’re not a shadowed monster; where to place your script; what colors to wear; how to sit and look natural;  background do’s and don’ts; and group conversation manners. Most sites offer at least one link to merchandise that promise to make you look professional: halo lights, tele-prompters, webcams, etc. It’s a booming business.

Before educating myself on YouTube, I didn’t realize that with my camera lens located at the bottom of the screen, it makes me look like I’m following a trail of ants across the screen instead of looking at the audience. I tried various suggestions, like elevating the laptop, but to no avail. In the end, a friend loaned me her plug-in webcam to hook on top of the screen and that did the trick.

I used to hate struggling with problems, but my attitude changed when I realized how many new brain synapses are formed in the process of problem-solving. At my 70+ age, that’s important!

How did the webinars go? The Sierra College OLLI Class on “Writing Your First Book” wasn’t recorded, but the “Friday Fiction” Panel on the Nevada County Library’s Virtual Author Showcase, 11/6/20, can be Viewed Here.

Heart Wood is the perfect gift for the holidays, whether for curling up in quarantine or as thoughtful consideration for how we can touch each other’s lives, give the earth a break to recover, empower a more feminine approach, and create a future that all forms of life can live in.

You can purchase your copy of

HEART WOOD

HERE: To support your local, independent bookstore!

Also available at The Book Seller and Harmony Books in Nevada County.

HERE: To purchase on Amazon (ebook and paperback)

If you enjoyed Heart Wood, please consider giving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s one of the best ways to support me and all indie authors. Thank you!

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.