Heart Wood is a work of fiction inspired by many real-life people, organizations, and events.  Here in Behind the Scenes, I’ve gathered my research, resources, and inspirations used in creating the fictional stories of the Past – Present – and Future. To view, please open each tab at top.

PAST: Eliza – Post Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley, late 19th century (inspired by my great-grandmother, Emily Hoppin)

PRESENT: Harmony – Back-to-the-land homestead in the Sierra Nevada, late 20th century (inspired by my own life)

FUTURE: Amisha – Dystopic San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada, late 21st century (inspired by a nighttime vision)

Top left: Charles and Emily Hoppin’s farm house, early 1900s. Middle left: The author with family at Gary Snyder’s blessing of their homestead, 1978. Bottom left: future sea level rise scenario in San Francisco. Right: Cross-section of pine heartwood, inspiration for the “clock” heartwood cover of book.


  1. …we need to talk! I am finally getting into the book on the sheriffs Monroe of Yolo County and it will include the power-women of the early 1900s in Woodland, including Emily Hoppin, of course–FINALLY! We spoke before, but sometimes things need to stew for awhile–I gather! Sorry ;/ Is this a Writer-thang? But I find sometimes “procrastination works”! In the meantime, I got my book on the Capay Valley into hardcover and sold all but the last 35-40 in 2015-16 — so NOW I am working on the Woodland book–let’s talk and share! I KNOW my grandfather Sheriff James Monroe worked directly w Emily and her musketeers while he was Supervisor in 1909-1911 and then as sheriff for 28 years beginning in 1911–the year women got the right to vote in CA and the Woodland women got him to move all the booze-n-broads out of town!
    Elizabeth Monroe

    1. Well hello!
      Great to hear from you, and yes, I’m a firm believer that when the time is right….it comes together.
      I’d love to get together and see where our family lineage has crossed paths….
      Several years ago, I visited the Woodland So Pacific RR station, and to my amazement, read on the wall that the first passengers on the new line (on Tuesday A.M. August 8, 2011) included Mrs. Emily Hoppin and Wat Barnes, and Sheriff Monroe and family. I”d love to have been a fly on the wall!

      My own book (The Desk) zig zags through time – the woman’s stories begin in the 1870’s, 1970’s and 2070’s. Currently, I’m focused on the future, which I’ve decided will be the book’s POV. Each woman has an impact on society and the future life of my great-granddaughter. So I’ve set aside my great-grandmother’s story for the time being…but maybe it’s time to pick it up again, who knows?

      Congratulations on your Capay Valley book – I’d love to see it, and am excited to talk Woodland. Emily Hoppin died 1915, after a fiery election as President of the California Association of Women’s Clubs. I believe she served less than 2 months.
      My email is sdickard46@gmail.com. Why don’t we continue the conversation there….
      Thanks for getting in contact again,

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