Books

Afterword & Acknowledgements for
Winter’s Comin’

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I was four years old, my brother not yet one, when my dad moved our family to the woods—1983. We traded suburban Seattle for building an off-grid log cabin in the Union Valley of north central Washington. I grew up thinking it was normal to retrieve spring water with gallon milk jugs, and illuminate our home with kerosene lamps.

I returned to the cabin from some years of sea voyaging at the age of twenty-nine. We’d left our cabin home eighteen years before. Cleaning the house, I filled five vacuum bags with moth wings and mouse droppings. Living at the cabin provoked many questions.was four years old, my brother not yet one, when my dad moved our family to the woods—1983. We traded suburban Seattle for building an off-grid log cabin in the Union Valley of north central Washington. I grew up thinking it was normal to retrieve spring water with gallon milk jugs, and illuminate our home with kerosene lamps.

“What was the story of the windmill?” I asked my dad around the time living without electricity started to cramp my style. “How long before the house had plumbing from the well?” I asked when I tired of bathing from large stainless steel bowls.  “What about the time mom drove off the road?”…“And when Luke fell down the well?”…“What about the cougar that stalked us to the spring?”

I’d heard snippets growing up, and even lived through some of the experiences myself, though with a kid’s perspective. Dad and mom answered my questions one story at a time, but I wanted more. I wanted to know the whole story.

“Dad, I know what I want for my birthday,” I said in the spring of 2011. “I want you to write Winter’s Comin’.” This had long been the working title of the book we imagined writing about our Union Valley experience.

“But I don’t have the calendars with our notes anymore,” Dad protested. “I gave them to my sister, and they were lost when she moved back east.”

My birthday came and went. No book. I pressed for the story as a Christmas gift. My dad made a large pencil sketch of my cat, and taped to the back the pages containing his first 18,000 words. I was thrilled.

I moved from the cabin to Bolivia in July 2012. Dad had made little progress on the book, despite my asking for more of the story. Jennifer and I married in Bolivia on November 30th, the same day my parents had married thirty-eight years before. Our first daughter was born in October 2013, and the three boys we adopted, ages nine, ten and ten, came to live with us that December.

I taught high school science in Bolivia for two years. I did not renew my contract, but decided to become an author instead. The trouble was, I couldn’t create the cabin stories myself. I needed Dad to give me the raw material which I could then polish, sort, and format. Dad had only given me 7,000 more words by June 2014. Mom had written about 4,000 when she came to Bolivia for Sophia’s birth.  I would not be paying any bills with an unwritten book. Life was less expensive in Bolivia. But not free.

I signed up on a freelance job website and was offered a job in Search Engine Optimization. I knew nothing about SEO, but I was a quick study and lapped up everything my kind boss taught me. This paid the bills, but I kept pressing my dad for more stories.

Our family traveled to the States in the fall of 2014, and I brought my voice recorder. If Dad won’t type, I know I can get him to talk…And talk he did! My brother Luke asked some great questions, as did Jennifer. Mom and dad both answered at length, quarreling only occasionally about details or sequence—their memories were thirty years old.

All told, I recorded forty hours of recollections, including a few rabbit trails. Back in Bolivia, I began transcribing—one minute of talking took about four minutes to type. Mom and dad often talked over one another, making it difficult to discern what they were saying. The process dragged.

Once all the stories were transcribed, I had to organize them. The stories hadn’t been told in chronological order. Winter stories and hunting stories and kid stories came lumped together, even if they happened years apart. I created codes for the individual stories and filled a massive spreadsheet, organized by month and year. The spreadsheet guided me to cut and paste big chunks of transcribed text into the manuscript.

I set to work polishing and formatting, still asking mom and dad for clarification or more information. Lydia was born in April 2015, and we moved back to the States in September where I started my own SEO company, www.GreatWaveSEO.com.

Finally, I submitted the manuscript to our editor on January 30th, 2016—still with a few holes Dad needed to fill. The edit motivated my dad to generate 10,000 more words and fill in the last gaps. Bradley Harris has helped us trim the fat and keep the book a reasonable length.

I am grateful to my dad for setting my life’s adventurous tone, for loving his family, and for always serving as a great provider and guide. Thanks, Dad, for living an experience worth writing about and sharing the story with us. I am grateful to my mother for supporting my dad and his crazy plans, for loving her family, and always caring for us. Thanks, Mom, for enduring the hardships and being the mom Luke and I needed. I am grateful to my brother for his questions and encouragement throughout this writing process.

My wife Jennifer deserves my gratitude for her encouragement and support and steadfastness. She reviewed the book and asked for more of the story from my mom’s perspective. Much of the human interest component story is thanks to my wife’s guiding questions. Thank you, dear.

I am grateful to my friends and extended family who have provided encouragement and declared their interest in reading the whole story. I am grateful to Brad for tightening the final product.

Finally, I am grateful to you, reader, for taking a risk on an unknown author—I hope you have enjoyed our story and been encouraged to persevere and live a life without regrets.


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