Archive | Ostriches

Novel Update

I’ve been blogging a lot about things other than my novel lately, so it seems it’s time for an update. For anyone who hasn’t been following along, I’m working on a novel about an ostrich farmer. Her name is Tallulah Jones. She inherits the farm from her grandfather when he passes away. This much has remained constant, but every other detail of the story has changed, then changed again, then changed again. I’ve been working on this bitch for about 7 years. And when I say “working on” I mean actually working on. Some writers talk about working on their novel, and then write a few pages when they feel inspired. I don’t believe in inspiration.

I get up almost every morning at 5am to write before my kids wake up. I have been working my ass off, and so it is with no small amount of frustration that I admit that I am 7 years in and going back to my outline. But that is the truth.

These days, I cling to the hope that with each draft I am getting closer to the core of what this story is, and with each passing year I am becoming a better writer. I must be getting better. The idea that I could do something so consistently for so long and not get better is too upsetting to even consider.

The other thing that gives me hope is that this new outline is actually not entirely new. I simply decided to start the story sooner. The beginning of my last draft will now be the mid-point, and starting so much earlier, I have a lot more room to develop the characters. I like the story more and more, even as I become increasing sick of working on it.

So that’s the haps on the novel. I have a writing retreat planned for Labor Day weekend. I’m hoping to have the outline nailed down before that, and to start drafting then. I’m hoping that I can keep 50,000 words of the old draft (might be optimistic), and I’m shooting for about 100,000 words total. I write 500 words a morning, so that’s 100 mornings. Six mornings a week is 16 weeks. With any luck, I might just finish a draft before the end of the year.

Of course, holidays and junk always get in the way, but if I can stay focused on the goal, I think I could do it.
I’ll keep you posted.

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Ostrichland USA

Often, when I tell people in Los Angeles that I’m working on a novel set on a ostrich farm, they ask me if I have been to visit the ostriches up in Santa Barbara. Well, up until yesterday, I hadn’t.

April DavilaI had been wanting to go for a while and yesterday, it occurred to Daniel and me, that it was a rare free day – nothing on the calendar at all. So we decided, on a whim, to take the whole family on the fairly long drive up to Solvang, California to visit Ostrichland USA (I’m not kidding – that’s the actual name of the place).

It was really interesting to see a totally different kind of ostrich farming. If you follow along here, you know that I’ve done most of the research for my book at the OK Corral ostrich farm in Oro Grande, out in the Mojave. It’s is a working ostrich farm, where birds are raised for meat and eggs.

April DavilaOstrichland is a totally different type of place. It is much more a tourist attraction. Their birds live long happy lives roaming free across an enormous, verdant piece of land. For a few bucks you can feed them, up close and personal (see the video below), if they feel like coming to the fence for a snack. There was a line of people waiting to shell out money to spend a little time with the birds. It is so much a roadside attraction that Ostrichland doesn’t even slaughter its birds. In fact, I noticed in the gift shop that the ostrich jerky they sell comes from the OK Corral.

April DavilaIn terms of research, I drove away from the experience really glad that I had started (all those years ago) by visiting the OK Corral. Ostrichland is great (and if you get a chance, you should absolutely stop by for a visit and feed the birds), but I want to tell a more gritty story, one that is just better suited to the harsh desert farm.

Still, as I wrap up what is likely the last (or next to last) draft of the book, it’s nice to know that I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s in the research department. Nobody can accuse me of not having done my homework.

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Dirty Jobs, OK Corral Style

It occurred to me recently that I haven’t really shared much of my research for this novel that I’m working so hard on, and that is a crazy shame, because ostriches are awesome.

The place I learned most everything I know about ostriches was at the OK Corral Ostrich Farm. The proprietor, Doug Osborne, was super gracious. He walked me all around the farm, and told me about the birds, the business, and the farm. He really seemed to care about each and every one of those long-legged beasts. He also had chickens, and emu, and and three roosters, including one that was more aggressive than any dog I’ve ever come across – it chased me back into my car when I first arrived. I had to sit there like an idiot waiting for Doug to come rescue me.

A few months later, I took him to lunch and he let me pick his brain for all kinds of details. The OK Corral has been a remarkable resource to me over the past five years.

So I thought I’d share a segment from the show “Dirty Jobs,” in the episode that they spend a day on the farm with Doug. It’s great, and I feel like it gives a real sense of how intimidating the birds can be.


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