Writing and Books


“What you see is what you get.” Not necessarily. Henry David Thoreau said, “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” As a philosopher, I think he was describing what we see internally.

It boils down to this: We only find the world we’re looking for. As photographers, we often search for that perfect landscape, the ones we’ve seen in the photography and travel magazines, only to miss what’s right before us. Instead, we should give up our preconceived ideas of what an image should be and open our minds to the unexpected.

I’ll give you a few examples from photos published in my new coffee table book called In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: The Long Way Back.  

Visitors and residents flock to Darwin’s public beaches to view the glorious sunsets. While visiting there, of course, I planned to go there at sunset as well. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I arrived to find hundreds of people with the same idea as mine! Many of them had walked right into the surf to take their photos. Being short, I could never walk though that surf to get in front of them; nor I could I shoot over their heads! I decided to take a photo of everyone else taking a photo, and to describe what the people of Darwin came there to do.

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I used another example of this approach when I photographed a crew, Kate, on our catamaran, Pacific Bliss, looking back at the sunset behind her. We readers can then share in her moment of bliss.

DSCN0222 Kate watches the sunset to our stern 2.jpg

When entering the bleachers to see the dancers perform in the Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau, I caught sight of this dancer beneath the stands, putting on his make-up. That photo became one of my favorite pictures of that event.

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There was no way I was going to make it up all the way to the top of the pilgrimage to Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) without beginning that climb at 3:30 a.m. so I could photograph the view from the top. I could, however, photograph those who were coming back down. This 82-year-old Sri Lankan guide has been leading pilgrimages there for the past twenty years.

IMG_8265 Indian Guide in her _80s_ Adams Peak_ Sri Lanka

Sometimes, I see someone walking into the scene and I wait patiently until he or she is just in the right spot:

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Other times, I want to portray how small people seem in relation to the immensity of the structure.

IMG_9465 Palace complex built into rock

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Truly “seeing” requires that we slow down, wait, and get into a different space in our heads. Try that the next time you take a photograph.

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We writers are expected to wear two hats, that of an introvert who retreats to her writing cave and excels in words, phrases, and commas; and that of an extrovert, a flamboyant artist who tells tales and binds an audience under her spell. And sometimes, we’re expected to wear both hats at the same time.

This summer and fall, I couldn’t wear both hats and meet my publication deadline for the final book in the trilogy, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” Something had to go, and that something turned out to be this blog. My sincere apologies to my followers.

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My lowly gardening and pool hat and my expressive roaring twenties hat. I failed to wear both at the same time.

Last Monday, The Long Way Back went on the press in Anaheim, and since then, I’ve donned my extrovert hat. I’ll be launching the book after it’s printed.

Meanwhile, here are photos from the press check:

 

 

 

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My book designer, Alfred Williams of Multimedia Arts, and the owners and staff of LightSource Printing have been wonderful! I can’t wait to unveil the gripping conclusion to my nautical trilogy, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” Coming soon to Amazon and www.LoisJoyHofmann.com.

It’s no surprise that I’m a lover of literature. I recently had a chance to answer some literary-related questions with Mikaela for her blog, A Place Like Me In A Girl Like This.

One of my favorite questions was, “What book is your childhood sweetheart? Why?.” To read my answer and chime in with yours, click here.

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“Clear the decks,” the captain would bark when I was sailing around the world in our 43-foot yacht, Pacific Bliss. This expression originated in naval warfare of the 1800s, when it described how a crew would prepare for battle by removing or fastening down all loose objects on the ship’s decks.

On our boat, our crew would scurry about, stowing any pans on the stove that could slide off, clearing anything personal from the galley and salon area so that all surfaces could be used for charts and navigation tools, fastening latches on the cupboards and lockers, and battening down the hatches.

Now, as a landlubber, “clearing the decks” means “get ready for action.” I must finish dealing with what I am doing so that I can focus on something far more important. My priority for 2015 is to complete writing the trilogy “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” But to accomplish that, I’d feel better with my research and files organized and easily accessible. That means getting my personal stuff and records (2014 tax files, etc.) out of the way and stowing the “history,” (the research and drafts of the already-published first two books in the series).

Clearing my desk clears my head. Does that make sense?

So I’ve swept the surface of my desk clean of extraneous stuff, put my journals and ship’s logbooks all in order (15 of them covering the last four years of our circumnavigation) and my two writing muses from the Austrian Alps are sitting on my reference shelf ready to encourage me by yodeling when I get stuck.

Journals and logbooks

Journals and logbooks

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Yodelers, my writing muses.

I’m interested in hearing from my followers. What process do you use to begin the New Year or a new project? How do you clear the deck?

It was rewarding to teach a workshop, “Author as Entrepreneur,” at the Southern California Writers Conference over Presidents’ Day Weekend. I enjoyed answering questions from writers during and after the workshop. After a packed day of general sessions, workshops, and one-on-ones, many attendees manage to brave the evening Rogue Read-and-Critique sessions that begin at 9:00 p.m. and often last until 2 a.m. I attended two “rogues” this year led by Matt Pallamary; they proved an excellent opportunity to read and obtain feedback on parts of the book I’m currently writing: The Long Way Back.

I’d like to share a segment of one of the stories for this week’s blog. It takes place off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Pacific Bliss is moored near the channel between two islands, Keswick and St. Bees:

In the cockpit, we watch a pale gold sun set beneath the hills…

As night falls, the real show begins.

Ann is the first to hear the strange primal sound, accompanied by a swoosh, like surf rushing through a small opening in a rock cave.  She calls us to the cockpit. 

“That must be a blowhole, over on the St. Bee’s side,” I tell her.

Günter counters, “But there’s no surf here, and the winds are not strong.”

“Whales!” We all shout. From then on we whisper, listening closely to the whale songs followed by the blow. Each stanza begins with a low moan, like an elephant, followed by a long screech that ranges from a low to a high frequency. The song changes to a long growl-like bark and ends with a monkey-like eee-ee, then the stanza repeats.

First, the haunting whale songs reach us from across the channel. Later, we hear them as the whales make their way south through the pass. We know that the plaintive sounds of the humpback can travel up to 20 miles underwater, but we’re so close that we can hear them from the cockpit. Above water. Magical!

While we discuss the route of the humpbacks in hushed tones, the sky turns into a glittering canopy of stars, covering us with nature’s glory while grunts, groans, thwops, snorts, and barks continue. Finally, we hear the noises fade toward the center of the channel. The show is over. We turn into bed silently, tired yet awed.

***

0830: “Whales! I see them coming through the channel!” Günter calls from the bow of Pacific Bliss. He has just untangled the mooring line and Pacific Bliss is now swinging freely, her bow facing ESE toward St Bee’s hills.

We all rush to the bow. Now—in the daylight—we can see the whales.  We watch, mesmerized, as two humped backs breach simultaneously.

“Beautiful!” Ann says.

“Powerful!” I answer. “I wonder whether they are signaling to the rest of their pod, just having a look around, or shaking off barnacles.”

“Maybe they are playing,” Jimmy says. “Just having fun.”

“They could be the same whales we heard last night,” Günter adds. “Coming back through the channel. If so, they might be staying around here for awhile. Probably mating season.”

“Or fattening up from all that food on the reef,” Jimmy comments.

We hear a few faint blows as the creatures swim out of range and on to the sea. Then nothing.

The show is over.

That’s what I love about traveling the natural world: it whets my curiosity; it propels me to learn more.  What a wonderful way to begin a new day! And what a whale of a day this is will be.      

Have you ever heard a whale’s song?  If so, I’d love to hear your comments. If not, you can listen to them here:

http://www.great-white-shark.com/whale-sounds.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKeGP-jPB50&list=PL50a2EHouN8FZf49QlSYV2dWKDUvQfgm2

Some humpback whale songs are sung during the in mating and birthing season, but others are sung for other reasons. Researchers now believe that humpbacks learn from one another and sing for complex cultural reasons.

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I had a wonderful weekend attending the West Coast Multihull Rally on Catalina Island. Friday morning, I was the keynote speaker to an attentive audience of catamaran sailors. Günter and I showed the multimedia presentation “Come to the Islands” and explained how my latest book, “Sailing the South Pacific,” aids those desiring to cruise to there and how my first book, “Maiden Voyage” helps those who plan to cruise down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America and on to the Caribbean.  This was the longest Q&A session we’ve ever had! Sipping a Bloody Mary, no-one was in a hurry in laid-back Two Harbors.

Watching the presentation, while Bloody Marys were served at the bar.

Watching the presentation, while Bloody Marys were served at the bar.

Lois speaks to sailors attending Multihull Rally

Lois speaks to sailors attending Multihull Rally

The highlight of the three-day event was the Mardi Gras celebration on Friday night. The generous hosts, Lori and Kurt Jerman, even shipped in Louisiana crawfish. Seafood boiled in a huge pot near the harbor while we all lined up for “Hurricanes,” a New Orleans cocktail made with two kinds of rum, grenadine, and fruit juice. Picnic tables were covered with paper. Along the middle, the servers poured mountains of potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and spicy sausage. The feast was complimented with the best cole slaw I ever tasted. As the celebration concluded with music and dancing, I was relieved that I didn’t have to speak on Saturday morning! That was to be the day of the “rally” (although when any two sailboats are headed in the same direction, everyone knows it’s a race).

Lori Jerman, Lois Joy Hofmann, and Gunter Hofmann up on the bandstand for the 8th Annual Multihull Rally

Lori Jerman, Lois Joy Hofmann, and Gunter Hofmann up on the bandstand for the 8th Annual Multihull Rally

Mardi Gras night at the Multihull Rally

Mardi Gras night at the Multihull Rally

Because we had arrived by ferry, we had time to explore Two Harbors on Saturday. I’d been to Avalon a few times, but never to this off-the-radar port. Catalina is known as “Hollywood’s Back Lot,” where Clark Gable mutinied on the Bounty, Dorothy Lamour fought off the waves in “Hurricane,” and a mechanical shark ripped tourists apart in “Jaws.”

They say that if Catalina calls to visitors across the sea, the hamlet of Two Harbors whispers. One has a feeling of stepping back in time. For example, The Isthmus Yacht Club, where we stayed, is a converted Civil War barracks, managed by the club since 1951. In 1864, the U.S. army sent soldiers to survey the area as a proposed reservation for “militant” Native Americans. That plan was never completed. The barracks were used, however, by the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II as a training station for new recruits. Nearby is one of the oldest one-room schoolhouses in the U.S. It serves grades K-5; students travel to Avalon for grades 6-12. The only hotel in Two Harbors was built by the Banning brothers as their hunting lodge. They made Avalon into a resort community and then paved the first dirt roads into the island’s interior, built lodges and led stagecoach tours. The development by the Bannings ceased after the Avalon fire of 1915 and the onset of World War I. By 1919, the Bannings were forced to sell shares. The island was used for smuggling, otter hunting, and gold digging until chewing gum magnate Wrigley bought out nearly every shareholder and began to develop it for tourism during the 1920s. Two Harbors is also one of the last remaining “company towns” in the U.S. The single restaurant, general store and Banning Lodge are all owned by the same Wrigley corporation.

We hiked from Isthmus Cove to Cat Harbor to see where the pirates, smugglers and otter traders operated in the past. These days, there is nothing other than a harbor full of yachts. On the way back, we spied buffaloes up on the hills.  (In the 1920s, 14 bison were brought to the island for the filming of “The Vanishing American” and left there.) After returning to the Yacht Club, I hiked up the nearby hill to the Banning House Lodge and asked for a tour. What a view those 12 rooms have! The Lodge overlooks both harbors—it’s an ideal place to stay and chill out for awhile.

On the ferry ride back to San Pedro, I discovered that easy-going Isthmus Cove has a recent claim to fame: According to the Catalina Express magazine, an investigation into the 1981 “drowning” of Natalie Wood was re-opened in November 2011. In the final report, issued in January of 2013, the LA coroner’s office removed the word “accidental” from the cause of death, causing new speculation. Officials said that wounds found on the actress’ forearm, wrist and knee and a superficial scrape on the forehead open the possibility that she was assaulted before drowning. Rumors of an affair between Wood and Christopher Walken, her co-star in the film Brainstorm, had circulated for weeks and her husband, Robert Wagner, later admitted that his wife had been “emotionally unfaithful.” The three of them had sailed along Catalina’s coastline and spent the day drinking at Harbor Reef Restaurant. The article continues, “The drinking and arguing continued aboard Splendour, reaching a climax when Wagner shouted at Walken and shattered a wine bottle on the table. Wood retired to her room. She was never seen alive again.”

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Two plaques hang in our guest bathroom, one of a humpback whale surfacing, another of a baby humpback swimming atop its mother’s back. They are both signed by the artist, Sheri. Like most of the art in our home, this piece has a back story.

P1040744 Humpback Whales in Tonga

Humpback Whales in Tonga

Gunter tells the story on page 148 of Sailing the South Pacific:

The Eye of the Whale: A Moment of BlissBy Günter

Our guide spots a mother humpback whale with her calf; she orders the driver to approach them slowly. Then at the spot where we had last seen them, the four of us on this excursion, along with our guide, take to the water with our snorkeling gear. With my face down, I do not see anything right away. Suddenly, I see something right below me—big and white. Then I realize that what I am seeing is the mother on her back, letting the calf drink her milk. In the next moment, the calf begins to surface very close to me, just a few arm lengths away. It comes up and looks at me with a large black eye as large as a dinner plate. I am mesmerized. I cannot move.

I feel intimately connected to this animal in a very friendly way. I have a very strong urge to touch it. So I swim a few feet toward it and reach out with my arm. That is too close for the whale’s comfort! The calf rolls on its back and paddles away from me with a few powerful strokes of its large flippers. In doing this, one of its flippers hits me on the right shoulder. It feels like being slapped with a big piece of wood. I’m not injured, but the spell is broken. I become concerned that the mother will surface and toss me into the air. However, she doesn’t; she is a gracious creature who forgives my intrusion.

The Moment of Bliss in which I felt deeply connected to this fellow animal is gone. What is left is a scolding from the guide. I had violated the rules of engagement in the Whale Watcher’s Guide. I feel like a little schoolboy being reprimanded by the principal. But she is right. It is a very dangerous thing that I did.

Back in the anchorages, we find a houseboat with a sign saying ARK GALLERY. We motor over with our dinghy. We tell Sheri, the artist/owner, about Günter’s experience. “Then you will want a souvenir of that experience,” she says. “Here’s a set of plaques that I painted of those whales. One of the humpback surfacing. The other, as you can see, of the baby swimming above the mother.”

I love them!  There is no need to negotiate. I pay the price. I know exactly where they will hang in our home.

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