Once a week, every Tuesday, an excerpt from one of my books, chosen for no special reason.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

a rough draft



Yesterday I finished the rough draft of Bound for the Hills. I had begun the book 1/4/16 and finished it February 9, which meant 36 days (if I don't count the weeks or months ahead of writing where I am thinking and researching). 

Since a few writing days I didn't write anything, some I wrote five thousand words, a few maybe only a thousand, I don't have an average number per day (and have no intention of ever keeping track of that. This is one of the first times I actually know when I started and ended a book). I write what I get and usually that is several scenes, but I like to have time between events to think what might happen next. I am both a plotter and a pantser. I know where it's going but how it gets there, I find out a lot along the way.

Whatever the word counts, it was a lot of hours, but I feel good about the book. Next comes editing and roughly I am guessing the book will be out in March but not figuring on a date until I do the first edit and know how many problems I have. I put off my edits at least a week, usually more, to get some distance. Anyway, this is a snippet from early in the book. Again, remember, it's a rough draft which means it might change.

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     Ironically, it had been her last year in high school when two events changed her life. A friend loaned her one of the popular dime novels. She had snickered through it, at the same time she was writing a thesis on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales. The praise for the book had come from the greats of Hawthorne’s own time, not the least of whom had been Longfellow, who stated the short stories and Hawthorne’s writing was “characterized by a large proportion of feminine elements, depth and tenderness of feeling, exceeding purity of mind.” 
     It was then that her mind had begun to spin with the possibility of merging the dime novel with the elements of classic plots and her own writing. She had to learn about guns and such, but she found them rather interesting anyway.

     A month later, she had sent off her first manuscript to one of the publishing houses, noted for the dime novels. A contract returned quickly, with an option for more. Was this her making or her downfall? In some ways, she thought, as she took another sip of sherry, it had been both. She had sold out the classics as she mined them for plots on which she spun a western tale.
     When requests came for the mysterious author, Will Tremaine, to appear at book signings or to give lectures on the West, her editor, Matthew Jefferson, the only one who knew there was no Will Tremaine, brushed them off with various excuses. Having these lusty, sometimes brutal westerns written by a woman would never do was his reason. She had her own.
 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

excerpt from Desert Inferno




"At one time, I thought maybe you hoped there would be a more permanent merger with Mr. Ramirez. One involving me."
"I’d be in hell before I’d let that happen," her father said coldly, "Diego may have hoped that. I can’t say. He’s an odd bird. I was glad you never wanted to be involved with him, but you are old enough to be finding someone, to think about marriage. I'd feel better if I knew you had a man if something ever happened to me." She looked at him again, aware of the strain in his voice.
"It's been that little problem of meeting the right person." She wasn't ready to talk about Jake. There were so many variables and uncertainties attached to him. Could they put their lives together? Add to it, she wanted to be sure of his intentions before she said anything.
"Sure you aren't looking for the perfect man?" he questioned with a grin. "You know there is no such animal, right?"
Letting her voice deepen, she imitated his. "Men are no good, out for everything they can get and not to be trusted. Always assume they don't mean any of the promises they make. Be careful because they are beasts!"
He laughed. "Now I didn’t put it quite that way, but you do have to be careful. There are a lot of men out there who do not have honorable intentions toward beautiful young women."
"Sometimes women aren't honorable toward men either."
"That's the warning fathers give to sons." He smiled. "Get out more, princess. An apartment in town is a good idea. Or maybe even in Tucson, just to meet more people. Go to the right places where you can meet a nice guy, one like Mark Sandoval, a guy who wears a suit, comes home on time for dinner. You won't find a man like that out in these hills."
Rachel smiled, thinking how little Jake would fit her father's criteria for a husband. Remembering Jake's childhood, with no parental love, she felt a renewed surge of gratitude for the stability and love her father had provided especially after her mother died. "I love you," she whispered, moving over to kiss his bristly cheek.
"I love you too, honey. You know I just want you to be happy."
"Hey, you should take some of your own advice; find a woman to be with, to marry."
He laughed with disbelief. "That's different. I'm an old man."
"Hah," she snorted, remembering the power of his body as he hugged her.
He started to leave, but then turned back. "Hear anything more about the man who died out here?"
"No. Why?"
"Nothing. I just wondered. I'll leave you to your work. See you at dinner."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

from Bound for the Hills

Usually my excerpts have been from books already published. I am, however, writing on a new one, tentatively due in March, the seventh Arizona historical. Here is a snippet from its rough draft, which means it might change some before it gets to the final stage.

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    With late afternoon, she unpacked her father’s journals, the box of receipts and invoices. She stacked five lined tablets along with pencils and pens with ink. She had not known the journals existed until months after her father had hung himself. Her desire to find a reason for his suicide, the strange certainty that someone had been in their home the day of the funeral, all had led to her searching the house, but only when her summer school classes had ended did she have time to put more into it. A place by the pantry that didn’t look like the wall around it had led to finding a panel of sorts. A fingernail into what only appeared to be a groove in a door frame popped it open.
     Inside had been four journals and boxes of billings and business papers. When she opened the journals, she could not make heads nor tails of what they were saying. Her father wrote with a fine hand but the words hadn’t made sense. It didn’t appear to be a foreign language but… Why would he go the trouble of creating a secret cupboard, fill journals with gibberish, and then gather all these papers? Her desire to figure that out as well as a need to get out of San Francisco, to try something different, had led to the abrupt decision to leave town without telling anyone.
     She kept thinking her father had a reason for killing himself but what? He had worked for the Hemstreets for many years and seemed happy with what he did. The last few years though she’d been wrapped up in teaching, she’d paid less attention to what must have been his growing depression. Did the evidence he amassed relate to his decision to take his life? She felt tears in her eyes but brushed them away. She’d cried enough over his death. It was time to do something about it, do something with what he’d apparently left in secret knowing only she would find it.
      As the sun began to sink in the west, she lit a kerosene lamp, ate a slice of bread with butter and then poured herself a sherry to sit on the porch. A roughly hewn bench was along one side and from it, she could enjoy the changing colors and how they transformed the lake from blue to purple and then a fiery red. Sipping the sherry, she thought about her life and how many changes she had known in her twenty-nine years.