Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Sunday, December 30, 2012

To be or not to be

When I am writing a story, going through this preliminary phase of creating in my head, one thing that always stops me for awhile is when I am considering adding a spiritual/paranormal element. When I wrote Sky Daughter it was one of the aspects with which I wrestled. Should the spiritual element be real or imaginary? Either are possible in such stories.

I woke up thinking about this problem because some aspect of it is going to be in the Tucson historical romance. Tucson, Arizona and the valley in which it sets is a place with a tremendous number of spiritual elements all coming together in what at one time was a flowing river and its surrounding riparian zone. It inspires the possibility of real spiritual power-- of positive and negative sorts.

Picture Rocks
Tucson is a good place to find love but also violence. The events that have happened, keep happening, have created an atmosphere of conflict and resolution, beauty and danger. If you are sensitive, you will feel it in the air and come across the evidence that others have felt it with their petroglyphs, the shrines, the churches.  It's a good place to be when wondering about spiritual traditions, mysteries, and the source of life.

 San Xavier, the White Dove of the Desert

Friday morning I awoke thinking about all this in terms of the story, which I had laid aside to write the Christmas novella. The one thing I knew is that this story will have a spiritual element with a heroine who is curious about the psychic world, a Yaqui sidekick for the hero, the setting in Tucson, but how far did I want to take that?


I know a lot of the plot, the dilemmas the couple will face and feel I know these people but what about the part I don't know? How much of that shall I put into it? There will be some spiritual searching but how about the paranormal itself? I find it fascinating and have done a lot of research over the years, but how far do I want to go in this book?

While I’ve been in Tucson, I’ve gone to some of my favorite petroglyph sites, which show at the least an attempt to understand the Cosmos, possibly tell their stories, but were they placed where they are with a feeling these were sacred sites or are they all that is left? They do feel like sacred space which is to be respected in the same way a church does. Is there real energy of some sort and it's why they exist where they are? The site for San Xavier was a holy site to the Tohono O'odham before the Spanish priests came and erected a church there.

Shrine in downtown Tucson

There are many sacred sites around the United States and, of course, the world. Do they hold some kind of power as some believe of the Sedona vortexes? Or Stonehenge in England? Is there some kind of reality to the paranormal, that which we might experience but cannot explain? Could there be power from a physical source like say ions in the air which is why the energy is good around a waterfall?

For the book I am soon to start writing, my big question is not whether the questing will be there. It will be part of the underlying theme. The question is how real do I make it?

Once in awhile I have wrestled with that for a story as I am not traditionally religious and am more of an agnostic than an atheist. I don't write sci fi or fantasy where you can let fly with what you might imagine. Romances can have all of that, but mine have not. They have been grounded in the 'real' world as much as I know of it. It would be possible to put the spiritual elements in the story and have the characters recognize it as a false quest or equally it would be possible to have them touch the unknown, to come out of their experiences with a greater understanding of the unexplainable, the mystery of life. That's the quandary of a writer.
 
 el Tiradito

Humans really do want to believe there is magic and you see the evidence of it everywhere. Should this book be a place to find some of that magic or is it better to be 'realistic' about what is true...  if we know what that is.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bringing it together


While it's been a busy time while in Tucson, that doesn't mean writing isn't on my mind. I keep looking (fruitlessly) for a quote I saw when the Portland Art Museum had a Claude Monet show. The gist was that a neighbor saw Monet sitting in a lawn chair and said-- I see you're not working today. Monet said, no, he was very much working. Later when the neighbor observed him painting, he said, now you are working. Monet said, no, now I'm not.

And that's how a lot of writing is-- the ideas germinate and grow until they are ready to be put down on paper or a computer. I take an idea, in my head, so far down that road and then think, nah, doesn't work because of this or that. I go back to the start, in my head, and try a new direction. Ideas I might try come from many sources-- on the wind, from other people, something in the paper, a discussion,  a walk, and maybe the muse standing by wondering how long it'll take to get through to me where I really need to go with this.


For me, as a story comes, it will be in stages. I cannot describe how someone who writes a mystery, sci-fi, or fantasy would progress, but I can give an idea of how my romances do.

Some examples of ideas that I might use would be from the newspaper like the recent tragedy of firefighters being lured to a fire as an ambush, the embassy attack in Libya, a tsunami, big forest fire, political intrigue, etc. There are some stories I wouldn't touch because they hit too close to home, have too much emotional angst attached for me personally like school shootings.  When I do find an event intriguing, it won't be it exactly but more the energy of what happened set into some other place and time.

Where it comes to writing romances, the lovers are at the core, the center, the heart. And it's not just one of them but both. Who are they? What are their problems? Why would they be attracted? What keeps them apart? And those obstacles, do they seem believable that they can be overcome-- and if so, how would that happen?

Writing a full length book takes months-- even years. To spend that long, even with fictional characters, I have to like them-- both of them. If I find either weak, mean, detestable, stupid, ridiculous, what are the odds readers will see it otherwise?  I have to believe these characters feel real, could exist somewhere-- although none of my hero or heroines have ever been written using people I knew personally.


There are a ton of ideas (ideas are never in short supply) which will be discarded during this ruminating period. They might seem unrealistic or go nowhere. Maybe they never give me a theme. I like to write books that have an underlying structure and theme that goes somewhere. The novella had less responsibility that way as it was more of slice of life. Novels though are stories with meaning. It's not just interesting events that seem unconnected but that in the end, they will be connected-- that's the nirvana of writing.

I've had a lot of dreams that are full movie version, plots, characters, the works but they aren't in an historic period that I want to research, or I just cannot see where they could develop beyond what I saw. I always write those kinds of dreams down in a journal as you never when maybe sometime.

When I start, it's generally with a few thousand words just to see if it has the feel of something I could take all the way. Then I think more on what I have and where it's going. Perhaps an idea requires more research like say a mystical element where I need to know more about how such a thing has impacted others. Once in awhile I have thrown in a mystical element that I don't explain or try to make logical. For those bothered by such, I just want to say-- life does that all the time.

Right now with the business of getting this house ready for the vacation renters, my free-time thinking has been aimed at my second Arizona historical which had been what I thought I'd totally write while here and instead the energy went into A Montana Christmas, the novella that followed up on From Here to There.

The historical western though has not been forgotten as I do some further research and get more ideas from hikes around the valley. Its theme is coming clear to me. I was happy to find a topographical map of this region from 1904 which isn't quite what I wanted with my story set in 1886 but probably not wildly off. Understanding roads is always important in historical books as what we can do today isn't always what was possible back then.

Photos: Harris' hawks at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where they do raptor shows twice a day as viewers watch, learn more about the birds and habitat they require. Quail in our backyard here (a hawk's idea of a great lunch). Finally one of Tucson's wonderful December sunsets.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Leaving our stories behind

When we write a story, draw a picture, create a sculpture, we are creating something for others, hopefully leaving something of ourselves, of how we see the world. It will be our interpretation of an event, a spiritual truth, life, nature, the cosmos, but whether the 'others' will see what we intended, who ever knows.


When in Tucson, I always like to visit petroglyph sites. Well actually I like them anywhere I go but here there are quite a few with easy access. One on my someday list is harder to reach, much longer hike, and I wasn't in shape this trip nor had I gotten the necessary permits ahead of time-- someday though.

Because I am starting on another Arizona historical novel, one or more of these sites will be worked into the story, and I might use one of the photos in its trailer. They are a good example of how when you are writing something, being there can add to your ideas for the events. This western always was planned to have some mystical elements, Yaqui and others, and so these sites work into that theme.

Regardless of whether I am writing or not, visiting such places is always important to me. To be there always feels infused with energy which maybe explains why they are where they are... or maybe these are just the places the elements didn't wipe out the etchings into the rocks.

As for their original story or purpose, it's all guesswork. They could be stories of life, sites for sacred work, but whatever the artist intended, visiting them always seems good to me and I've had that pleasure on many sites across the West.

The following petroglyphs are all Hohokam, probably over a thousand years old and in the Tucson area-- Signal Hill, Painted Rock, and Honeybee Canyon.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas



It's been an interesting year for me with the books coming out one by one, learning so much about the ePub world and now spending my Christmas in our Tucson home which looks nothing like the above picture-- my perfect mountain cabin (purchased from CanStock without the text).

I expect Christmas Day to be walking up to the owl petroglyphs although time will tell what we actually do since we have a small tractor that we rented for the day as a way to smooth the driveway. The road up to the house has been pretty much a neck breaker as it stood.


Two of our cats have been outside and the short-hair, not an Arizona cat, found the wash  this time and began running off into it. With the vision of three coyotes there recently, still in my vivid memory, limited freedom is in order.


Our old one, who did come from here, he climbed a tree he had often climbed in his younger years when he lived here on his own, but he did it this time out of a sense of amazement-- seriously, I can still do this.


The youngest one, our female, she does not want anything to do with outside and makes pitiful sounds when taken out to give the fenced pool area a try. I'll work on getting her to pose for me out there but so far-- no go.

Monday, December 24, 2012

our time in Tucson

Because our main purpose to be at our Tucson, Arizona home at this time was handiwork, getting it ready for the first renters of the new year who will be here beginning the 31st, the time has been a mix of getting things done, sprucing up, along with getting the kinds of photos I can use for future trailers and blogs.

My physical writing was mostly done in the first week with now it being more about plot ideas in my head as I work out characters and actions before I start into a heavy writing schedule again.

For me, Arizona has been an incredibly rich experience this time with a lot of necessary activity and some very pleasurable. A few days were all practical like when the septic tank was pumped one morning with a new dishwasher being delivered that afternoon-- and the prep for both those activities ahead of time. Then there were days rich in artistic pleasures as when we visited Old Tucson, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and two petroglyph sites on the Winter Solstice.


This was my first time back to Old Tucson since it burned (arson) and had been rebuilt. I was in awe frankly of all the great photo ops for someone who wanted Old West type background material. Since they rebuilt it for movie work as well as tourists, it has all kinds of wonderful hidden niches that made for great photos. It doesn't have the same ambiance as when we knew John Wayne had walked the streets and one time we saw Clint Eastwood there with his family (or his look alike as we didn't stare or ask). I have so many fun photos from those years, but this new version is probably better for the photographer who wants something they can use more practically than ambiance.


On the 30th, we will begin heading for Oregon-- give or take a day based on weather forecasts. We are hoping the snow that has been hitting mountains between us and our little ranch will be off the highways. Due to the winter storms our route north will be through California which means more driving pressure but less icy conditions-- although it has its share of places it can happen no matter which way we go.

Winter has arrived and with it a lot of traveling attention must be paid to weather forecasts and highway conditions. We've gone north when it took chains to get over the Siskiyous or the roads were closed. One year we saw how bad the conditions were getting, pulled into a restaurant, heard the police saying they were shutting it down totally and got motel reservations at Shasta just in time which was a lot more pleasant than the alternative of a school-- and with the cats now, how would that work? Either of them? We'll watch for conditions and not get anything close to that happening.

Of course, here in Arizona, it hardly seems like winter other than the great lighting conditions, sunsets, decorations and music in stores when we are forced to visit one (seldom as possible).


Frankly, as reluctant as I was to come, I will be equally reluctant to leave. I have two homes I love very much. One has a lot more responsibility attached to being there and the other is too far from family. I have always said I have a divided heart and why couldn't I find my perfect place closer than 1200 miles from my other perfect place?


For those who have never seen our home in Tucson, I had made a video for its VRBO listing and it's on YouTube.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Writing and ethics


When I start figuring out a book, there are a lot of things I take into consideration for plots, characters, points of view, grammar, theme, setting, etc. One that is always there will be my personal ethics. Every book I have ever written is impacted by my own view point as to what is moral, what is wise, and what do I owe as a responsibility to readers even as they know these stories are fiction.

There are several examples of the kinds of things I wrestle with before the writing begins. One is the use of cigarettes. To some nobody should be portrayed smoking in a book or film. Reality is some people do smoke, and they do it for various reasons. When I am putting together these characters, their persona, I think about whether they would smoke.

As part of this piece, I went looking for how often my characters smoked-- five of the contemporaries. The heroine never smokes, and disapproves of the hero smoking and tells him so expressing her reasons. The heroes who are doing it know it's bad for them, but they are in high stress positions and do it anyway. They do not smoke around children as part of their responsibility to others while being irresponsible for themselves.

In Luck of the Draw, set in the '70s, it was more common that cowboys, really many men, smoked; so it's less questionable. Political correctness police won't like the idea anyway. My cowboy hero doesn't smoke a lot, but he's not talking of giving it up either. Even though it's set before so much information was available on the dangers of smoking, my heroine does express her distaste for it.

In both From Here to There and Evening Star, the hero has quit smoking when the reader comes across him in the story, but as he moves into a more high pressure situation, he takes the habit back up. In From Here to There, the hero quits again as he realizes it's not going to help him in dealing with his drug using brother. When he appears again three years later in A Montana Christmas, he is not smoking.

Her Dark Angel has a hero who is smoking to begin as part of his life but quits and stays quit through the book. He doesn't quit for himself but rather because he's going to be around the heroine's small children. If their relationship doesn't work out, it's hard to say if he'd go back to cigarettes in the future, but for now he knows he's kicked a habit that is hard to kick.

Desert Inferno has a hero who smokes, and it's not clear he'll ever quit although he off and on has given it a try. The heroine again admonishes him but she doesn't make it into a me or them issue.

No smoking would be acceptable for someone who hates cigarettes, and they have a point. It is estimated in the United States smoking kills 443,000 people a year including from secondhand smoke.  My heroes are young men though, and my belief is they will all quit before they get out of their 30s. I cannot bring myself to write about a woman smoking because it just seems wrong for their characters.

My family had a lot of smokers in it. One grandfather smoked cigars. The other pipes. My father smoked cigarettes until he finally quit after I got married... what was that about?  I had female cousins who always smoked. After we got married, we didn't allow cigarettes to be smoked in our house; and when the bigger family came for a holiday dinner, it caused some hard feelings. We valued our small children's health more than their irritated feelings.

When I put a cigarette in one of my character's hands I think about it for the story but also the ethics of it.

There is another issue, currently an even hotter button than cigarettes-- guns. After the most recent shootings and my reading here and there how guns, all guns, were at fault, I thought about this a bit more than maybe I had when writing the stories. From a few people, hard to say how many, there is a sense of near hysteria that all guns must be eliminated in the hands of private citizens because they are too dangerous.

Statistics say that there were 32,367 deaths in auto accidents in 2011. There were 12,664 murders of which 8,583 were with a gun. I don't look up the deaths from suicide with guns because if someone wants to kill themselves, there are many ways. I don't see them in the same category as being murdered when you didn't choose.

Such statistics and those from countries with less guns and gun fatalities have led to our culture re-evaluating the use of guns period. The anti-gun crowd would argue higher death rates from autos don't figure in as autos have a purpose beyond killing-- even though you are far greater risk of being killed in a vehicle than by a gun. People fearing guns will not be convinced by those statistics.

Most likely such rabid dislike of guns would cause someone to not want to read at least some of my books, maybe avoid me as an author since I have guns in any of them. It has made me think perhaps I need warnings on the books regarding both the gun and cigarette use so that those who dislike such won't be making the mistake of buying the books.

Since I write adventure, suspense, western romances, six of my contemporaries had a gun owned by hero or heroine although not routinely carried and no assault rifles of any sort.  In my as-yet-unpublished historical novels the men all owned and used guns but not all carried them on their hips-- that depended on the cultural aspect of where and why. Knives are used also-- as they are in some of the contemporaries. Hey, adventure/suspense implies danger, right?

There were guns fired in all but three of my contemporaries, sometimes owned by villains and used by hero or heroine. With three of the heroes (Desert Inferno, Bannister's Way, Evening Star) the men were in law enforcement-- one branch or another. They all fired those guns in the stories, but I considered in what to me were responsible ways.

A few times my heroines use a gun. One is given a gun by her father-in-law which considering the dangerous situation she and the hero are facing, she takes it as she was given a gun safety course as a teenager by her wealthy father. In the end she uses that gun to save the hero's life.

None of my heroines end up killing with a gun which I cannot say the same thing for the heroes. In all cases the shootings are with hand guns and in self-defense. As to caliber of each-- right now I am clueless as I am not into guns that way and receive all that info from a repository-- my husband.

In one book, the heroine uses a gun in what she considers self-defense, but she uses it poorly when she really should not have which the story makes clear.

Okay, leaving that, there is another ethical aspect I think about when writing. I don't write about heroes who are brutes but become sweethearts through the love of a good woman. My men might be wild ones, those who don't want relationships, they might be tough, but they never brutalize anybody emotionally or physically.

That one is critical to me because I think women too often have romanticized the love of a good woman changing a man. To me, that's bunk. When one of my heroes changes, it's because he wants a different life and he changes himself (personal examples come from my father and father-in-law). He doesn't change his basic character which was always what it is but maybe turning some of his qualities in new directions. I don't think it's healthy for women to think that a mean man will change for her. Too many women get killed that way.

The other ethical aspect for me is regarding rapes. None of my heroines say no when she means yes. To me that is despicable of a woman to play that kind of emotional game. Yes means yes. No means no. I am not about to write about a woman who likes to tease with no intention of following through. Likewise I won't write about a man who won't accept no. It's her loss if she wanted it but didn't want to admit it. Although romances are a bit of fantasy, there are some things that I think are damaging emotionally for us to expect.


While I recognize authors write stories that are not about their own personal ethics and tell stories of people doing things they'd never do, I think it's important that the ethics in any book tell the truth about life in a way that benefits the reader. I like my stories to have an overall theme of empowerment which comes through the actions and events. It's not empowering to have someone, we're supposed to admire, acting unethically.

Photos from Tucson, Arizona

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reflections

Interesting reflections in water require several elements-- some degree of stillness in the water, something above worthy of being reflected, and little or no breeze. They might be found in a puddle, lake, creek, river. Capturing them with a camera is a bit of a challenge helped much by having a polarizing lens.

If your photograph captures that reflection on the perfect day, it can seem as though it's as real as what was above. It's not, of course. It's always a reflection. My favorite ones look like an abstract painting with just enough air or water movement to blur the images.

The subject of reflection is a worthy one for a writer to consider and that will follow some recent photos of reflections taken at Catalina State Park.


 Life itself is about reflecting and discerning the real from the illusion. Plato claimed everything we experience is a reflection or shadow and wrote a philosophical argument to defend his opinion.

Writing fiction is always about the reflection. It's what a writer looks for-- finding what is real and capturing a reflection in words. No matter how realistic the words might sound, they are always reflections of life. Some are closer to what might seem real and have the reader thinking they read a slice of real life but they are always reflections. That is their challenge and their beauty.

An example of how reflections play out in fiction will use the events in Benghazi when four men were killed by a terrorist assault, one of them our US ambassador.

Non-fiction will try to reveal exactly what happened-- a perfect reflection. Since it's done by humans, that is not possible; and in that case, even more so because not all events are totally known except by those there (some of whom died).

Fiction can decide to take what happened there, use the events but create fictional characters to set within it. Now the story still appears realistic, but it's a fuzzier reflection of what actually happened.

Finally you get into romance, sci fi, detective, apocalyptic etc. You take that event, the facts you know, but you use them somewhere else totally and in the case of a romance, you put a hero or heroine into the situation and before it's over make the ending work as you wish the real one had.

The thing is a lot of people consider 'serious' literature to be more accurately reflecting life. Perhaps... or perhaps it's a reflection of something totally away from the real object and suiting an author's agenda.

When writing or reading, it's all something to consider-- what reflection was that writer aiming to create and why.


 Photo above cropped a bit and flipped to show that abstract painting in the water which the photo captured. I had thought of moving the log for the photo but opted to leave its interesting shape and contrasting color.

But because I could, I used my photo tools to take that log out, crop the image down a bit and remove some grasses with the wonders of Photoshop creating even more of a feel of an impressionistic painting-- this one in water. My version of Corel Photo-paint is an old one, but I know how to use it and it is a lot of fun to play with images to add or take away-- which also happens to be what creative writing is about.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

streams in the desert


After the rains, Tucsonians know to head for the stream beds. Many will have been dry, sometimes for months. Rain will change all of that, and desert dwellers know it. Because it's winter, the recent rains meant the Catalina Mountains have snow on their tops. That means the streams will have water for awhile as at least some of that snow won't last long.

Sunday when it was in the low 60s, we were among the many thrilled to have time once again with flowing water. People were in a good mood even as some weren't quite sure how to cross the streams without getting their feet wet. Me, I have no such problem as the one thing I most want to do is get my feet wet. It is part of the experience, and the price I pay is figuring out how to dry wet tennis shoes once I get home.

Since I have been here over many years, I can remember times where crossing this stream meant almost hip high. I don't do this, of course, when the floods are at the dangerous levels, where flash floods are likely, where the water has the force to take down trees. One year, after such a flood, the whole canyon view was changed with most of the big trees gone, those without the right roots to hold on.

With the novella finished, my mind has switched back the novel I had expected to be writing while here. Being out on the desert, wading these streams, seeing the wonderful, lush desert terrain is all part of getting in the mood to do that. One afternoon I will go down to the museums and look for expansions of my thinking, but right now I am more in the mood to go wading.


Nature is a wonderful healer. Whenever the world gets to feeling like it's too much, I recommend finding places out in it. City park, backyard, or a wonderful place like Arizona's Catalina State Park which was set aside by earlier generations. Aren't we lucky there were people like that back then. I hope we can carry on their legacy for future generations!



Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Montana Christmas

Writing this novella was a pure pleasure because it let me experience Christmas as it was over many years for me. It is set in a place I dearly love-- Montana's ranch country. The characters are ones I spent a long time thinking about when I wrote From Here to There which takes place three years earlier. It is about the feel of Christmas, about a Winter Solstice celebration, about people and families and most of all always about ranch living and the beautiful state of Montana.

Novellas are an interesting form because of being shorter (anything from 17,500-40,000 words) and freer of form without the need of a beginning or an ending as we expect with novels. In writing it at a fast rate of 5000 words a day (wouldn't have been possible had it not been more like an extension of a novel than something new) kept me right in the story without the usual go do something else break. After five days of writing, I gave it two of editing (with help from another) and here it is with Kindle doing their part to get it out quickly. If you are in the mood for a Christmas story, have not yet tried a novella, give it a try.



A Montana Christmas is about the meaning of Christmas where it comes to family and ranch living. As a novella, it’s a slice of life taking characters from an earlier book, From Here to There, moving them three years ahead where Helene, in Montana to take care of her recuperating uncle, is determined she and her husband, Phillip will spend Christmas on the ranch instead of Boston or some exotic island as is his wont. Hoping to soon have a baby of their own, Helene is eager to make Christmas a time of family joy.

Phillip is busy with his consulting work back east, but his real reason for avoiding Christmas comes from childhood memories that make him want nothing to do with anything reminding him of those chaotic years. When he reaches the ranch and learns Helene’s full plans are also to invite his family, he’s less than thrilled, but on the ranch, he has plenty to keep him busy. Pleased by her plans or not, Phillip would do anything to make his lovely wife happy.
  
With all the characters in From Here to There, this novella adds some new ones. It also suggests the start of a new romance-- but to find out what that might be, read the 25,400 word novella-  A Montana Christmas


Saturday, December 15, 2012

the desert smells like rain

After five days of intensive writing, I did finish the Christmas novella with editing its 25,000 words my main concern now. I really haven't felt like writing anything about it though with the horror of the school shooting seeming to swallow me. How do we get past this kind of thing without feeling severely depressed, sorrow for the parents, the children and concern for what do we do about it? This attacks us all as who doesn't feel empathy when children are attacked wherever we see it.

Despite all those emotions, I did keep editing the Montana Christmas story because sometimes, when there is nothing we can really do about something, that's the relief-- to move to a different realm. Fiction can be that realm unless it's depressing-- one reason I like romances.

We have had rain in Tucson. Some of it quite heavy. There are two things I love about the desert that are not the norm. One is when it rains because it makes the desert smell so good. The other is the month of August which combines rain, thunder storms and heat. Almost every time we come to Tucson, we do get some rain, but it doesn't last long. Just a day or two and then gone. I totally enjoy it while it's here as does the land.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the novella and Christmas

Until now, the only books I have written are novels ranging in length from 80,000 to 135,000 words. I don't really think in terms of short story ideas and had little interest in taking the time to develop characters only to end a story at less than 40,000 words.  I kept seeing novellas popping up in Kindle which got me more interested in finding out more about them from the writing standpoint.

"The novella has ambivalence built into its DNA. It's neither one thing nor the other and tends to make you think even as it lures you down blind alleys and serves up irresolute endings." from  the novella is making a comeback

As I researched the form to determine if I wanted to do this, I learned length determines what it is. A short story runs from 3500-7500 words. A novelette from 7500-17,500. Novella 17,000-40,000. Novel 40,000 or greater although the average novel will be 80,000-120,000.  Of the three shorter options, novellas allow for more characters, more complications, actually more freedom of form, but ideally sticks to a theme (which might be unconventional). It will most likely have one point of view. There is some disagreement on whether it should have chapters as some believe it should be read at once to fully experience it. Others still see the value of chapters for readers without time to do the whole thing in a sitting.


It was while we were driving south to Tucson that I firmed up  my ideas for writing my own. Some of why I wanted to do it was the challenge of something I hadn't done but more was because I had begun to think it'd be fun to write a Christmas story where my own Christmas this year will be very nontraditional.

If I was in Oregon, I would do some decorating. It's become more minimal through the years as I used to go all out for  it. We would go to our son and daughter-in-law's for Christmas Eve. Our kids and we will, however, have our gift sharing and Christmas in January at a home rental in Sunriver so don't feel too sorry for me not being with them December 25th. Okay so you don't feel sorry at all knowing I will be in Tucson likely with sunshine and a morning hike on the desert.

None of that will be like my own Christmases as a child and growing up with the large Trueax family who gathered regularly for holidays-- Christmas always at my uncle's home. As that changed with the old ones dying and our own babies being born, it would usually be our home and big dinners, often including friends who might not have family nearby. That has disappeared except in my memory and my memory is what I was counting on to write this story.

Generally speaking when I write, I don't rush a book. I like to know where it's going but be open to surprises along the way. Surprises come out of writing and thinking, going off and thinking, writing some more. Surprises require being aware of where the story might have something to add beyond the original concept.

To write this novella in time to be available at all before Christmas meant writing 5000 words a day. Now I have done that but I think writing that fast makes it too easy to go with the trite event, to slip into stereotypes or pigeonhole characters not allowing for interesting nuances. 5000 words a day doesn't give a lot of time to develop secondary plots or characters. None of that a problem with a novella.

In the case of this novella it would especially be made easier since it would use characters and a setting from a book I'd already written-- From Here to There. It would bring the story forward three years and set it into the holidays. Writing it felt like just continuing on with that book. Even with more words in a day, I still took breaks after a thousand words where I'd go off, do something else, think about what happened before heading back to the keyboard.

As has happened to me before with my writing, what starts out simple comes to have a broader theme than I originally anticipate. This story is about the season-- ranch style but also and more importantly about two families where one has been very estranged. My heroine wants to bring them together as she is ready to start her own family. With thoughts of babies in her head, she wants a big family to be part of her someday children's lives. She also wants her husband to know the kind of Christmas she experienced through a beloved aunt and uncle.

So my story is about traditional Christmases (with a Solstice thrown in) and about the healing of a family. It has lended itself well to writing 5000 words a day but mostly because so much of it is about tradition, family, and with characters I already knew.

Hopefully A Montana Christmas will be available on Kindle by December 16. For this one, I am using an editor to catch my glitches as there is no way I can write something this fast, instantly edit it, and not miss things. Although I will edit myself, I wanted another perspective.

It will be out a bit late for this season but still around next year-- the beauty of Kindles. I don't know if I will write another novella but maybe someday a secondary character or some offshoot from a book will suggest the time is ripe. Where it comes to my life or writing, I like to leave myself open for new ideas and changes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Autumn's end in Tucson

A lot of people don't realize that southern Arizona has a colorful autumn because they think of the desert as being all there is. Where you find autumn is in the river canyons. As far as I am concerned there is nowhere with prettier autumn colors for their intensity and the surprise as you round a bend in a trail and find another burst of color.


Photographing the desert in late fall and winter yields more fantastic colors with the sun lower on the horizon and not washing out all below it. There aren't the gorgeous colors of the cactus and wildflowers but other colors compensate for that and you do find an occasional wildflower still doing its thing until the hard freeze comes-- and some winters Tucson can go down to 10° F. which means a lot of garden plants have to be hardier than one might expect.

On the long drive down, we discussed an idea for a novella that would encourage readers to find a different way into my stories, characters and way of writing. I did a little research on the form for novella and it was about what I expected ranging in length from 17,500-40,000 words. 

So once I got set up at my Tucson desk, I began writing my first novella. From what I read some have chapters and some not. The argument against them is a novella is something the readers take in a single bite. To me 20,000 words seems like more than one bite.

My story is using characters from another of my books which has made the writing easier as I am basically picking up these same people three years later at Christmas time. Fortunately this was a book that never had an epilogue; so this will tell the readers that liked it what happened to those characters. So far the only problem is it has glued me to the computer a little longer than I might wish when I am here with so much to do.

For the house, me, and the books, I am full of ideas; but since this is the season where tomorrow will be 12/12/12 (the last such date until 2100 starts it all over and I won't be around to see unless reincarnation is true), and we are on our way to 12/21/12, it seems a rather magical time even without the Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa and who knows what other seasons. It feels good to be here, and my blood pressure is almost back down to normal-- almost.

And for anyone who wondered after my last blog here, our cat, BB is much better. That upset appeared to be emotional and he's eating and looking fine, enjoying walks outside when he goes with one of us as we won't let him wander around given he is deaf.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

traveling with cats

There are a lot of ways to get to our Tucson home from Oregon. Flying is fastest (easiest on our old bodies); but it means we don't have the truck, tools like paint sprayers, and cannot take the cats. We've taken the cats several times, left them a few with someone to look in after them. This time, having one geriatric cat of about 17 (he came as a stray so unsure of age but we've had him since 2001 when the veterinarian guessed his age as being 5 or 6) and a middle aged cat (7 or 8 but also came as a stray) with immune disorders, leaving the three of them was out of the question. It'd be $75 a day to kennel them and then we'd have to trust the veterinarian to make wise choices if something went wrong. We took them all.

Traveling with cats is not the fun of taking a dog. Cats hate travel. Motels apparently hate cats. It seemed harder driving down through Nevada than it had been through California. A fair number of motels say they are pet friendly and have some rooms set aside-- that often means one small dog and zero cats.

I'm fairly familiar with calling ahead for reservations and asking if pet friendly means cats only to have the motel say sorry but no. I am not sure of the why of this as everything a cat could do to damage a room, a dog could also do; but we are always honest about having them as some people are very very allergic to cats.

What I had not expected was calling motels in Alturas, CA, and finding none allowed cats(necessarily revising our travel route). And one was downright rude about it with two intense words-- NO CATS! It seemed a trifle foolish of the person as isn't a motel a business that depends on customers? Why not be polite about the rejection? Politeness cost so little.

Call it paranoia but considering where it happened, I began to wonder if the motels rejecting cats thought everybody who traveled with one was a liberal and only dog people are good Americans! Anyway that kind of thing dictated when we would have to stop for the night and led to one much longer day's drive than anticipated.

 One motel that did take them charged us an extra $10 per cat, and also short sheeted the beds. I didn't mind the extra charge per cat as much as I minded sheets that did not stay in. We always go out of our way to leave a motel clean, even using a Shark (small vacuum cleaner) to tidy up before we leave. I am not sure if the resistance of motels is due to others not being so careful, but I am thinking of writing the chains to ask what it's about.


As we drove south on the Vulture Mine Road, I got some photos of the old mine. There are tours but when we pass there, we're always anxious to get to Tucson. All the photos are from that site. Arizona has a history as interesting regarding mining as it does Native American wars, cowboys and outlaws.


When we finally got to Tucson, our oldest cat, BB, who had come from here, was thrilled to roll in Arizona dirt-- right before he got diarrhea. Don't bother saying that's why some motels accept dogs and not cats as we've had dogs get it also. I am concerned though about him as he's now deaf, eating fine but growing weaker. When he jumped from one motel bed to the other, I nearly applauded as anything he does that appears strong makes me happy. He's my hunk.

The thing with BB, who now travels pretty placidly having done it a lot in his life, is the diarrhea could have happened at home without us there to deal with it. Now if it's not better by Monday, we'll be visiting the veterinarian we use down here. He seems bright-eyed and interested in what's going on around him-- more so than the other two who hated the whole thing from truck to motels to getting here. We have one that hides under beds or behind cabinets in motels trying to avoid our taking him. Cats don't use much logic as far as I can see.

I did learn that when Motel 6 says they accept pets, they mean pets-- not declaring cats beneath them. I also was surprised at how clean, economical, and nicely set up they were. It'd been a lot of years since I'd stayed in a Motel 6, but I have a feeling there will be more in my future as they make planning travel routes a lot easier than having to call each motel in a chain to see what their policy might be.

So for now I am relieved to be back in Tucson, will much enjoy my time here although we have a lot of work to do. It's just good to be off the highways as some areas were very heavy traffic, lots of trucks. My blood pressure was some higher when I got here but nothing to what it'd have been if I wasn't taking meds for it. I simply cannot find myself relaxing on such a long trip. I will be relaxing, lots of writing time but with some for hiking, museum visiting, relaxing in the sunshine, and getting this house ready for its winter visitors with the first coming in January right after we leave.

Sunset from our Tucson house-- December 8