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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Outlaw Pleasures

Although over the last 50 some odd years, settings for my books have always gone between historic and contemporary periods, the books on Kindle up until now have all been contemporary. It seemed a good idea to submit books that fit a category. Now it's time to open a new category with ePublishing my historical romances.

When I wrote it, Outlaw's Lady had a different title, Outlaw Pleasures, which I still like very much but given the popularity of erotica these days and the fact that this book is not, I felt compelled to change the title to something a little more western. I didn't want to disappoint readers seeking erotica nor did I want to lose potential readers who might avoid erotica but are open to healthy sex.

As a title, outlaw pleasures suited what this story was really about which is that a culture can turn simple joys into forbidden fruits. My heroine was born into a time where women's options, even to how they dressed, were limited by the expectations of their social strata. If women enjoyed sex or even their own bodies, they were of the 'other' sort. Men were often as much stifled by the rules as the women. The story is about jumping over those boundaries and finding one's own way.

Given the realities of the publishing eBooks, what readers expect, it not only needed a different title but also a different cover. Below is the original digital painting for it and still my favorite. Alas, I am not trying to please me but the readers who might buy the book.

I also had to give up the mustache as if you aren't painting something digitally, putting a mustache on a stock photo is difficult. Models with mustaches on the sites where I look are rare to say the least.  (I personally LOVE mustaches on men-- on boys it's a bit more iffy).

So here is the only place the original cover will ever be seen. I like the new one too. This was, however, my first love, and you know how you feel about first loves...

Outlaw's Lady is the story of Abigail Spenser, trapped in her comfortable, but limited world until an opportunity comes along to escape. Once she leaves behind the rules, she begins to learn about life and that nothing is without cost. She learns of simple life pleasures she'd never experienced and tastes of the forbidden fruit.

It's also the story of Sam Ryker who had never found life easy and then along came a chance to change it all, to have what he'd thought was beyond him-- a 'good' woman. He'd had the reckless freedom but now what about living with the expectations of another person, of finding a life inside the rules? There's more to it than just getting 'the' woman, you have to then keep her.

What these two learn is there will always be expectations, can they put theirs together and make a relationship work?

I put together a video with images that inspired the book both from my time in Arizona and my imagination. The link to it will only be available to those who have read the book because it gives away too much of the plot which means best appreciated afterward as a way to savor it in a different way. In it, I wrote a prologue about how I see outlaw pleasures-- even today.

Outlaw Pleasures 
Take responsibility for your life
Dress as you want
Follow your own strong life code
Live in tune with the land
Love hard and honestly
Live your life to the hilt.
Step out and make your own way
even if others don't much like it.
Don't break laws--
unless those laws go against nature
and true wisdom.
If all goes well, Outlaw's Lady will be available on Kindle October 7th. It will have a marketing trailer on YouTube, but I'll be writing more about all of that in the days leading up to its availability. This is actually the first time I'll have done much in the way of 'promotions' leading to a new book, but I feel it's more essential since this is the first of something new-- my historical romances.

Incidentally, I now have my books on Good Reads. I am still not sure how to put an app here that leads readers to my site there. Navigating GoodReads hasn't proven easy for me, but it would be rewarding if I ever figure it out as it has many readers-- or so it says. It is a place to list the books we have read, are reading and our ratings for them; so it's fun even when it's not involving my own books.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

symbolism in books

Personally, I find it fun to put a little mysticism into my stories. In my daily life, I can't say I am a particularly superstitious person, but I do pay attention to what is around me and enjoy coming across possible symbols. How much weight I give them varies from zero to wait and see.

When I write a book, I am free to give mystical symbols more weight.  It takes some research to find the appropriate creature, learn its meaning, be sure it could actually be seen where I need it to appear, and then decide how much it is revealing. Does it come from an outside spirit source or simply the character's need to find something to help?

When I create a trailer, I often put in an animal of some sort that might not have even been in the story but that its meaning suits the feel of the book. For that I have used spiders, hawks, foxes, etc.

In the book itself, using say a dragonfly and having it continually crop up can serve as foreshadowing if there is a character who might know it's meaning.

The above photo was one of a series I took of a dragonfly over at Klamath Lake in 2010 with fireweed in the background. The unusual rounded reflection was pure luck with a sun bubble and the stem as it was not photoshopped. For coloring and purpose, it would be perfect for the book I am writing where the heroine is like the fluffy pink flower, unfocused and uncertain of direction but about to find a metamorphosis coming in her near future.

Dragonflies symbolize change as they spend most of their life under water as a nymph. When they emerge, they fly for only a few months before they die. Seeing them like this is fleeting time they fly with beauty and grace. If a character were to see dragonflies where they did not expect, it would seem a possible indication of major change coming.... if one believed in symbols.

This praying mantis shot, from September 2012, also has a bit of an other earthly feel to it from the big camellia leaf right behind. Being a telephoto shot, the background was lost allowing the insect to have center stage.

This is a female and they sometimes eat the male when they mate. Can't think of a much more apt symbol for a man afraid of relationship or perhaps a man who had bad luck with a wife, she died or left him, and now he worries that the next woman will be the end of him.  Perhaps a more positive meaning for the man would be to make sure that the woman he chooses is his equal, that he cannot be overpowered by her, nor would he want to overpower her. Two strong mates and neither will destroy the other.

It's rewarding to think of symbols for a story using something from the animal world be it a bird, fish, mammal, reptile or insect. They can add something to the story and give the writer a little more depth not only for their character but to the events. It can be a small creature or a very large and frightening one.

For life, seeing such things, even better getting a photo adds excitement. In a book, it can help tell the story.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Praying Mantis

For the week before the fall equinox, it might have seemed nothing had been happening in the writing of my new book. No writing on it can be proven, nothing has ended up on the hard drive. A lot is happening though-- most of it in my head.

With the lead characters laid out as to their personalities, secondary characters making themselves known, the issue right now is knowing the historic facts I need. Currently I am reading The United States Marshals of New Mexico & Arizona Territories 1846-1912 by Larry D. Ball. It is helping me understand better the role of a United States Marshal and making me wonder if I really want the hero of that second book to be one. Maybe sheriff of Pima County would be better. I'll know better when I finish the book.

In terms of plotting, I know the next steps in the story between hero and heroine but am thinking a lot on what else happens. I am getting a better sense of who the villain will be. I am thinking about where the /\/\/\/ goes in terms of action. I think I mentioned the W before how you build excitement, release it, build it again, release, sometimes smaller and less intense before comes the final build up to hopefully a rewarding climax.

One thing I believe, after having written thirteen books, with two in the nymph stage, about writing a new book is it should not be always happening. Writing a book should not be on a timetable, and it should not be pushed to happen. It's about patience, waiting, thinking, planning, exploring, collecting, and being ready when the time comes to lay it down fast.

Last week a praying mantis returned again to the yard. Now they are likely here all along but not seen by me. I do look for them, but they aren't showy of colors or behavior like a dragonfly or butterfly.

The praying mantis is seen when it's ready. Given the season, this one was probably looking for a place to lay her eggs. I cannot think of an insect, except maybe a spider that seems to move with such slow purpose and without fear of humans-- apparently.

Of all the blogs I have written, the one drawing the most visitors, with still leaving comments several years after I wrote it, was the one on the praying mantis. People are fascinated by them and curious as to their meaning.

Because I believed, for me, that this praying mantis related to writing, perhaps wants to be a character in the lawman's story, I went looking for spiritual symbolism and came across this:

"The mantis comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. Usually the mantis makes an appearance when we've flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us because of the external din we've created. After observing this creature for any length of time you can see why the symbolism of the praying mantis deals with stillness and patience. The mantis takes her time, and lives her life at her own silent pace"
It suits how I feel right now about the writing. I am collecting information  and images-- even have most of a cover worked out. Meanwhile I am grateful to the praying mantis for the photographs for which it posed so nicely with over 30 shots-- 4 or 5 coming out very revealing of her personality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A villain's motivation

As long as I've been writing about Craig Johnson's books, I should add I had some issues with them which didn't cause me to not enjoy them but likely came with the territory of writing myself. It is regarding his villains.

I have to add here that where he writes his stories from first person point of view (hereto-after to be known as POV), it can be complicated. All you can ever know, when the story is told from first person, is what the 'I' character knows and can observe. If that lead character is very astute, a good judge of human nature, then you can know quite a bit about the others in the story.

In the Longmire books, the sheriff, Walt Longmire, is a pretty good judge of character generally both of others and himself. That fact is what makes the books work. When he isn't, it makes sense to the reader that he likely would not be as it stays pretty consistent to his previous mistakes. We can all be fooled, but a first person book where the character was clueless about the world around him/her would be boring and fall apart quickly. It is believable that a sheriff, especially one with all of Walt's previous experiences, would be good at judging people-- it's what keeps him alive.

Except, I think, there is a flaw where it comes to the villains. Without knowing their motivations, things get thrown at the reader. Attacks come, villains have motivations that make no sense logically, and I felt they were mostly done to keep the books lively. If you want more than action, if you are looking for the villains to act in ways that suits their goals, or even to have reasonable goals, some of the violent attacks fell apart for me. Like all that villain had to do was sit tight and they wouldn't end up dead or found out. If they had a good reason to not do that, then fine; but if not, it felt like an author ploy.

In a book where the POV shifts and once in awhile you get the villain's, you can make it more understandable when a villain acts against his own best interests. You can even establish a villain who is a psychopath and that does not require any motivation as psychopaths don't operate with the same kind of reward system that most humans do.

Anyway in several of the books, I really didn't buy the villains' motivations to do what they did. Yes, they did it. Yes, it put Walt's life at risk, might've ended up killing him if somebody else (spirit or human) hadn't interfered. So it's kind of leave logic behind and enjoy the ride.

A place romances fall apart is when a hero and heroine simply don't seem they'd have really chosen each other. Or maybe when the obstacles standing between them seem more author created than real.

In an adventure story, which Johnson's books are, as much as mysteries, for me at least, the villain should have motivations that go beyond author contrivances; and it's the only real complaint I have had with his books.

In my own I have the advantage of using third person POV, sometimes sliding into someone either closer to the villain, or even into the villain's thinking. I realize that's a benefit of writing romances and not the literary type novels some prefer (which have more structural limitations). As long as it works smoothly, I can go where I want to tell the story-- although I avoid any omnipotent views-- everything in one of my books is coming from one character or another's perspective.

The closest I came to using only one POV was not a first person but Evening Star did use third person POV sticking with the heroine rather than going into what the hero was feeling. Marla, as a lawyer, was pretty good at assessing and noting people's motives (well other than her own). For that one though I also used the villain's POV as it helped make what was coming make sense. It also enabled another character's view of the hero since the reader never got his directly.

I really appreciate the skill that Craig Johnson has to make his stories come alive. I also get that it's not easy to use first person. I get that he has to keep action going and danger constantly happening unexpectedly. I just like books where I believe that the villain did what made sense, and that it wasn't all about an author giving Walt one more exciting obstacle to nearly not overcome. The reason for the original crime though is often very cleverly thought out-- just those attacks not so much as far as I could see...

Since reading mysteries is not my forte, maybe others will see where what bothered me was not a problem to them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Walt Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson

When I am writing, I don't read a lot of fiction (translated-- zero fiction). I am busy with editing, writing new material and research. There is NO time for pleasure reading-- then my daughter told me about an author and series she thought I would enjoy.

Adding to what I said in first sentence, almost never do I read series books where the same character is in each story. That means no Nancy Drew, no Agatha Christie, no Raymond Chandler, not many mysteries. There is an exception-- every single word written by Tony Hillerman in his Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries set on the Navajo Reservation.

What made them stand out is what trapped me into Craig Johnson's books: Nature, the West, character driven stories, and a touch of Native American mysticism. Okay, like everybody else, I fell in love with Walt too ;).

Early summer was when I first heard of Longmire. Writers in the Amazon forums asked if others had liked the A&E television series based on the books. I don't watch series television either; so I didn't go looking further until my daughter got me interested, and I bought the first Longmire book-- The Cold Dish. Big mistake as there was no stopping after that. I now own all but the last one with only three left to read before I have to wait for him to put out his ninth novel. I also have to find a way to get to see the cable series to see if I think they did the books good.

These stories are not romances but romance is in them. They are set into a community of characters which I really like, a town and area where I have been (okay not the exact town as it's fiction but towns just like it in Wyoming), realistic Native American characters, and the feel of the West today. The hero is the kind who draws a lot of women to him in the books and boy howdy, he would me if I came across him-- married woman or not ;).

The appeal is how much more there is to the stories than just the mysteries or the characters. An example is written about in the link.

For me, the author, Craig Johnson, has written a winning series, very addictive, and actually reminds me of some things I should be sure are in my writing: Crisp, brings you right to where the story is set, and winning characters that make you come back to see how their relationships are progressing and how will the next mystery be solved when it lands in his part of Wyoming-- a part I found very beautiful and addicting all in itself.

Photos taken in 1998 on one memorable trip into Craig Johnson's piece of Wyoming. I wanta go back!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

negative reviews and the ego

Recently, when I read a negative review of one of my books, it stopped me in my tracks. Huh!! The reader said she (assuming it's a she) liked about 80% of the book but got to a place where it became boring, boring boring. So boring in fact that she labeled the book-- DNF (did not finish).

Well this shocked me on several levels. First because even when I hate a book, and I've hated plenty through the years, if I've read part of it, I always want to find out how it ended. To literally not care what happened to these people you spent 80% of the book interested in, that is really hating it!

So I went looking for where the book might've fallen apart for this reader but before I go into that, here's my blurb for it--
Raven didn’t want her ex-husband back. She didn’t want to want him at all! Although her life wasn’t all it could be, David Bannister, who recklessly did things his way, could only add complications.

As part of a murder investigation, Bannister’s plans included getting his ex back but hadn’t included modeling nude for her art class. Life has a way of throwing ringers into our plans. For David that included a sly murderer who was not just willing but maybe even eager to kill again.

A small, Oregon, college art department-- such an unexpected setting for a vicious murder. Whom among the artists might be the killer? The story entwines itself with the Greek mythologies, particularly that of Prometheus, a god who with the best of intentions gets himself in big trouble-- a prototype for Bannister’s life. There is some spice, a sly murderer, Oregon, and a question—can love be better the second time around? Adult romance.

Previously titled—“Golden Chains” at 94,000 words now expanded to 100,400 words. Trailer at YouTube-- Bannister's Way
 It's hard to say if I would have lost this reader if it had been shorter. I looked at what was happening at what might've been the 80% point and saw two things that might've lost interest so forcefully.

Besides being a love story, this is also a murder mystery. With no overt clues, the hero has to find a motive for the crime as it appears to be the only way to catch the perpetrator. Perhaps where the story got into that possible motive, it got too arty for someone looking for a straight romance.

The other possibility is about there is where I expanded the role of three old ladies who I thought were interesting, informative about life, and fun to write. Might be the reviewer did not see it that way. The review didn't give a clue as to where the 80% point was reached.

At any rate, what I took away from this review is my books aren't for everybody. As romances, mine will always have more to them. The 'more to them' is what makes them fun for me to write. It also is most likely what the publishing houses didn't like.

Besides a man and a woman's complex relationship, this book is about the world of art, the difficulties of creative work, education, as well as how detectives sometimes operate. It's set in a place I particularly like but not a place that everybody might find exciting. I have long ago realized I cannot please all the ones who might get hold of one of my books. I do have a good sense of what I am trying to do with each story and try hard to get that accurately across in the blurb. I don't want to mislead.

I am happy that most likely this reviewer at least got it for free as the date of her review was right after one of its free times. That pleases me because she didn't have to ask for a refund (it has happened), and it means it was a free book that at least got partially read (when they are free, who knows).

It also is going to have me thinking more about that 80% point in future books. Do I change something there that loses the tempo of what went earlier. I won't alter this book as I like the three old ladies, the art community/murder investigation, and the conversations about art; but I will think about the next ones long and hard to be sure at 75% I don't start losing my original focus and hence the readers.

I think reviews, even the painful ones, are helpful to a writer so long as the reviewer really was expressing how they saw it and not just having fun tearing something apart (that happens too). I felt this review was serious and meaningfully given. Negative reviews don't mean I will change things because there is a certain rhythm that I look to create and use. Sometimes though I can do something differently that at least will let the reader finish the story :).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The writer and the ego

 Defining ego for the purposes of this piece is a good place to start because a lot of people see the word as about conceit or overly inflated importance.

What I am talking about is the "I" or self of any person-- as thinking, feeling,  willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of thought. Or even more exactly, in psychoanalysis, the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world mediating between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment. It can also be thought of as self-esteem or self-image.

At the 2012 Republican Convention, when President Obama got taken to the woodshed by an elder of our country, it was followed by a lot of analysis from right and left wing political factions. When Obama was asked what he thought about it, he said, "One thing about being president or running for president - if you're easily offended, you should probably choose another profession." That could be said for the creative arts as well.

Earlier I wrote a post explaining how I believe anybody can write, not anybody can write a book, and even less can write a book that others will want to read.  It's the third part where ego comes into play for the writer. You can write all you want but until you try to market it, as long as you keep it to yourself, you don't get into potentially ego bruising or changing territory.  It can remain the greatest work the world will never see.

With any of the creative efforts, it's when you put your own creative self out there to be valued or devalued by others that you better have a strong ego or it's going to tear you and your work apart. By strong ego, I don't mean over inflated, but confidence in the work and the message being presented. Without that sense of self and purpose, I think reviews would potentially be very difficult to read and that probably goes for those by professionals, who are out there to tear apart, as well as today's most common reviewer-- a reader who enjoys writing about what made a book work or not for them.

Years ago I sent my work out to various editors to get it back with rejections. That wasn't so hard on my ego as you might expect as usually the rejections were often accompanied by some nice words about my writing skill. The problem was the message, that what I wrote didn't suit their need for a romance novel-- and romance novels are what I have always wanted to write.

I understood that my goal for writing love stories had an element that wasn't common to romance novels of the time. There is likely a reason for that. What the publishers wanted is what they could sell. What I wanted, which was to put something more to the story than love and angst, was getting in the way.

When I decided to ePub, I skipped over the editors and took the work directly to the readers (assuming any could find them). Today there are ten books with more to come, for anybody to look at, analyze and sometimes review from the text to the covers to the blurbs. Some of those reviews have stung and caused me look again at the work. Do I need to change something? Can I change what they don't like and still keep the work true to its purpose?

Once you get past the ego bruising part of it, the advantage of reviews is to help the writer look at the work through other eyes. For me, it lets me see if what they didn't like truly got in the way of my message? Can I change what that reader wanted without losing the truth of the book, the essence of the story and characters? I read such a negative review the other day, and it did make me look back at one of my books anew.

This blog has gone on long enough; so I'll pick up that review or the essence of it (I don't take words from others without permission and not about to ask permission in this case) and discuss how I see what was said.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Creativity, Chaos and Me

 Currently I think I am scattered too many ways and my dreams are telling me the same thing.

In one dream, I was watching a play where the audience felt the author had missed the boat. The lead character had made too abrupt a change and they didn't buy it. I argued the playwright had been right for how it is with creative people, who that hero was, as in they can change direction more quickly than those with less of that creative bent. The very nature of creativity is seeing new ways to do things and going with them.

Well in the dream I walked out of the theater and began trying to drive home... missing one road after another, having to back up, the night getting darker, and me feeling more concerned I couldn't get where I needed to go. I woke up feeling highly stressed and thinking-- my days don't have enough stress that I need to create dreams with more?

I took it, along with some similar dreams, to say I am simply too divided right now. Not only did I get this new idea for a book, which I began, but that means I now have two to finish at some point. There is critical family time, the blogs to write, a farm with certain obligations, my desire to eat healthier, the political situation in this country and frankly the end result is I am feeling emotionally and even physically totally scattered. My choices aren't helping as in the midst of this, what did I do-- come up with the cover for a book I don't plan to submit to Kindle until January. That helped a LOT-- not!

So this morning I went back to finishing up a cover and trailer for the historical western romance that will come out the end of September. I thought I already knew the image I'd use but I played around with it a bit more. That book is edited, got a new title as I was feared the other one would end up confusing the readers as to its content.

I hate it when I have to change the title of a book that for years has been its title. That has happened to me with the one set up for January 2013 also. I love its title but just not sure it won't confuse readers for what it's about.

There is a lot more to writing once you get into marketing. And the dream was right-- there is a downside to creativity...

The photo on the top is at a nearby farm where they now have a restaurant sometimes-- Gathering Together. That's what I need more of right now where it come to myself-- gathering me together.