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, March 31, 2013

What resolves a novel?

 In writing a novel, or really any fictional work, you've been writing along and feel the story is getting there-- or is it? Where a good beginning to a story is essential in attracting a reader's interest-- a good ending is maybe even more important. That reader has put time into your story. They need to feel it was worth it when they reach the end. I've read a lot of reviews (not of mine but others) who liked a book right up until they felt cheated at the end.

The ending, when it's a romance, can be when the couple are ready to fully commit to each other. That might mean a wedding-- or not. Writers sometimes throw themselves into contortions trying to keep those two from getting together too soon. That is really unnecessary. The novel does not have to end with their coming together but might have another problem they must resolve before the happily ever after. That something else could be an emotional issue that suddenly arises or something threatening from outside them.

Generally the ending to my novels has been pretty easy for me to determine. There have seemed enough barriers to keep it happily/or unhappily moving along until the problem with the bad guy or outside issue has been resolved. That can mean, in the body of the story, the lovers get together, fight over a very real issue, leave each other, work it out and go through that a couple of times-- very much like it happens in a lot of real life relationships (yes, I speak from experience). 

When reading someone else's work or writing my own, what I don't like is using a bogus issue to keep lovers apart. I want it to be some real problem in their personalities that makes them question whether a life together will work. Sometimes an outside issue can interfere making the happily ever after take awhile. But whatever it might be, my goal is always to make it feel as though-- yeah that's how mature people would handle it. I suppose if I was writing about immature people, it'd be otherwise, but as I mentioned before, I like to write about people I could respect if I knew them in real life.

When writing, I enjoy putting real life, small moments into my romances because they are fun to write. I suppose some readers might consider that makes them slow reads if they believe exciting action has to be happening all the time. My own favorite reads mix action with the kinds of happenings that revolve around maybe cooking a meal or weeding a garden. Those are things I like in what I read and likewise what matters to me in my own books. 

The other night, we again watched Murphy's Romance, starring James Garner and Sally Fields. If you haven't seen it, it's a love story about a much younger woman and an older man. As I have thought before, this would probably be a book that a lot of romance readers wouldn't like as it develops slowly, and there are a lot of real life feeling moments not filled with action but part of developing the characters, building the mood and celebrating the pace of life. Then, by The End, the end seemed right. I am not sure writing romances like that works with today's readers, but it works for me when I find such a book.

What has led me to consider this question comes out of my own WIP as I began to ask-- where am I at in the resolution? Have I missed a bigger problem that originally I didn't see? For a little bit I was feeling worried. It seemed it was all working out too smoothly. That was only until I stepped back and saw the whole situation for what it really was and the writing resumed on track. 

This particular story, which is set in an historical time period, appears to not tell as much of that historic time in Oregon as I had originally anticipated. That likely will mean a fourth book as I won't stretch this one beyond what feels right for these characters and their original dilemmas. If I do write a fourth book about that period in Oregon history, I'll use a third sister from the family, it's something I won't decide until I get this one to The End.

One thing I like about writing this blog is my writing always seems to give me topics that I can turn out pretty fast and get back to the problems in the novel. In terms of my own life and how it's going or the country as a whole, that's where I am stymied for what I want to say. I read, observe, have opinions, but not many I want to write about.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Title by muse

While I have been writing on the Oregon historical, third in its series, I was listening to some music that had wonderful imagery. I gave up my (much beloved) working titles for ones that came to me with the music, titles with more emotion and imagery to suit each story. The change (even with reluctance at giving up my original idea) was serendipitous.

Their change, however, left me dissatisfied with the two Arizona historical titles. Although they had seemed okay, they had no emotion. I spent probably a couple of weeks thinking, whenever I wasn't doing something else-- what could I use instead? Since they are the two I plan to bring out first, their titles were pressuring me.

Finally, frustrated with running possible names through my head, I said to myself-- If I really have a muse, get me a title. I need your help because I am not getting it. 

I woke up the next morning with the first of the titles (the second came right after the first). I was happy and gave full credit to the muse, whatever a muse might be. 

Then I thought of something that stopped me cold. I had something that would work very well with this title and its book. It was one of my own dreams from probably fifteen years ago. The dream had been so vivid that I even created a digital painting from it. I always took the dream to have symbolism for my own life, and it has; but I never once thought I'd use it in any of my books.

For a moment I thought-- but that was my dream. Not sure I wanted it to belong to this story. But I knew it did belong. It fit perfectly. 

That next morning I wrote it into the story. It might be that readers will think what an unbelievable dream, couldn't be real. Except I had that dream exactly as I wrote it for my heroine. Others might think I am writing an historical about shape-shifters. It's not. The dream is symbolic for how we can or cannot heal others.

The other irony about this is that the time I dreamed it was probably not far off from when I was writing the original draft of the book. Perhaps the meaning in that dream was always intended for that book, but it took until now for me to see it. I try to be open to creative inspirations. Sometimes I can be pretty dense.

An excerpt showing where it fit into the book follows:

Getting ready for bed, Abigail felt restless, as though something was coming but she could not put her fingers on what. She lay awake longer than usual trying to blank images from her mind before she finally fell into a deep sleep.
An Indian woman stood back in the shadows in a grove of aspen trees. Snow was on the ground. She was watching men of her tribe as they advanced with bows in their hands, arrows at the ready. Beyond a pack of wolves was running but one stopped and approached the men, standing as though waiting. The men drew back their bows and two arrows struck the wolf, one in the chest, the other the loins. It fell. The men walked toward it. Satisfied, they left the clearing.

The woman walked to the wolf's body. She understood it had been killed to protect the tribe, that the village needed this ritual for its safety. Perhaps the wolf had agreed to be the sacrifice. Then she saw the wolf was not dead. She made a decision to tend its wounds. As she applied the poultices and remedies she knew, she understood she was going against the good of her tribe. 

It was a shock when the body of the wolf morphed into that of a man. He was not appreciative of her efforts on his behalf but lay still as she tended him. Finally she realized she had done all she could but her efforts were not enough to heal him. He had the power to heal himself but she was unsure he wanted to do so. The dream ended before she had the answer to whether he would.
When Abigail woke, she lay in bed remembering the dream, trying to understand the message. It had been so vivid, as though she was the woman. She had never dreamed such a thing before, never even imagined it though her dreams were often vivid and fanciful.

She had heard talk that men and women had the power to do this changing of their form. There was the fear talk that witches did it regularly. That didn't appear to be the message of this dream. It all felt symbolic not real but a symbolic of what?
Dressing for church, she tried to put the questions aside. Silly dream. Hardly worth wondering at deeper meanings for such things. That’s what her father always said-- what the pastor would say. She would tell no one of it. Symbolically vivid-- it had no meaning.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Do you see the title first?

It occurred to me that I haven't written much (if any) on the process of creating titles. They are important to blogs, books and pretty much any creative effort of writing. A title can turn a reader on or off. It can leave the reader disappointed or feeling very satisfied. I love titles, both creating and reading them.

Usually creating titles has come pretty easily for me. I write a lot of them because of the blogs and then there are the eleven ePublished contemporary romances with five historicals which likely will also be available eventually. Whether anyone else likes them, I always like my titles. I look for imagery and some aspect of what I've written. My goal is to have a title go to the deeper meaning within the book. 

In writing a blog sometimes my titles are pretty prosaic, just the facts ma'am, and sometimes flighty. I think they always deal with what the reader will find when they get to the text. And this is what I hope for with my books. 

Most books, when a work in progress, have a working title. Sometimes that can last years if that book doesn't immediately get finished or is finished but not yet published. Sometimes I know they are not permanent. Other times I stubbornly want them but finally accept they aren't best for the books.

Only once did I put out a book and change the title after it had been published. Basically whether they draw in readers or not, they have a reason for being what they are. I thought I'd describe a few and their reason for being as examples of how readers might come up with their own titles.

The one I changed goes first. I called it Golden Chains because it's about love, art, mythology and I saw love as a binding sort of chain, something that is valuable, lovely but harder to break than we think. The story of  Prometheus is both in the book and woven into one of the character's personality. Golden Chains-- what could go wrong?

Well to start people assumed it was erotica. It's not-- although it does have sex in the book and nude modeling in art classes. Neither qualified it for erotica except to people who see all nudity as suspicious unless its confined to a bedroom-- or maybe a strip joint. After a few months of having this book out and realizing, through comments, that the title wasn't fair to it, I changed it to Bannister's Way (mentioning the change in its blurb so people didn't buy it twice).

Bannister's Way was a good title also as one of the issues is the way David Bannister gets things done which seem manipulative and underhanded to some. He is a detective.  He has though gotten into a situation where he's trying to win back his ex-wife, dealing with a world where he's out of his league, and instead of feeling totally in charge, he's having to learn what it's like to feel blocked and out of control which impacts his work as well as his life. Bannister's Way is about our way and how it might not always be the best. Can we learn new ways?

Another title that might confuse readers but it's staying where it is would be Moon Dust. I suppose a reader might wonder what the heck that means; but if they read the book, they will receive the answer. I personally like titles like that and think a reader would also as a way to consider discovery part of a good read. The title, Moon Dust, is not depicting romantic love. It is a fairy tale in the book; but the fairy tale, as they all do, has a deeper meaning. It's how we actually can make change in others and our world.

I could write about mine all day because its fun to describe how they got to be. They are created by connecting with the energy of the work, finding a few words, very few, that relay that energy to a person passing by. I like words with imagery, sometimes some mystery, words connected to the book (sometimes a piece of text within), but mostly indicating the energy of the book. 

One last example is another title that likely wouldn't seem obvious for its meaning. Hidden Pearl is about a world of cults and people searching for meaning to their lives and finding it in dangerous places. It is a Biblical concept in one of Jesus' parables (Matt 13:44-46) where something of great value might be hidden but when it's found, it is of greater value than anything else.

In my story, the hero is not looking for anything until he is sent on a quest by his Navajo mother. Being born of two cultures, he has mostly denied any connection to his heritage. He has believed in what is in front of him, but when he begins to try and find what happened to his sister, he finds himself also on a quest into himself.

The reason people get into cults is because they want that thing of great value, the meaning of life. They think they have found it but often find instead it is a trap. I suppose the title might confuse potential readers, but I figure that if people ever get into my books, they will find those titles are often keys to the deeper something in them. 

There are a lot of titles out there; many are only designed to attract. One popular author uses single words like reckless, breathless, etc.  Several mystery writers use the alphabet with the readers knowing the next title will fall in line. Some create words that will become part of our lexicon. I guess whatever comes to us is what we will build upon.

Titles are rewarding, not always easy. I had an experience recently that brought this all to my attention-- coming next blog. 

The images I chose for here are all mine from a variety of sources and I chose them just because...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Books on the process of writing

As I have mentioned many times, I believe creativity comes when someone is involved in creative work. Do it and it will come. That doesn't mean I don't think there has to be craft behind the doing. Mine came through assorted ways from classes in college, writing essays, from extensive work with a consulting writer, discussions, and reading a LOT of books. Recently someone was asking for books that others had considered helpful for writers. It led to my thinking which ones had been part of my stable.

If a book helps you unlock your own creativity whether that is painting, sculpture, writing, cooking or whatever, then you're likely to find it helpful in other ways. Creativity is letting loose that inner voice. I think ideas for creative work come from what we see, read, observe, and dreams. Don't discount the power of dreams if you can learn to remember yours.  

One of my favorite books on releasing your creative spirit is not on writing at all but on painting by Robert Henri. Like so many of my books on creativity, it's not a recent publication. The Art Spirit was published in 1923. I have no idea what year I bought it, but it's yellowed with age. It also is the most marked up book I own.
"One of the curses of art is "Art." This filling up of things with "decorations," with by-play, to make them "Beautiful."
"Technique becomes a tool, not an objective."
"There are many who go through their whole lives without ever knowing when they have liked or what they have liked."
"Real students go out of beaten paths, whether beaten by themselves or by others, and have adventures with the unknown."
I could fill up this blog and more with highlighted quotes from this book, many about painting but they fit writing and life so well.

Books that encourage connecting to your own creativity:

Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way isn't so much on a type of art but on loosening up and letting the juices flow. Her books which include The Vein of Gold, The Sound of Paper and The Right to Write are very good for getting you to write something-- anything and not judge it. Morning papers are getting someone in the habit of writing every day with whatever comes to mind. 

Another along this same line is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg who is writing about writing. Just get it down. Block the internal censor. Timed exercises are one of her techniques. She has a chapter called The Action of a Sentence where she suggests you list ten nouns down the left side of a piece of paper and then fifteen verbs on the right half that go with a certain profession. Then try joining the nouns to the verbs. 

Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit is also on my shelf as an encouragement to connect with the inner voice. She says something at the beginning which I also believe, "...everybody is talented, original and has something important to say."  The ones who are writers are those who have believed in themselves and kept at it despite discouragements. 

One of the important points she makes is something I also believe-- write truth. It will be your truth; and it is what has made classic writers still current to future times. If you write truth, you are putting out something worth having. That truth might be in a romance, sci fi, horror, chick lit, but it will be relevant to life and it will be truth as you know it.

Of all my favorite books of all times, Annie Dillard wrote one of them. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is not only a great example of naturalist writing but on observing. Observe the small things of life and you will find they often relate to the big things. When I had read she had a book on writing, The Writing Life, of course, I had to have it. It is about what the writing life is like, how it feels. 
"It should surprise no one that the life of a writer-- such as it is-- is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. That explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience." Annie Dillard
Annie Dillard, like many of my favorite writers, flows her words onto a page as she paints a word picture. I don't write like her. I can't even say I want to write like her. I just want to read her books now and again. And this one on the writing life is very honest and full of her mastery of words as inspiration.

I could go on with these kinds of books because I have a lot of them on my shelves but there are other books that I considered very important when I began crafting stories. They aren't by names you may ever have heard. These are on the craft of writing.

Of course there are the basics, thesaurus, dictionary, Chicago Manual of Style, and a plastic cheat sheet of basic punctuation. I grew up in the time where teaching us to write in school included diagramming sentences. Basically I still understand that but once in awhile it's good to have a manual where I can double check something. 

These days instead of grabbing my dictionary all the time, I go to the Internet and do a search for meanings, etymology, and usage of words.  Do kids today even learn to find and use books as tools, which at one time we all had to master, if we wanted to write legibly and cogently on any subject? 

Today, while I am writing, my Word program hits me with underlines when a sentence seems unwieldy or has misplaced a comma. Sometimes I admit I want to argue with it over some of its opinions; but to be honest, I miss that when I am writing something here in blogger.

Books on my shelf regarding the craft of writing: 

The Writing Room by Eve Shelnutt;
Beyond Style Mastering the Finer Points of Writing Form,tone, subtlety, pacing, tension, metaphor, theme, viewpoint, slant, flashbacks, etc. by Gary Provost; 
On Writing Well by William Zinsser which is on non-fiction but writing well is writing well;
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King;
Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico;
The Writer's Journey Mythic structure for storytellers and screenwriters by Christopher Vogler;
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Most of these books I bought years back and read, absorbing the lessons I needed and I haven't looked at them in years. Even though I have never had what some call writer's block, I like reading ways to expand my mind and options, to loosen up, to let go of preconceptions. 

Likely part of why I don't feel blocked is because with creativity as a part of my life, from as far back as I can remember, I have many ways to express it. When one form isn't working for me, I switch to another for awhile. 

Where it comes to the craft of writing, I don't always agree with the experts. Don't use adverbs is one of the things I've read. Except, I like adverbs. There is an encouragement always is to use active verbs, not passive and with that I mostly agree. Whether it's a passive verb or adverb, anything can get in the way of the action. Anything can be used too much or wrongly and become awkward or even become laughable. When I am reading someone else's book, I want whatever takes me into the scene to truly feel what's going on. That's the goal when I write also.

This winter I had two novels to finish (one based in Arizona, the other in Oregon) when I headed for Arizona to get work done on the Tucson house before rental season kicked into gear. On the way down was when I got the idea for a novella, talked out what it would be about, and let myself be diverted from my original plan to write it as soon as I got there. 

It wasn't until I got back to Oregon that I finished the Arizona historical. Between research, art work, and family life, I've not quite got the Oregon one finished, but it's on its way. 

Then for the first time in quite a long while I won't have anything to edit or finish. I will have a chance to begin something new. I am excited for what that might be with several possibilities. I listen to the news (or these days mostly read the news) and it is full of ideas for contemporary stories. Either the Arizona or Oregon historicals did have some characters that could have a story of their own.

Writing for me is not the problem. Marketing, now that's another story.

All photos from Sabino Canyon in Arizona-- flowing water and stone. Great metaphors for the process of creating. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

marketing tools

 When I began this, I knew that Amazon was not the main way to get books seen because logically they will first emphasize those from big publishers or already best selling authors. The question was-- then what would be?  I read someone suggesting T-shirts with the book cover or author's name to give away at  doors to a movie theater when similar genre films are playing. That idea sounds more like it'd work for fantasy, sci fi but not so much romances. It could also find the writer being told to move on by the theater. Another suggestion there sounded more feasible-- bookmarks.

 My husband, who publishes my books, often mentions to people that I write. They are always curious (especially once they find out the books are romances), and I had been thinking creating a card would be a good idea even before I was asked in an art gallery last week if I had one. It was time to create one and be sure I always had it with me whenever there is interest.

The bookmarks seem like a good addition. The most obviously appropriate place to find readers, bookstores, is doubtless out since they likely consider eBooks to be competition. If I make print copies of some of my historicals, something I am considering through CreateSpace, then bookstores might be more open to it-- if they are the type of store to carry romances.

For cards or bookmarks, I thought the best idea was find a symbol apropos for romances. The image I had from a 2012 photo on Klamath Lake seemed perfect. 

A dragonfly is an apt totem for romance. They spend most of their life in a creek, lake or pond where they consistently must break out of shells as they grow for several years. At a certain point, they break their last shell and emerge a changed insect, dry their wings and fly off. What could be more apropos as an image for a romance novel. A glorious moment full of the reminders of what is possible, the energy of which can carry us through times that aren't so pleasant.

When I was looking for a few key words to describe the type of books, I thought of a phrase I liked for how I see my books-- where dreams live.

I still don't know where I will be able to place the bookmarks but one possibility would be small, independent gift shops and hotels. Such businesses might regard it as advertising and say no but nothing ventured nothing gained. 

It was fun creating them, and maybe this will be a way to get my name and books beyond Amazon. I've heard advertising on Google or Facebook doesn't really pay off and I believe it because I never read ads there. Indie writers, without corporate power behind them, can now get their ideas and books published. The next step is having them seen by those most likely to enjoy them.
Whatever your creative endeavor might be, I think bookmarks are a possible tool. I love to get them whenever I come across an interesting one. Other than the ink, this looks pretty economical. Of course, like all advertising, will it lead to sales? The bad part is I might never know as it's hard to tell from where sales come. 

When I finish the book I am currently writing, I'll find out what kinds of places might consider having them beside their cash register or on a nearby rack. If it turns out none, I'll let readers know that it didn't work. Although if I do Createspace later for the historicals, then bookstores become possible.

After I did the first, it seemed to me images of petroglyphs, which are earlier human's attempts to communicate, would be apropos. I have so many great photos that this will be hard to narrow down to just a few (bees landing on a saguaro, sunset at the beach, cow licking newborn calf) because so many do speak to love and communication.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Structure or not -- Belle Isle

While I am in the midst of writing the Oregon historical story, I thought I'd put out a few tips on structure that I've gathered through the years. It's the kind of thing I don't think about much unless I suddenly wonder whether I am still on track. 

Now some would say structure must be the same in all books but I disagree. I think there are always exceptions; but with any of the creative arts, it's good to know why something is done before you break a rule.

A novel is like a symphony in that its closing movement echoes and resounds with all that has gone before. . . . Toward the close of a novel. . . . unexpected connections begin to surface; hidden causes become plain; life becomes, however briefly and unstably, organized; the universe reveals itself, if only for the moment, as inexorably moral; the outcome of the various characters' actions is at last manifest; and we see the responsibility of free will.                                          John Gardner
Joseph Campbell spoke of a gatekeeper experience as the point from which a story takes off. He felt, and I use it pretty much for my romances, that you ground a character in where they are, how they live and maybe their frustrations before you send them off on an adventure. 

Nigel Watts in his book, Writing a Novel and Getting Published, called this beginning period stasis. It is basically everyday life before a gatekeeper experience changes everything. Call it gatekeeper or trigger, something has to happen to take this person from their life as they have known it. 

The something is the point of the novel whether that is an idea, an event, a quirk in their personality. This is where the character takes off on the quest, which might happen right in their own backyard or take them to a fantasy land. 

Here is where things happen that cannot be expected by the character or the reader-- the surprises, the uncertainties, the twists, turns, obstacles, conflicts. Here is where the WwW is brought into action, with mini-climaxes. These happenings may relate to the initial quest or not. These events may come out of the setting, other people or the character's own development.

In a love story this could be personalities, events, goals, or outside competition. Sometimes the characters have a common goal that until it's been resolved, they cannot work things out to be together. The action usually comes out of the nature of the problem or their character although once in awhile something comes along which can be unexpected with no foreshadowing-- sort of like a tsunami in life.

At some point, nearly the climax, the characters must make an important, life changing choice. If they make the wrong choice, it can turn tragic. Villains make these choices also.

The final climax is where it plays out in a way rewarding to readers and characters. Rewards and final battles are fought. Ideally the last battle, as in Lord of the Rings, relates to the original quest.

Finally there is the return home where the character has been changed by the experience, is wiser, and whether the character leaves their original home or returns, this is where it make sense to leave the story.

Nigel Watts, in the book mentioned above, referred to these eight points as: stasis; trigger; quest; surprise; critical choice; climax; reversal; resolution. Whatever they are called, they are the structure of most novels.

One thing I like in my writing is have something that appears to be the problem, the thing that throws the protagonist from their world, but it's usually not all it really seems. The story is actually told on two levels. One might be obvious-- bad guy versus good guy, good fighting evil. 

The second is not obvious and my hope is readers will get this one eventually if not when they read the book. It's the deeper meaning that matters most to me. Not to say it won't be linked to the surface issue, but it's not the real essence. Understanding this deeper level is not needed to enjoy my books or favorite stories, but when it is understood, I think it leaves a satisfying life lesson.

We recently watched The Magic of Belle Isle starring Morgan Freeman as a writer who has lost the excitement of writing. I had seen it before and loved it but forgotten how well it illustrates these dual levels.  It is a good example of how the surface isn't all a story is about. As to what are the two levels in that film, watch it and I think you will find it obvious.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ghost of the forest

One of the things that always brings me joy is when I come across the ghosts of the forest, our Oregon Coast Range Roosevelt elk, in a herd grazing and interacting with each other. When I am in areas I know they could be, I watch for them, can often tell where they have been (they cut a wide track) but to catch a herd grazing as we did last week, that's not so common an experience for me that it has yet to get old.

We have elk at the back of our land here. Regularly they tear down a fence as they have a route they are familiar with and if a fence is in their way, well it's not like they don't know how to fix that.  Back there, I've watched them gambol far below me, jumping in and out of pools of water, but only when I didn't have a camera with me.

 there are three visible in this photo if you enlarge and look carefully

The only time we have gotten photos of them on our land is when we left a wildlife camera back on one of their trails. After they saw the camera, it looks as though they licked the lens as all the rest of the images were very fuzzy and we have one with a nose right in front of the camera. Too smart by half.

I had a friend in college who had grown up in the Coast Range and told of being treed by the elk. They are big animals and definitely do have the ability to hurt a person if they were so inclined. Generally they run.

The photos below were taken March 13th of a good sized herd we lucked upon while in Cascade Head Preserve down on the Coast. These animals are not fenced; they are wild. This was in a mountain and riparian zone being restored to a natural wetland, much of which is now owned by Nature Conservancy, not that this elk herd probably ever paid much attention to that. This is their home range, and they know who the intruders are. This is the season where the bulls will have dropped their antlers; so you can only tell the males by body type-- that is unless you get a lot closer than we were (all photos taken with telephoto).

I didn't count but I think this time we took over fifty photos of what looked like fifty elk. Someday I should put my elk photos into an album so that other elk lovers can enjoy them all. Someday is a long way off as I have work to do from being gone.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Oregon Coast

In the midst of a lot of research and writing a manuscript that will deal with Oregon after the Civil War, we had made reservations to share a beach house with long time friends. We have rented this particular place four times with them. 

It's hard to take a break when creative work is going well, but it was a lot of fun, lots of laughter, as well as a creative time with good conversations and food. The house we stay in sits above a private cove with a rich ocean ecosystem. Because of the rocks, the waves are always changing direction and action. Just being there recharges creative juices-- even though the book I am writing has nothing to do with the ocean.

We had some wonderful discussions on creativity, art and process, as my friend is a painter where I have had great interest in what she does and she's very encouraging of my writing. Our husbands met in college when working in a chemistry lab as freshmen. My husband I met as sophomores and I met her after she began dating him. We were in Arizona for a year with them while our husbands worked to get Master's Degrees at the UofA. After we moved back north, she and I exchanged letters as our families grew. then they moved closer and now she and I get together most frequently through the Internet.

The only possible thing I could wish for with the beach house is that it had a desk as even though I brought my laptop, when she was painting, I just watched the ocean, chatted and tried to get the perfect wave photo. If I was going to spend a week at the Coast, a desk would be on my have-to-have list.

Following are photos from along the Central Oregon Coast March 10-12th.

I have to say it's hard now to get back into my regular writing routine. My mind is flying off too many directions but I'll get it together-- soon... I hope. In the meantime, I'll try to write a few blogs ahead of time for when the story begins to flow again.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Patterns in a life-- or not

 If a writer doesn't fit the usual pattern in writing in any genre, the only way they can build up readership is to convince the reader either they have a pattern the readers hasn't tried but will like if they do-- or convince the reader that they are someone whose wisdom that reader wants to acquire through reading their books.

photo taken at an Eastern Oregon lake -- general locale of the book I am currently writing on the John Day country and the Snake Indian wars.

My pattern appears to not appeal to a lot of romance readers. Having had books available for eReaders for just over a year, having given away many books (and by now I am not sure how many but over 15,000 and probably way over), I have to accept that my pattern to stories doesn't appeal to those who took the free books. I have sold books, more than I expected some months, but there is never any way for me to figure out why they did or did not sell. 

Of course, since they are not yet out, I don't know yet about my historicals, but I suspect the same thing may be true. They definitely do not fit any of the patterns I described in the previous blog.

a bit south of where the John Day story takes place

I do have a pattern of writing, of the bare bones of a story that I will flesh out. Although I can start with the characters, it's not the only way I get an idea. Sometimes it's a subject that interests me like say the adult ramifications of childhood abuse on a male. I research what happens emotionally to such a man, how would that impact his relationships and his choices if he hadn't gotten counseling to work through what happened.

When I decide on my main protagonists, I always pick ones I can like. They may have flaws, flaws are good, but basically, I will like the idea of spending months with these people. 

When I begin writing, I have these two people in mind, where I want the story to go as I set them into the problem. Sometimes the reader might not be aware what the real issue is because, as with life, something superficial will be overshadowing it (that was the case for instance with Her Dark Angel).
My goal is to write stories that are fiction but based on truth in life. I like to write dialogue that reads well and seems it would have come out of the character's mouth. I want an emotional story but not full of angst and misery. I like an adventure, some danger, and I want strong endings.  I like to write about healthy sexuality. Finally I want lessons for life woven into the characters' experiences.

I am not into tragedies and won't spend my time writing or reading stories about horrible people. I admire that Stephen King is so successful and a talented writer, but I could not immerse myself in horror or nasty people and not find it impacting my daily life. I think I get all the angst I want from ranch living.

The problems of livestock--. She's our cow, got out of our pasture and did NOT want to go back--. photo from last summer

So that's my pattern but it's rather loose for what might happen. I don't recognize the usual plots in many if any of my books. What if that pattern doesn't actually work for the readers? What if it's not what they want in a story? There is a backup plan-- I then have to convince readers that what I am offering in the way of wisdom, they want for their lives. Even though they might feel the stories aren't patterns they want, they do want the life view that they will know they will find in one of my books.
 Whether you are writing chick lit at this point, sci fi, the great American novel, here is where you, as well as me, must sell yourself. You have to have that reader interested enough in your life and knowledge that they know, through this fiction work, they will get something they can take away with them

What right do you have to write that story is the question that your own life can answer-- or not.

When I think about my own life, it's been a diverse one and yet it's stayed within a region-- the American West. I have in some ways led almost multiple lives within one lifetime even though it all looks to be heading down the same road. I know about love because I have both lost and won at it. I know about relationships because I have succeeded and failed at them. I know about life and death because family and ranch living teaches you that. I know about love of the land and what that means to a life. I know about a creative life because I have lived one from childhood. My spiritual background is like someone who wasn't the same person every twenty years for what I believed and how I saw life. I have been a lifetime observer and student, as whatever interests me, I want to learn what I can about it.

There are people who basically stay where they are and their set of beliefs thirty years later won't change. I am not sure mine will be the same even in a year. I don't know they won't. I am content living with that flexibility. I didn't need to have all the answers even though at one time I thought I had them.

the only way to get dragonfly photos-- patience

I am not sure how I tell readers any of that in a way that actually works to sell my books, but I am thinking about it. When I got to thinking about this whole issue, I remembered my creating of a Dipity timeline in 2008, that tells a tiny piece of my own life story through images and a couple of outside influences--  

Does any of that show from where my stories come and why a reader should trust me with their hours spent to read them? I do think that believing in a writer is one reason readers will buy and read their books. And finding a way to tell our own story is part of how they might come to do that

Monday, March 11, 2013

Patterns in writing

Waking in the middle of the night recently, I thought about the dilemma of marketing books. When I have looked at what romances appear to be selling well in Amazon, which ones receive raves from readers, many of them follow patterns. Actually this is probably also true in other genres like sci fi/mysteries/horror/apocalyptic/etc. When a book has a huge success, one that isn't set into the standard patterns, as Harry Potter/Twilight/Gray whatever, it likely sets a trend for new patterns.

So when promoting your book, you figure out its genre but then what pattern of story you happen to be writing. Since I know the most about romance, I'll give a few examples-- which all involve falling in love complicated by obstacles along the way.

A person from another planet/time/spiritual dimension meets someone and falls in love. This can be vampires, aliens, angels/time travelers, etc. So you have the fish out of water story, where eventually the lover must reveal him/herself, but the stranger has hidden powers/knowledge that likely will solve problems in the story.

Woman (could be sweet young thang or not) must get revenge for wrong done/save father/save town/etc. and hires tough guy to help her do the deed. On the way, love happens.

Protagonist has an enemy and to get revenge or have hostage he/she kidnaps the other protagonist (possibly by mistake) where they go off together to escape from bad guys while they fall in love-- then hopefully unite to overcome the enemy since romances have happy endings for the most part. On the run stories have many possible ways to get there.

Moving back home for whatever reason, is a popular pattern in sweet romances where there is the old love or new love and the rest of the book is about how they work that out in that community, maybe overcoming some past bad deed done by themselves or somebody else.

Recently there was a big hit with the cute/naive/sweet thing who falls in love with rich billionaire and they have to work out some problem before they can be together.  With erotica added, you have the gray something or other and all its offspring.

Promising to marry one brother and falling in love with another one leads to a lot of stories. Along with that could be the mail order bride.

Girl pretends to be boy to fight a war/right a wrong/escape a bad guy and hero doesn't find out right away the truth of her sex. He might find out early on or go a lot of the book before he realizes he's falling in love with what he thinks is a boy. I've never seen this plot reversed-- likely because romance heroes wouldn't fool anybody with eyesight.

Then there's woman captured by Indian tribe who falls in love with warrior.  Can't say I've read many where the story is reversed but it is probably out there also.

Of course, there's the bad boy (not often bad girl) where she (generally innocent) is drawn to him and his problems become hers.

part of our herd in snow, not this winter though as this year, no snow

There is nothing wrong with any of these story lines. They say every plot possibility was already grabbed by Shakespeare. the problem is though what happens if your books don't fit into any of the apparently popular patterns?

I think the fact that my books don't fit any of the popular patterns is what makes marketing them difficult. Well I do have Her Dark Angel about the basic beauty and the beast story. From Here to There is a run away bride story except she doesn't really run away-- she just wants an annulment-- changing her mind a little late but most of that book is about ranch life in Montana where I guess there is a fish out of water story also as the hero comes out to try and win her back-- or at least convince her she's an idiot for thinking he's not hero material.

You might think not fitting patterns is good-- makes for originality, but actually not so much. When I used to send my manuscripts into editors (10 years since the last such mailing), I would get nice compliments on my writing,  BUT the books didn't fit a niche, not enough angst in the heroine, and that was enough to send them back. Sometimes with a suggestion for how to fix that problem but one I simply couldn't use or the story would lose what I saw it as its being about. 

After ePublishing, I understand better this desire for recognizable patterns. Readers want what they can recognize and count on. They like those stories where they know what they will get even though it's in a different setting with somewhat different characters (although the character types don't vary a lot either).

Not fitting a pattern is a drawback in marketing, but I don't know what I can do about it. As I have said before-- we write what we write because those are our stories. I don't want to write what someone else wrote but even if I did, it'd likely come off stale.

Then I began to think about what I do write and what can I promote as my own pattern for stories. I do have a pattern. Most of my stories do offer some of the same aspects in each one. How can I use that for marketing? How do I convince readers to try my patterns and what are my qualifications for writing such stories? Next blog this will continue this topic as I think it's a problem for many writers.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spring isn't far off

but for now it's winter and the season of new life, preparing fields for the warmer weather to come and watching over the birthing to be sure all goes well. With 32 head of cattle, as well as 18 ewes (and now 42 lambs), it's a busy time.

Not all the stories end happily. We've lost a few newborn lambs and a calf. We have a bull, who I love as he's such a gentle soul, but he's older than we were thinking as we began to add it up when we realized that he has a physical problem (likely genetic flaw) that can only get worse. Soon he will have to be put down. Much as I hate that, it is what we owe him for his faithful service. He was born on this ranch and he will die here.

For all the sad stories, there are more that go well. It doesn't make it easier when things don't work right. The daytime is often filled with the cries of lambs and calls from mothers as the ewes lose track of their babies. We constantly have to evaluate whether the sound we are hearing is real trouble or just general whining. Counting sheep would not be a good way to fall asleep-- to say the least.

I grew up in the foothills of the Cascades and on a small ranch. From the time I turned 18 until 34, I lived in cities and tried to figure out how to get back to rural living. Since then it's been this little ranch, 25 miles from town, with 34 of our own acres and 50 leased, along with a year round creek for irrigation. I don't look forward to the day we have to leave this place. Land owns you far more than you will ever own it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where to sell books

Once again an interesting discussion evolved in Amazon's Meet Our Authors forum for western romance writers. Although I personally feel all my stories fit the western mythology for man/woman against some danger or evil, the fact that I write about high school principals and not exclusively about cowboys kind of leaves me out of being considered a full member of that group. Still I like to read there and enjoy seeing what others think as well as sometimes putting in my own opinion.

image photoshopped together from my photos--
coyote at Oregon Trail Museum in Baker City, 
moon one of our Arizona skies.

This topic was about setting up an historical western romance writer co-op which one of those writers is involved with helping start. She was discussing how she feels it will work as it will enable members to sell their books direct with PayPal and no need to go through any other publishers.

It's an interesting idea, and I will have to evaluate it more (rather my publisher/husband/FarmBoss will evaluate it more). I don't think I could be part of their group unless I brought out my historical westerns and maybe not even then, but this idea of selling direct is an idea that might become necessary if Amazon continues to do things to make it harder on the indie writer.

Sooner than later (right after lambing and our complex tax figures are at the accountant), I will have to change the icons alongside this site where the link goes. Instead of going only to Amazon, it will have a link to another page with more information on the book as well as all the possible places it can be purchased. This idea of their co-op makes me think maybe I should look into selling direct using PayPal. The way it would work is beyond the capacity of my brain but it's not beyond my publisher's-- fortunately. A co-op is better than just selling my own but that requires similar type books, I think, to make it work.

What we will do regardless of the idea of selling through PayPay is to turn Rainy Day Romances, Romances with an Edge or Rainy Day Reads (a site I kept private while unsure what I wanted to do with it) into a sell site while this one continues as it is with topics ranging from creativity in general to marketing as well as about my own books.

This, like so much of the Internet, is an evolving business. Some believe that soon Amazon will take a higher royalty and it's possible they will even delete slow selling books. As it stands, they do the most to promote books through the big publishing houses. There are smaller sell sites already out and I can see how writers benefit from being in such sites-- if their work fits the criteria. If not, it's like any genre limitation.

Anyway it's interesting and another thing for any writer thinking of going into ePub to learn about and consider. The big issue is how to get your books seen and a group of similar writers banding together makes sense to me as by yourself, your odds are reduced-- although if you can get readers to promote on their own sites, if you can get networking going, then it makes your odds more favorable. 

My goal for this site is to get its numbers up to where my other blog is. It's not easy to build readership which amazes me as it seemed my other one just built by itself but I know it wasn't that simple. It always took cross links and word of mouth.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

mustaches and such

After writing on heroes and heroines, I thought about some of the no-nos where it comes to the model photos which frustrate me as they are not what I think make for attractive people. From what I can tell though readers have a different take on this.

One no no is mustaches on men before they reach old age. What on earth is wrong in our country that we don't have movie stars who wear mustaches? Yes, there areTom Selleck and Sam Elliot but anybody else? I love mustaches on a man and yet, it's not what I can describe in a book if I hope to sell it to romance readers.

It's okay as I'll continue imagining these guys with nice mustaches, not the overdone handlebar type and not the little skimpy, pimp type but a solid, masculine, he-man mustache like John Wayne had in Rio Grande-- the movie where I think he was the best he ever got for looks.

When I write historical books, I know back then that very few men of mature years were without facial hair. Originally I wrote most of them with mustaches... and removed the reference when I recently edited them.

I will still imagine these guys with their mustaches and any reader who likes facial hair, can do the same-- and hair on the chest... another big plus in my eyes. I won't say I want to see hair all over a man's body. There can be too much, but nice hair on a masculine chest-- give me that any day over that waxed look that appears to be so popular with the male models today. Yeah no hair does enable more visibility of those muscles but a hairy chest is so macho. Doesn't that count?

To add to the silliness of our times and how hard it must be for men, who care what women find desirable (where women don't agree), I came across this video which I thought was funny. The movie would probably be good but not sure I'll see it since we have dropped Netflix for now anyway.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

romance heroine as sweet little thang-- or not

Where it comes to describing the romance heroine, what I know gets dicier. I've read a wide variety of them from slender and gorgeous, to plain, to pudgy, to handicapped. Some are brats to begin and grow... some appear to stay brats. Some are out fighting the bad guys. Some are Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. It's safer to describe my own heroines.

I can't think of a time where I wrote a long lengthy intro to the heroine. Mine have generally been seen as pretty or even beautiful by others, but their own view of themselves is less linked to their appearance. If they know others see them as pretty, they think it's convenient but not necessarily how they see themselves. 

Some I've written as being slim by nature; some work at it, a few have been curvy. I have yet to write about a pudgy heroine but these are women in the prime of life from 21 to mid 30s (I have an idea for one that would be late 50s but it's going to take finishing something else before I get into that one). Mostly they have careers: home decorator, photojournalist, teacher, painter, sculptor, lawyer, psychologist, wantabe writer, folk singer, and one mom/homemaker. 

They fall in love with men who range from border patrolman, investigator, architect/builder, cop, high school principal, truck driver/manager of animal rehabilitation center, mechanic, photojournalist/writer, cowboy, to wealthy financier/entrepreneur.

Only two of mine have had children from before they met the hero-- epilogue sometimes adds to that. They have been blondes, redheads, brunettes, , all different lengths of hair, and all Caucasian. I tend to write about what I know hence the careers and backgrounds of my characters.

These woman face trials and tribulations through the man they fall in love with as well as what life throws at them. They face these problems with strength; and if they don't know what they want or how to be strong to begin, they will figure it out. They are as apt to save the hero as be saved. They do not lose themselves in falling in love with him although they make adjustments in their lives necessary for a relationship. If not to start, at least by the last chapter, they, like their heroes, will grab life by the horns and make of it what they want it to be.

Finding photos of my heroines was even tougher than the men. Pretty is easy to find. But strong looking women who still fit my own heroine mold, less so. I think readers like to imagine what these people look like and yet at the same time, people on the covers are known to sell better (I now have three without people; so we'll see). I used to have one cover, with what I would consider an ordinary heroine on the cover, as I described her to be inside, even readers who liked the book hated that cover. And yet what I write is not a story about goddesses (generally) but about women, who feel real to me, as though they could be someone I know and would like.

Below are a few of the images I purchased at Canstock, which I believe fit my heroines. I have bought many thinking they'd work and never did although someday who knows; so I keep them. They might inspire a new book if not end up a best friend in a trailer.

 Here's the thing I think you might notice about them, unlike the heroes, they look like the kind of women you could see in a grocery store or at work. They're pretty but not to the mythic/goddess level. That might be less true of the women in the historical novels. I'll give that some thought when I begin to put them into their covers and trailers.